On 10 April 2018, the day of the eighth anniversary of the air crash at Smoleńsk, an important phase of our modern history ended. On Piłsudski Square in Warsaw, where in April 2010, Poles engrossed in grief, were praying for the casualties of the catastrophe, a monument was put up to commemorate all 96 people who had been killed

The fact that the catastrophe at Smoleńsk should be commemorated in the centre of Warsaw had already been obvious for Poles on 10 April 2010. The biggest tragedy in our post-war history must have its artistic reference in the public space of the capital city. After all, it is so with all important events in our history. – We are mainly praying for the deceased who were killed in the catastrophe at SMoleńsk eight years ago. But let’s pray also in the intention of being united by the monument. May this monument speak to the future generations. God, please, pour down your blessing into everybody who will visit this exceptional place – cardinal Kazimierz Nycz was asking in a prayer, sanctifying the monument on Piłsudski square.

The monument designed by Jerzy Kalisz has got a simple form, but it has already become the national symbol which can finish the political dispute bothering Poles. After all, eight years ago the victims of the catastrophe were politicians from all political options. – It belongs to everybody and is for everybody – the Polish president Andrzej Duda emphasized and he expressed his hope that the monument would unite us, regardless of our political opinions and that in a short time it will be a holy place for all Poles. – Because it is the symbol of our community, as it commemorates what belonged to the community and this common thing was something for which they devoted their life. Therefore, this monument is our common thing! – the president emphasized.

He did everything to deserve commemoration

Being covered with a white-red flag, the monument was unveiled by representatives of families of the catastrophe casualties. It was them who were suffering the most after the loss of their close relatives and were drawn into a whirl of ruthless politics. – I was waiting long but, finally, this moment has arrived – Ewa Kochanowska told ‘Niedziela’, a widow of deceased Janusz Kochanowski, a spokesman of civilian rights. – I really like the monument of Jerzy Kalina as I participated in the contest proceeding myself – she added.

Among the people who unveiled the monument of Smoleńsk was, certainly, Jarosław Kaczyński, a brother of the late president Lech Kaczyński. It was his political and personal determination which contributed to commemorating the casualties of the catastrophe. – Neither the monument of the catastrophe casualties nor the monument of Lech Kaczyński are against anybody. We want unity of Poles, but unity around the good, not around the evil – said the president of the Law and Justice party. – There are 96 surnames on it. Without any academic titles, without any functions, but, simply, 96 people. 96 Polish women and men who had set off to Katyń together to maintain remembrance. And this is a sufficient evidence to put up the monument here.

Next to the monument, on the edge of Piłsudski square, near the building of Warsaw Garrison, a stone was unveiled, where in a few months a monument of president Lech Kaczyński is going to be put up. – This monument is going to put up because Lech Kaczyński had been building a way to liberate Homeland throughout his whole life. And later, when freedom turned out to be imperfect, he was creating a trend of public life, whose purposes were to change and repair the Republic of Poland. Nobody had played such a great role like him in building what was good and fair in Poland. And this is the reason for which the monument is going to put up in this place – said Jarosław Kaczyński.

The symbolism of the monument of the late president Lech Kaczyński was also commented on by Andrzej Duda. – Nobody had such a social trustfulness among voters who elected him to the Senate and Seym, for the president of Warsaw and finally the president of Poland. The president prof. Lech Kaczyński enjoyed great trustfulness as he had did everything to deserve great trustfulness. So, one can say that he did everything in his serving to Homeland to deserve this commemoration – the president Duda emphasized.

Quo vadis Polonia?

A permanent point of the anniversary ceremonies is the Holy Mass with participation of families of the casualties, the supreme state authorities and over 100 priests from whole Poland. Thousands of believers filled the Warsaw cathedral, streets of the Old City and the Castle square. – As every year, as every month we reminisce those who were killed then. 96 daughters and sons of the nation, under the leadership of the president Lech Kaczyński -said bishop Michał Janocha. During the homily, he referred to the jubilee of the 100th anniversary of regaining independence by Poles. He referred to the artistic installation of the Lord Sepulcher in the Warsaw arch-cathedral where at the background of the national colours the eagle in the crown breaks shackles and goes up in the air. He reminded that in Smoleńsk Polish wings got stuck in the black ground. And in the cathedral Polish wings go up in the white sky. The proud eagle breaks iron chains, makes a spurt for a flight. It has been a hundred years since that spurt. – What is our homeland like today? What is the land of our ancestors like, the land of Szczęsny Feliński, Piłsudski, Dmowski, Witos, Korfanty, Wyszyński, the land of Karol wojtyła, after a hundred years since that miracle? – bishop Janocha was wondering and concluded: - Between the cathedral and the Presidenial Palace there are barriers protecting Poles from Poles, and black marches are demanding a right for killing the unborn. Isn’t the eagle breaking shackles and making a spurt for a flight, only a projection of our national nostalgias, or isn’t it our another illusion or a tragic farce?

In the opinion of bishop Janocha the modern shackles have their social dimension and we are not often aware of putting them on and allowing others to put them on us – through non-critical submitting to influential ideologies. John Paul II called this phenomenon ‘death civilisation’ when in the name of egoistic freedom, torn away from solidarity, the right for deciding about the life of the unborn, disabled, fatally ill is proclaimed. The bishop reminded that the first country in Europe which introduced unlimited law of killing the unborn was Bolshevik Russia and the second one was Nazis Germany. – Today the same law is demanded by people in the name of progress. If a cannibal is eating with a fork and a knife, is it a progress? Here one can repeat the question, somehow overused, but really important and serious: Quo vadis Polonia? Quo vadis Polonia? – bishop Janocha noted.

The last March of Remembrance

In the late evening there was a March of Remembrance from the arch-cathedral to the Presidential Palace. Jarosław Kaczyński saud that putting up the monument of the catastrophe casualties ended an important stage. He thanked all participants who had been participating in everyday Holy Mass and in Marches of Remembrance for the eight years. He announced that they would still pray every 10th day of the month but there would not be any marches along Krakowskie Przedmieście.

The brother of the late president Lech Kaczyński emphasized many times how significant it was to commemorate the casualties of the catastrophe and explain its causes. – We have introductory reports, still insufficient though. We are facing up investigations which are going to be carried out to the order of procurators, by the most prominent specialists of air catastrophes on the world scale. Some issues have already been explained, and there is still an open way to others. – This has been the 96th march. There have been as many marches as there were the casualties of the Smoleńsk catastrophe. The 96th march has been the last march, as we have reached the destination.

Translated by Aneta Amrozik

Niedziela 16/2018 (22 IV 2018)

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl