Recovering from Disaster: Poland's Heartbreak
On April 10th, 2010, what was most likely a combination of human and mechanical error led to a plane crash that killed 96 of Poland's greatest minds. Included was the President, Lech Kaczynski. More than just a great leader, the man was an icon. A symbol of a lost age of generosity, strength, and stubborn defense of values. "Poland's Tragedy: In Memoriam Lech Kaczynski" was written for The Economist Online on the subject.
"He was a man of unquestioned, almost painful, integrity. In 2005 he moved to the presidential palace not from one of the palatial homes favoured by most mainstream Polish politicians, but from the shabby flat in Warsaw in which he and his wife, Maria, had lived for decades. His values, attitudes, habits and behaviour were those of the pre-war Polish middle class: a culture so strong that it survived decapitation and evisceration under Soviet and Nazi occupation, and the regime installed at gunpoint after the war. Obstinate, old-fashioned, provincial, gutsy, rather shy, awkward, suspicious, pernickety and scrupulous, the 60-year-old law professor was utterly uninterested in the tactful doublespeak usually required of politicians in modern Europe."
This terrible event leaves Poland with not only a political crisis, but a moral one. Who will they look to now? Who, if anyone, can replace such an individual? That person will be difficult to find I think. Another difficulty the country faces is the sudden disappearance of a good portion of their most elite.
"It was that feeling which brought Mr Kacznyski, along with almost the entire foreign-policy leadership of his party, the commanders of the army, navy, air force and special forces, senior intelligence veterans and top historians, to board the plane that crashed on April 10th. They were paying their own private visit unencumbered by—in their eyes—the phoney reconciliation and dubious politicking of the event earlier in the week. The Russian authorities’ exemplary behavior since the crash and visible displays of public grief by Mr Putin and others may have assuaged some of those feelings... Poland is convulsed by the tragedy. Not since the height of Stalinist repressions have so many of the country’s best and brightest perished..."
What does this mean for Poland? How will they react to this devastating event? One can only hope that their famous strength will bring the Poles through this challenge as well.