Poland is not yet lost
while we live
What foreign force has taken from us
We shall take back with the sword
Last week’s plane crash has brought an ignored nation and a harrowing episode in its history to world attention
The Russian army band was practising in a forest clearing. Shafts of sunlight streamed through the stands of tall red spruce, playing on patches of unmelted snow and glinting on the brass of cornets and trombones. It was Wednesday morning: later that day the Russian and Polish prime ministers were to join a memorial service marking the cold-blooded execution of 25,000 Polish allied officers, killed in a series of massacres that had started on that very spot 70 years ago.
The musicians were not familiar with the Polish national anthem, Dabrowski’s mazurka, and their conductor repeatedly led them through the spritely opening bars. As they concentrated on finding the right rhythm and tempo, their faces betrayed no sign of the extraordinary symbolism of their task. They would not have known the accompanying words: “Poland has not perished yet, so long as we still live.”
The personal jet of Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, had landed at the military airport near Smolensk an hour or two earlier. He skipped down the steps alone and walked to the limousine that was to lead the convoy heading for the Katyn forest. Thirty miles of road were closed to normal traffic that day. Policemen manned the checkpoints at every crossing.
… The plane carrying Donald Tusk, the Polish prime minister, had landed at Smolensk five minutes before Putin’s. With him were a team of people who had worked long and hard for a breakthrough in Russo-Polish relations; among them was Lech Walesa, the former Solidarity leader and former president, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, Poland’s first non-communist prime minister in 1989, Adam Daniel Rotfeld, a former foreign minister heading the “commission on difficult matters”, and Andrzej Sariusz-Skapski, chairman of the Katyn Families Association, a quiet determined man who had resisted all attempts to politicise the subject. I was aboard, too, as one of several historians, together with my wife in her capacity as a victim’s relative.
Ever since the war, Polish people had talked in private about Katyn but public discussion was forbidden. I only heard about it in detail in the 1970s from Zofia Litewska, my son’s elderly Polish teacher in Oxford. On September 1, 1939, she had been the head of a rural school in eastern Poland and had watched as her husband mounted his horse and rode off to join the army.
His fate is unknown to this day. She and her four children were arrested by the NKVD shortly after and transported to a camp in Arctic Russia. Escaping by raft, they survived an epic two-year journey across Russia to Uzbekistan, Persia and finally India.
It was Litewska who showed me a copy of the Spis Katynski — the Katyn List — a volume published in London recording thousands of names of missing officers. Possession of that book was a criminal offence in the Soviet bloc.
… A wave of sympathy has flooded over Poland from Russia. Russo-Polish relations have improved far beyond the modest advance already noted. Wajda’s film has moved to a mainline Russian television channel. The presence of a Russian president and prime minister at President Kaczynski’s funeral, scheduled for today, will be unprecedented.
More important is the impact that news of the crash and its circumstances must be having on Russians’ knowledge of themselves. After millions have learnt what Stalin did to their Polish neighbours, Putin’s compatriots will demand clarification of what he did to their own parents and grandparents. Calls will rise up to condemn him. The time is passing when the great Stalin can be presented as the victor of 1945 and as nothing else.
The paradox is stark. Kaczynski, a politician whose achievements in life were modest, has been rapidly transformed in death into a national hero, a master of his trade, a figure of global significance. One week ago President Barack Obama or President Dmitry Medvedev would not have found time for him: yet this weekend both were planning to attend his funeral in an intercontinental show of mourning and solidarity.
… Conspiracy theorists are blaming the Polish government for Kaczynski’s death, saying Tusk was at fault for not restricting the president’s guest list, if not for actively plotting with Putin. “Mossad”, I was told by an earnest professor at Warsaw University, “would have immediately secured the crash site.” Yet Tusk’s “weak government” did nothing, letting all the victims’ laptops and mobile phones be pocketed by Putin’s police.
Nonetheless, several good things may come from the disaster. Poland, so often ignored, has found its way onto the lips of the world. The gathering of leaders at today’s funeral will do more than 20 years of dogged diplomacy. Its government, relatively unscathed, is functioning normally. And the meaning of Katyn will be pondered by millions who previously had never heard of it.
