Great tragedy, great mourning, great prayer

Milena Kindziuk, Andrzej Tarwid

The plane crash at Smolensk shows how fragile human life is, how insignificant all quarrels are. As a nation we faced an examination. Why God? In Poland time stopped on 10 April 2010. The flags on state buildings were lowered to half-staff. In the capital people began coming spontaneously to the Presidential Palace. Warsaw’s inhabitants lit candles and put bunches of flowers. In Krakow the Sigismund bell rang again. Flags with palls were hung out everywhere. Believers gathered in churches to pray for the victims of the crash at Smolensk.
The Katyn land witnessed the unspeakable tragedy of Poland. 70 years ago another drama happened. The President of the Republic of Poland Lech Kaczynski, the First Lady and top government officials, including the last President-in-exile Ryszard Kaczorowski, deputy Parliament Speakers Krzysztof Putra and Jerzy Szmajdzinski, the deputy speaker of the Senate Krystyna Bochenek, the Field Bishop of the Polish Army General Tadeusz Ploski, the ombudsman Dr. Janusz Kochanowski, the National Bank Governor Slawomir Skrzypek, the President of Institute of National Remembrance Janusz Kurtyka lost their lives. There were also MPs, senators, representatives of the Katyn Families, veterans and their chaplains.

Irony of history?

Since the Smolensk tragedy pain and shock have been mixed with unbelief. Many ask the question ’why’. Christianity does not give this answer. We must ask, ‘why, God?’ ‘But God is silent’, says Fr Dariusz Kowalczyk, SJ, focusing our attention to the fact that the tragedy occurred during the Easter octave, on the eve of the Divine Mercy Feast. ‘So we come back to the events of Good Friday and Christ’s dramatic question: My God, my God, why have you deserted me? (see Mark 15:34) but remember that then we have the Easter Morning, showing what is important in life and giving hope, showing new life’, Fr Kowalczyk says. He is convinced that this was the case, too. These dramas constitute ‘blessed relativisation of many human problems’, show the proper hierarchy of values.
Reflecting on our national history we feel that we are more deeply rooted in our heritage, which we define by one word ‘homeland’. And we ask the question, ‘why have we, Poles, such a hard history?’ This delegation went to Katyn to pay homage to the Polish elite murdered in 1940. Now the most valuable people, experienced, holding the highest posts in our social-political life lost their lives there. The irony of history? Fate or a sign?
‘Undoubtedly, it is a sign for us’, says Fr Kowalczyk. ‘We face an exam, how we are going to cope with it? The atmosphere, which our society will create is important since it can help politicians to take further decisions. It is some direction.
Poland’s Primate Archbishop Henryk Muszynski expressed a similar opinion, ‘I am struck by a strange analogy to the death of the Poles murdered in Katyn 70 years ago. Those who lost their lives today were on the way to honour that massacre. This sacrifice is added to the innocent Polish officers murdered in 1940. The fact that those who lost their lives belonged to various political options in Poland is a deep challenge to unity – for the good of our Homeland in the internal, European and international dimension.

Understanding the incomprehensible

Prof. Jan Zaryn also thinks that it is God’s sign for Poles. ‘Today we cannot understand it yet but undoubtedly, we should think how to understand this tragedy. We must try to understand the sense of the incomprehensible since all things have their sense and must mean something.
Looking at this tragedy from the Christian point of view we can say that death is not the last word.
‘We believe that good can be born from this tragedy, both for those who died and for their relatives and for the whole Poland’, Fr Kowalczyk explains. ‘Although it is hard to speak about this today some good must be born from this drama in the end. We also hope that those who passed away stand before merciful God.’

"Niedziela" 16/2010

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