Polish president marks WWII Katyn Crime on memorial day
PR dla Zagranicy
President of Poland Andrzej Duda planted an oak sapling in the garden of the Presidential Palace on Wednesday, marking Katyn Memorial Day.
President Andrzej Duda (solitary on the left) during Wednesday's ceremony planting the Oak of Remembrance, Warsaw. Photo: PAP/Jacek Turczyk
The 'Oak of Remembrance' recalls over 22,000 Poles – chiefly officers and reserve officers – who were executed in April 1940 by the NKVD (a forerunner of the Soviet Union's secret police organisation the KGB).
The killings took place at various points across the then Soviet Union, among them the Katyn Forest, where over 4,400 Poles were buried in mass graves, each victim shot in the back of the head.
The sapling was planted with earth that had been gathered from the Katyn Forest (today in western Russia) by young Poles during an annual pilgrimage to the site.
President Duda said that the oak is “not only a symbol of remembrance for those who were murdered in Katyn, but also a symbol of the strength of the [Polish] Republic and the strength of our nation.”
Moscow admitted guilt for the crime in 1990, with an announcement by then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
Duda also took the opportunity on Wednesday to refer to the 2010 Smolensk air disaster.
On 10 April 2010, on the 70th anniversary of the crime, Polish president Lech Kaczyński led a delegation to Katyn, but the plane crashed in thick fog at Smolensk's military airport, and all 96 people onboard died.
Duda said on Wednesday that Kaczyński had himself intended to plant an oak in the presidential garden in Warsaw.
Duda added that “in spite of the terrible wounds, and the unimaginable losses” the strength of the Polish nation “has not been taken away by Katyn and Smolensk.”
The Smolensk air disaster remains a divisive subject in Poland, with both the country's current and preceding governments having been accused of using the disaster to make political capital. The previous government, led by Civic Platform, held that the crash was an accident, whereas current ruling party Law and Justice has propagated the theory that sabotage of the plane occurred, and it has launched a fresh investigation. (nh)