Katyn is the supreme symbol of honesty in European history. It is far from being the largest of European atrocities. But it is the test of whether people are prepared to face their denial, to bear the pain and to tell the truth. It is the archetype of all the many tragedies of the second world war that never reach the headlines but whose absence distorts our understanding…
Times OnLine – Kamil Tchorek in Warsaw and Matthew Campbell
… The pilot was blamed for ignoring warnings to divert to another airport on account of the fog, but Polish television suggested Russia may have been partly at fault for the “second Katyn” because lights indicating the approach to the runway may not have been working. Russian soldiers were seen replacing bulbs seven hours after the crash…
A vast crowd bristling with red and white Polish flags gathered in Pilsudski Square for an open-air mass and speeches from public figures and relations of the victims. A central stage, with a large cross in the middle of it, was flanked by giant photographs of those who died.
“This is a moment of history, we have to be here,” said Joanna Kolkowicz, 25, in the crowd. “Our leaders were killed on the way to Katyn, the place where 70 years ago our leaders were also killed. It is terrible and the only thing is to be together right now.”
Soldiers fired a three-gun salute as the death march played and police helicopters buzzed overhead. Nuns in white habits rubbed shoulders with students whose faces were studded with metal piercings…
Conflicting reports of the plane crash have left the public confused. According to one theory, Kaczynski commanded the pilot to ignore Russian warnings to divert. Early leaks from an investigation of the “black box” cockpit recorders show no evidence of this, however.
According to a Russian version, the Polish pilot could not communicate in Russian but his colleagues have disputed this.
Jolanta Szczypinska, an MEP, said the Russian conduct in the investigation had been “disturbing”, adding that the Russians seemed to have “had their version of events from the beginning”. The confiscation of witnesses’ phones and cameras was a particular cause for concern, she added.
Conspiracy theories have abounded in Poland about a Russian plot to do away with Kaczynski, one of the Kremlin’s most vociferous critics…]
TIME – By Zbigniew Brzezinski
…A few days before the second tragedy, the Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, and the Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, met to formalize a protracted process of painful accommodation regarding the Katyn crime. What happened in the forest 70 years ago was for many years a forbidden fact of life in Polish society.
From the end of World War II to 1989, Poland was politically subservient to the Soviet Union. Even the closest relatives of those who perished at Katyn were not allowed to talk about it. People who claimed that their fathers or grandfathers had died on a certain date in 1940 were often viewed with suspicion; it was thought that they might be aware of who the killers really were.
It was not until the era of Boris Yeltsin, President of Russia from 1991 to 1999, that a serious process to acknowledge what had happened in the past was initiated.
When Tusk and Putin met on April 7, the goal of the two men was a formal and comprehensive reconciliation of their nations. Putin spoke at that event and spoke well. But he still spoke more as a statesman doing what was needed; somehow, he did not really connect, in a human sense, with the Poles.
By contrast, within hours of the fatal plane crash outside Smolensk three days later, Putin himself was on the spot in Katyn, reaching out to the Poles in a spontaneously warm and compassionate fashion. That all of a sudden infused human feelings into an issue that had divided the two peoples.
It is difficult to tell what the long-term reactions in Poland will be to what has so recently transpired. Poland is still mourning its dead; it is possible that conspiracy theories could yet surface. But I feel confident that the gestures of the past few days will unleash a degree of reciprocal human warmth from the Poles and the Russians. There is a chance that together they will initiate a new era in the historically troubled relationship between their two nations.
Should that happen, the map of central Europe would be transformed. A Russian-Polish reconciliation is impossible to imagine without it leading also to greater security for others who live in proximity to Russia, whether they be Estonians or Ukrainians or perhaps even Georgians, who fought a brief war with Russia in 2008.
One should not overestimate the consequences of a change in mood, but ultimately human affairs are shaped by human beings. The sensitivity with which Russian leaders have handled the tragedy, coupled with the determination of Poland’s leaders to face the future without recrimination, augur well for what is to come…
Mourning is cathartic for a nation.
By Bradley Blakeman – FOXNews.com
Out of the tragic plane crash that took the lives of the president and first lady of Poland and many other Polish officials, Poland will emerge stronger and more united as a nation and a people.
