Fr. Łuczak talks with Piotr Grzybowski, a coordinator of the Smoleńsk Epitaph project

FR. MAREK ŁUCZAK: - How was the idea of the Smolensk epitaph born?

PIOTR GRZYBOWSKI: - Answering this question, it is worth mentioning a sequence of events preceding the consecration of the epitaph. On the place of the Smolensk catastrophe, on 9 April 2011, the Russians unscrewed a board from a rock, commemorating the victims. After a few weeks, this board got to Poland by the diplomatic post and was returned to the Association of Katyn Families 2012. It was presented in the basilica of Saint Cross in Warsaw for some time, and later due to the decision of the Association, during a pilgrimage of Radio Maryja, arrived at Jasna Góra. Jasna Góra has been considered as the best place since the very beginning where the board could be placed for an eternal souvenir of things. That event was undoubtedly a source of inspiration for F. Roman Majewski, a prior of Jasna Góra, who made a decision to worship the victims of the Smolensk catastrophe in the spiritual capital of Poland. Jasna Góra is a place adequate to the greatness of pain after the loss of so many worthy people. It has also been clear for us since the very beginning that the aforementioned board will the element of the epitaph.

- It is like a relic.

- I had exactly this impression when, after the Holy Mass during which this board was sacrificed, we were carrying it and I was emotionally observing people's reactions who were kneeling in front of it and kissing it. It strengthened our belief that people understand it in the categories of a great symbol.

- The place is also symbolical. Besides the meaning which the board has for us, people remembering the Smolensk catastrophe, we should also see a historiosophical meaning, because people will see this event in a wider context in a few dozens years and Jasna Góra remembers the most important events of the past.

- I would understand it even in a broader sense. For, it is not about only historical memory. In the Smolensk catastrophe so many worthy people were killed that it cannot fail to influence the future. The development of Poland in a moral, civilisation or political sense has surely suffered regression because of their death. In case of many institutions, like the Institute of National Remembrance, Military Forces, the President's Chancellory or the Central Bank, because of the loss of particular people we have also lost specific ways of behaviour and specific standards. A very gigantic gap in various areas of the state functioning appeared. Let's remember that in the Smolensk catastrophe more Polish generals were killed than during the Second World War on all fronts.

- What can we say about the symbolism of the epitaph?

- The epitaph reminds us of a bridge between the year 1940, when the Katyń crime took place, and the year 2010, the year of the Smolensk catastrophe. After all, there would not have been the journey to Smolensk for anniversary celebrations if there had not been this historical event. So we deal with a tragic continuum of Poles' fates. A key symbol is the Russian birch forest which in the Polish tradition is associated with making birch crosses, so it symbolizes a tragedy and human graves. An additional symbol is the Katyń Cross to which all victims of the Smolensk catastrophe are going in pilgrimage. The forest has been interlaced with the elements of the aeroplane, and we can see the Military Bishop's stole hung over one of the trees, a rosary, a prayer book or general's pagon, so the elements which one could come across in the forest where the catastrophe took place. In the upper part of the epitaph, next to dates, there is also the image of Our Lady, the Queen of Poland who is visible among the trees of the Smolensk forest. In the lower middle part of the bass-relief there is an eagle, and below there are surnames of all the victims of the catastrophe.


"Niedziela" 19/2012

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