Dispute about the cross or about memory

Czeslaw Ryszka

The two big crosses, two terrible disasters, that have afflicted Poland recently – the plane crash at Smolensk and the floods – neither unite us nor evoke responsibility for our homeland but are used by Civic Platform for political quarrels. How could one understand the accusation that the leader of Law and Justice uses the crash at Smolensk for political reason?! It was the circles of Civic Platform that several hours after the tragedy informed people that the crash had been caused by the pilots who had been trying to land in fog. In fact, this opinion is still held by the Polish and Russian as well as the European media. Only few people were outraged at hearing some members of Civic Platform bandying about the thesis that the President had caused the crash because he had been late for the departure, because he had been drunk and had insisted on landing in bad conditions! And finally, he was accused of having the victims’ blood on his hands! Is spreading such versions without any evidence not some political savagery?!
During the presidential campaign the Chairman of Law and Justice kept his word and did not mention the issue of the crash. Now when he broke his silence and in his interview for ‘Gazeta Polska’ he revealed that on the day of the crash he had told Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, ‘It is the result of your criminal politics – you have not bought new planes’, a choir of the defenders of Civic Platform sounded. Shouldn’t we believe Jaroslaw Kaczynski who is sharing his doubts concerning the investigation? Or when he says that it was the Prime Ministers Putin and Tusk that did not want to celebrate the Katyn anniversary together with President Lech Kaczynski? Everyone can know that Russia accused the Polish President of involvement into Georgia’s affairs, even Minister Sikorski expressed his opinion commenting on the firing of the presidential car during his visit to Tbilisi, ‘Like visit, like assassination attempt.’ Moreover, everyone knew about the dispute between the Prime Minister and the President concerning the governmental plane, the chair in Brussels, Poland’s vision in the European Union – the disputes started by the government.
It may seem that the old disputes were over because we have the President of ‘national concord’. Unfortunately, it was him that provoked the dispute about the removal of the Smolensk memorial cross from its place in front of the Presidential Palace; the cross that is dear both to the families of the victims and all those who paid homage to the Presidential Couple during the days of national mourning.
I do not understand why the cross – the most worshipped Christians’ sign – which symbolises the tragic death of Poland’s President Lech Kaczynski, his collaborators from the presidential chancellery and many other meritorious people, cannot stand at this place! It expresses the national community that started after 10 April. It is a sign of these good things that happened after that day and that’s why leaving the cross at this place, praying there, lighting candles, putting flowers are natural expressions of our faith and culture. It was from that place that President Lech Kaczynski had departed on his last visit to pay tribute and homage to the Polish officers murdered in Katyn 70 years earlier. It was to this place that he was to return with his spouse and close collaborators on 10 April. Therefore, it is the most appropriate place to commemorate this national tragedy. If crosses can stand in front of the Gdansk shipyard, the coal mine ‘Wujek’ and many other sites commemorating big national tragedies, the presence of the cross at this place has been justified very profoundly. Furthermore, some commemorative tablet with the victims’ names or some obelisk should be put somewhere next to the cross.
The cross – in this case a sign of mourning – is not removed because in the Polish tradition such an act is always regarded as Dechristianisation. If I were the new president and follow the principle of national concord as my priority I would lay flowers at the cross with other people. It would be behaviour worthy of a statesman! Thus I would honour the presidency itself and those thousands who paid homage to the late presidential couple.
In history the cross has always been a sign of opposition, a scandal for many and a cause for unrest. Consequently, it must be disturbing that the President-elect begins his office from removing the cross and his successor, Parliament Speaker Grzegorz Schetyna wants Law and Justice to remove the pictures of the victims of the crash at Smolensk from their chairs in the Parliament. Why cannot they remain there until the end of the investigation, until a proper commemorative tablet is made? This attack on the cross and pictures of the dead MPs is an attempt to destroy everything that Lech Kaczynski and the Fourth Polish Republic symbolised.
Do the authorities show tact towards the feelings of millions of Poles? Or perhaps the biggest political power will gain something when the conflict is spread so that we will not meddle in politics, sales of our remaining national properties, appropriating the public media… My own experience tells me that soon we will hear about the good will of the authorities, proposals of compromise uttered by Civic Platform as well as about manipulators and ‘necrophiles’ from Law and Justice, who use the tragedy, manipulate society, smell out plots. ‘Agreement is constructive’ – another slogan, which was an empty babble of the election campaign.

"Niedziela" 30/2010

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