Nations that suffer the loss of leaders either by sudden accident or intentional acts need to mourn publicly and openly.
When America, in our most recent history, lost President Kennedy at the hands of an assassin, America mourned together. It did not matter if you were a Republican, or a Democrat, it did not matter the color of your skin, or the God you worshipped, we grieved together as Americans. Out of tragedy, America was strengthened.
When President Reagan passed away, our nation came together to celebrate the life of a popular president. Again, it did not matter who you were, or what your were, we all had one thing in common above all other. And we came together as Americans. It was amazing to see the outpouring of love, affection and respect for our former leader and our system of government.
It is cathartic for a nation to mourn. Out of the mourning process, citizens emerge stronger and more dedicated to each other and to their country.
Whether the mourning involves a sudden and unexpected loss or celebrates the passing of a former beloved leader, it is important for the life and well-being of a nation to go through the mourning process in a solemn, inclusive and dignified manner.
The pomp and circumstance that surrounds the funeral rites and mourning period is very important and necessary. And the rites of passage are just as important beyond Poland’s borders as they are within the country. Leaders will come from all over the world on Sunday to show their respect at the state funeral and Polish citizens will travel for days to stand in lines for hours just to participate in their country’s official events. Parents will take their children, veterans will don their hats and medals, schools will create unique programs, newspapers will have special editions and television coverage will feature exclusive coverage of the ceremonies.
Polish communities in America and elsewhere will mourn in solidarity.
Poles will long remember this time, because it is now an integral part of their nation’s history.
Now is the time for America to stand with our friend Poland in its time of need and to let the people of Poland know that America shares their sorrow and treasures their friendship.
TIME – Monday, Jul. 12, 1943
The Liberator took off from Gibraltar, soared into the night sky of July 4. Then, soon after the takeoff, its engines stalled and it crashed. Among those killed: General Wladyslaw Sikorski, Premier of the Polish Government in Exile and commander of its armed forces; his daughter, Mrs. Sophia Lesniowska; General Tadeusz Klimecki, Chief of the Polish General Staff; Colonel Andrzej Marecki, military scientist; British Colonel Victor Alexander Cazalet, M.P., political liaison officer to Sikorski.
The death of General Sikorski made future Polish policy uncertain. He was not afraid of facts. Though he loathed Communism, he made a pact with the Soviet Union shortly after it found itself at war with Germany. Though his personal politics were ruggedly conservative, he included some liberals in his Government. But his Government was riddled with backward-looking Poles who opposed his policies, worked unceasingly to destroy his pact with Russia.
Largely through the influence of these men, Sikorski accepted a Nazi propaganda claim, charged the Soviet Union with killing Polish officers in Russia. Russia broke relations with Sikorski’s Government, attacked it in official editorials.
Prodded by the British Foreign Office, Sikorski made some efforts to win back Russian recognition for his Government. In Cairo last week he said the peace to come should be based on a federated Europe, with Poland and Czecho-Slovakia forming the central bloc; the new Poland and its federated allies should have close economic relations with Russia.
The Polish Government in Exile appointed Deputy Premier Stanislaw Mikolajczyk acting Premier, said he had been a “collaborator” of Sikorski’s. But if strong, smart General Sikorski had been unable to check Polish chauvinism, Mikolajczyk more than had his work cut out for him.
Using this new, more accurately-scaled graphic, I re-drew the 3deg theoretical glideslope (blue line) which I assumed began about 300m into the runway, (normal touchdown point). I used another line to show the extended the runway elevation, (brown line).
At 1100m from the threshold I drop a vertical green line to help line the airplane with the points on the theoretial glideslope and runway elevation lines.
At that distance from the runway, (approximately .6nm), it is reasonable to expect that an aircraft on a 3-deg slope would be approximately 70m or around 230ft above the extendd runway elevation. Similar checks for altitude reasonableness at various distances out, on a 3deg slope, confirm these altitudes are reasonable.
I then used the distance-to-runway scale and, assuming now that the profile of the terrain was accurate, measured the height between where the first tree hit by the TU-154 was, and the theoretical altitude which an aircraft would theoretically be at when on a 3-deg glideslope.
