THE SMOLENSK DISASTER IN HISTORICAL CONTEXT
Over the past several centuries, history clearly shows that telling events involving Poland and the Poles have ramifications of world historical scope. In 1683, when they relieved the Second Siege of Vienna by charging down the Kahlenberg and overrunning the camp of the Ottoman Turks, not only did Poland's winged hussars score a decisive field victory against a much more numerous foe, but the Polish knights saved Christianity. During the Polish-Soviet War, 1919-1920, the outnumbered Polish army successfully counterattacked and routed the Bolsheviks at Warsaw on 15 August 1920. The Polish victory at the Battle of Warsaw prevented the Bolsheviks from conquering a war weary Europe. World War II was ignited by Nazi Germany's invasion of Poland, and 40 years later, Poland's Solidarity challenged the Soviet Union's imperium over Central Europe. These past events that involved Poles and Poland set off world historical changes. This past history encourages us to be mindful of the likely consequences for the world community of a very recent disaster that befell Poland and the Poles.
On the morning of 10 April 2010, at Smolensk North Military Airfield in western Russia a catastrophe without precedent in the recent history of Europe, and quite likely the worst tragedy of this kind in the history of the world, took place. All ninety-six passengers aboard Polish Air Force One, a Soviet era TU-154, perished in the Smolensk disaster. In addition to Poland's President Lech Kaczynski and his wife, mainly the key leaders of Poland's Conservative and Catholic elite died that day. The disaster's victims included: Generals serving in Poland's Armed Forces, high ranking Church officials, academics and intellectuals, and family members of Katyń Forest Mass Murder Victims. More Polish Generals died in the Smolensk Disaster than those killed in action during World War II.
That fateful morning, Polish Air Force One was en route to commemorate the Seventieth Anniversary of the Katyń Forest Mass Murders. In April 1940, on Stalin's orders and in violation of international law and the Geneva Conventions signed by the Soviet Union, Polish officers, who were prisoners of war captured by the Soviet Union in September 1939 and then imprisoned in camps at Kozielsk, Starobielsk, and Ostaszkow were shot in Katyn Forest and other killing fields in the environs of Smolensk.
The horrible mass murder of Polish prisoners of war at Katyń Forest is the best documented of the several killing sites which include: Charkow, Twer, Kuropat and Bykow. That is why for Poles Katyń has come to denote not only the mass murders perpetrated in Katyń Forest, but all of the mass murders of Polish officers in the western Soviet Union. Approximately 21,000 Polish prisoners of war were murdered by the Soviet Union in these killing fields.
Well before the outbreak of World War II, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany planned to partition Poland and mass murder Poland's elite. At the then secret 1935 Nazi-Soviet Gdansk-Oliwa Conference, which took place four years before the Hitler-Stalin Non-Aggression Pact of 23 August 1939, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union agreed to work together to seize and then to divide Polish territory between themselves. The two totalitarian dictatorships also agreed to collaborate with each other to administer partitioned Poland and prepared proscription lists of members of the Polish elite who needed to be killed in both the German and Soviet zones of occupied Poland. After the start of the war this anti-Polish collaboration was confirmed in the third secret protocol annexed to the Tract concerning borders and friendship between Soviet Union and Germany of September 28, 1939. Killings of Poles were coordinated between Soviet internal security service, NKWD, and its German counterpart the Gestapo. During joint training exercises the Gestapo and the NKWD developed procedures to mass murder the Polish elite.
Notwithstanding the fact that during World War II officials in both the United States and the United Kingdom well knew that the Katyń mass murders were perpetrated by the Soviet Union, the Western democracies did not condemn the Soviet Union for this crime against their loyal ally – Poland. Doing so would have jeopardized the continuing participation of the Soviet Union in the war effort against Germany and Japan. That is why the payoff for Poland and the Poles was defeat in victory. Though Poland fought Nazi Germany, from start to finish during World War II, for nearly six years, not only on Polish territory, but in North Africa, Italy, and Western Europe, the war ended with Poland occupied by the Soviet Union, now Poland's nominal ally, but earlier in the war Poland's enemy allied with Nazi Germany from 1939 to 1941. After Nazi Germany's defeat, the Soviet Union continued to murder Poles just as the Soviet Union had done when allied with Nazi Germany. In 1945 the war ended for most countries, but the Soviet Union continued its war against Poland and the Poles, even though Poland was a victorious United Nations ally.
After 1945, when the war ended for most countries, the Soviets continued the war against the Poles. The armed struggle against the Soviet seizure of power in Poland continued until the end of the 1950's. The cost to Poland was approximately 20,000 killed in action and approximately 250,000 arrested, with tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands forced to emigrate from their Fatherland. The last Polish partisan fighting against the Soviet occupation died resisting a communist round-up of patriots on 21 October 1963, this was 18 years after the Big Three Conference at Yalta, when the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union agreed that in return for the Soviet Union's help to defeat Japan, Poland, their loyal ally, should be handed over to the Kremlin's communist murderers.
While en route to the Seventieth Anniversary Commemoration of the Katyń Mass Murders, the flower of the Polish elite, aboard Polish Air Force One, again died on Russian soil, near Smolensk, in circumstances that still, to the present moment, four years later, remain unclear. We still do not know what caused this catastrophe. We still do not know who is responsible for this dreadful disaster. What we do with all certainty know is that the truth about the Smolensk Disaster hypocritically has been concealed. Less than one hour after the Smolensk Disaster the Kremlin claimed the cause of the disaster was pilot error, and asserted that all aboard Polish Air Force One died, long before all bodies were recovered. The official Russian MAK Report, and its echo, the subservient Tusk Government's Miller Commission Report, only reiterated the explanation given by the Kremlin soon after the Smolensk Disaster. To date there has not been an investigation of the Smolensk Disaster even though both official reports are filled with discrepancies and internal contradictions.
The religious and patriotic character of the Commemoration of the Fifth Anniversary of the Smolensk Disaster aims to fix in our collective memory the continuing relevance of the important events involving Poland and the Poles that have had world historic significance and to rededicate ourselves to the proposition expressed in Poland's national anthem: "Poland is not forsaken as long as we live". Since we live among our American friends, we want to share with them what we hold dear, and hope that they will be numerous at the Commemoration. We also have invited to the Commemoration members of the Polish Parliament, Polish Foreign Ministry, Smolensk Disaster family members, and representatives of several Polish and Polish American organizations.
The Commemoration will begin at 10 a.m. on Sunday 19 April 2015 at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Częstochowa, 654 Ferry Road, Doylestown, PA 18901, with the laying of wreaths by guests of honor at the unveiling of the Commemorative Tablet, in the Shrine's cemetery, to the victims of the Smolensk Disaster. An English translation of this moving ceremony will be available. At noon, Holy Mass will be celebrated in memory of the victims of the Smolensk Disaster and for the unity of Poles who face increasing danger. After Holy Mass, a Conference featuring experts will explain in detail why the official versions of the Smolensk Disaster are inadequate and why an independent international committee should conduct a proper investigation. At this moment the Organizing Committee cannot guarantee that an English translation of the conference proceedings will be available at the Commemoration on 13 April. In tandem with the Commemoration there will be a meeting of representatives of Polish and Polish American organizations.
We, the members of the Organizing Committee, wholeheartedly invite you to participate in the Commemoration of this very important anniversary, which with your help will have world historical consequences.