I then stated in the graphic what the altimeters would normally read at that point, (1100m from the runway) when on the 3-deg glidesope, when set to QFE, and when set to QNH. The Radio Altimeter reading is included but is less important.
Lastly I stated what the altimeters would have read assuming a collision with the tree at “Zone 1” (referenced in earlier posts and graphics, but essentially beside the NDB shack and antenna), when set to QFE and when set to QNH.
However, it is important to state that we have the known fact, as shown in the photographs and graphics presented thus far, that the airplane hit the tree 1100m from the threshold of the runway, and for that to happen, one of the two possible altimeter readings, the QFE or the QNH, had to be true.
Although it is possible, it is less reasonable and less likely that the crew would descend below the airport height as read from QFE-set altimeters, a reading which would be backed up by the Radio Altimeter, especially if they may have started to see ground a bit earlier and that it wasn’t the airport.
I am not arguing a theory here, nor do I draw conclusions from this and offer this as a thought experiment only. This may not at all represent what happened.
But the airplane was unreasonably low on approach and we need a theory as to why.
h/t: PJ2 (pprune.org)
dziennik.pl (English Translation)
“In the last several seconds of video from the cockpit recorder recorded a growing murmur of the passenger compartment. And then we heard an inhuman cry of horror and pain” – told one of the military prosecutors, examining the black boxes from the fated Tupolev Tu-154M.
Cries of terror and pain they heard prosecutors recordings recorded by the so-called black boxes on the presidential Tupolev Tu-154M. Attorney General Andrew Seremet made the decision to declassify and disclosure of the record conversations of pilots and crew, but this particular record is to be encrypted.
Two black boxes aircraft crashed near Smolensk accounts the conversation of the crew. The first recorded radio conversations with the pilots, flight controllers at the Warsaw airport, and later with the controller from the airport Siewiernyj who naprowadzał plane to correct the landing strip. The second black box recorded the conversation from inside the aircraft, and more specifically from the cockpit of the Tu-154M.
These tracks were analyzed in Moscow with Russian experts from the Polish military prosecutors with the participation of members of the Aircraft Accident. With their unofficial relationship is known that the three pilots shortly before the crash seemed to realize that they no longer could save the machine.
But the recorder also recorded the sounds coming from the passenger spaces. Just behind the cockpit was in the room stewardess. Right behind him were three saloons. In the first presidential couple traveled Maria and Lech Kaczynski. In two successive such Polish president in exile Ryszard Kaczorowski, Jerzy Szmajdzinski, Krystyna Bochenek, ministers from the Office of the President, the military commander.
“In the last several seconds of recordings from the cockpit recorder are a growing murmur from the passenger compartment. Until finally we heard an inhuman cry of horror and pain “- reports” DGP “one of the military prosecutors.
Shouts of terror victims of the tragedy is – as he learns “DGP” – also an important proof in the investigation into the causes of disaster. Indeed, experts and prosecutors must compare the call and signals the imminent event with the provisions of the third device that registered by the parameters of the flight. These are synchronized data from all devices, to accurately calculate the moment of the collapse of the aircraft, and to locate in time all the earlier events that led to the catastrophe.
This is the third such device, commonly referred to as a black box is the third Polish production. It’s called. Quick access recorder that records technical parameters of the aircraft. Since Thursday the recorder specialists examine the Air Force Institute of Technology in Warsaw. They are supported by military prosecutors with the participation of a member of the Russian commission investigating the accident.
Attorney General Andrew Seremet has already decided to declassification and disclosure of the record conversations of pilots and crew. But it also announced that it will not be released to the public the content of intimate. Is all about the voices of fear, when passengers and crew realized that probably do not escape death.
When we know the contents of recordings? Seremet pre-planned press conference is scheduled on Monday. Together with the chief military prosecutor Christopher Parulskim have today jointly present to establish a Polish-Russian investigation. At this conference, the prosecutor wanted Seremet also refer to the supposition that the direct cause of the disaster was a plane hitting a large tree. The result is that the machine has changed course, lost part of the wing, then turned around its own axis to the top of the chassis.
But probably Parulski return to the country early on Wednesday. In addition, the Attorney General wants to wait until the end of the funeral all the victims of the tragedy near Smolensk.
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