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Poland reels
April 10, 2010 2:37 AM   Subscribe

The President of Poland, Lech Kaczyński, his wife and 130 others, including a huge proportion of the elite of Polish politics, have died in a plane crash.

The Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, is one of the few major governmental figures who was not on the flight. It crashed near Katyn, scene of one of the greatest of Poland's many tragedies, where thousands of Poles, mainly the top army officers, were killed by Russians 70 years ago. The flight was taking them to a memorial for the massacre.

The dead include the army chief of staff, 6 top generals, the governor of the central bank, the deputy foreign minister, the ambassador to Russia, 15 MPs from all parties, 2 vice presidents of parliament, one vice-president of the Senate, most of the top figures from the families of the victims of Katyn memorial society and Ryszard Kaczorowski, the final president of the London-based government-in-exile during Soviet rule.
posted by Busy Old Fool (155 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is an insane loss, it's actually hard to believe that so many officials would be transported this way.
posted by malapropist at 2:40 AM on April 10, 2010 [10 favorites]


Dear god.

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posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 2:41 AM on April 10, 2010


There are many aspects to this tragedy. That it should happen so close to and on the way to Katyn is painful enough for Poles.

There is also the fact that the plane was a Tupolev 154, a design that dates back to the 1960s and which many had been calling for to be upgraded. In 2003, an aging helicopter carrying the then-Prime Minister, Leszek Miller, crashed near Warsaw. He escaped lightly, but it led to that craft being replaced with an up-to-date model.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 2:45 AM on April 10, 2010


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posted by alby at 2:57 AM on April 10, 2010


Without wishing to moderate the thread, I'd like to suggest that references to Kaczyński's social conservatism (he twice banned gay pride marches in Warsaw) be kept in proportion and not dominate.

Firstly, because this was a small part of his life (child film star -> Solidarity strike organiser -> Professor of Law -> politician and President) and secondly because this disaster is so much bigger than one man.

I have long held a strong dislike for him because of his conservative policies, but right now I (though not a Pole) am cold with shock.

posted by Busy Old Fool at 2:57 AM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


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Jesus. Unsurprisingly, conspiracy theories are starting to spread like wildfire. I hope everybody keeps a cool head. My condoleances to everybody involved.
posted by Skeptic at 3:05 AM on April 10, 2010


I hope there is enough strength in the structure of the country to allow it to regroup in an orderly manner.
posted by HuronBob at 3:11 AM on April 10, 2010




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posted by honest knave at 3:13 AM on April 10, 2010


The tragic loss of life makes me feel all the more worse for getting him confused with Kaczynski.
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:15 AM on April 10, 2010


Beyond my list above, the dead also include the head of the National Security Bureau and the President of the Polish Olympic Committee.

A minor political note is that the successor will be the Speaker of the Parliament Bronisław Komorowski, who was expected to be one of the key challengers for the Presidency upon the end of Kaczyński's term in six months from now.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 3:17 AM on April 10, 2010


I was thinking conspiracy theories at first too, Skeptic, but while plane and helicopter crashes have been used as assassination tools many times in the past, typically they're induced through some kind of equipment failure. From what the article says, they just came in too low in heavy fog and hit trees, so unless there's evidence of, say, an altimeter malfunction, it sounds most likely to be simple pilot error. Plus, there's the question of what would be gained by killing off most of the government of a putatively friendly state; there are many things we don't know, but it doesn't seem likely that Russia would gain any particular advantage.

What a terrible thing for the Polish people and the families of the slain; my heartfelt condolences. I can't, of course, speak for everyone, but I suspect you will be in the thoughts of a large fraction of the world for some time to come.
posted by Malor at 3:20 AM on April 10, 2010


I'm in Poland. We're about to go outside to see what the public response is in my town. Will report back in a while.
posted by mdonley at 3:21 AM on April 10, 2010 [10 favorites]


How incredibly horrific.
posted by triggerfinger at 3:21 AM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


And, for those who haven't been following Polish politics much, the late President Lech Kaczyński and his twin brother Jarosław were the only twins (and possibly siblings?) to be President and Prime Minister of a nation simultaneously.

Sorry for all the comments, I thought the extra information would be of interest, but I'll step back now.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 3:22 AM on April 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


Busy Old Fool, I do appreciate the extra information.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 3:29 AM on April 10, 2010 [8 favorites]


Busy Old Fool, I'm finding your extra info very interesting. I visited Poland not six months ago and fell in love with it and am glad to learn anything new about it.
posted by triggerfinger at 3:30 AM on April 10, 2010


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posted by ShawnStruck at 3:38 AM on April 10, 2010


From Interfax, via the Guardian:
The pilot was told Smolensk airport was closed because of thick fog, according to the news agency Interfax. He was offered a choice of landing instead in either Moscow or Minsk, the capital of Belarus. But he decided to continue with the original flight plan and land at Smolensk.

The pilot made three unsuccessful attempts to land before the crash. On the fourth try and plane fell apart, Interfax said, citing officials at Smolensk's interior ministry.


If true, I don't know what to say.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 3:43 AM on April 10, 2010


That's shocking, considering how many (influential) people were on that plane. I hope this doesn't give Jaroslaw a push in the next elections because of a possible beatification of Lech Kaczyński, but it is horrible on a personal level, not to mention that many new people will have to occupy the empty seats, learn the ropes and work with other people who are new, too. Good luck, Poland.
posted by ersatz at 3:44 AM on April 10, 2010


I do not understand how a bunch of Poles flying to Katyn crash in Smolensk. Anyone able to clarify their route?
posted by Meatbomb at 3:46 AM on April 10, 2010


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posted by XMLicious at 3:46 AM on April 10, 2010


Terrible tragedy.

But why, oh why, were so any dignitaries on the same plane? They shouldn't even be allowed in the same building together.
posted by bardic at 3:50 AM on April 10, 2010


Meatbomb: Katyn is 20km from Smolensk.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 3:57 AM on April 10, 2010


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It's really hard to get my head around this. What an awful tragedy made even more awful by virtue of the fact that these people were traveling to Katyn.
posted by ob at 4:16 AM on April 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


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posted by Clamwacker at 4:17 AM on April 10, 2010


One possible answer to bardic's and malapropist's understandable bafflement at the huge number of important Poles on this flight is that, simply, they wanted to be on it.

This was to be the memorial for the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre and its importance to the Polish psyche is huge. A huge proportion of the Polish intelligentsia of the time were deliberately executed by Stalin's order. It was essentially forbidden to mention it in public during the Soviet days and is now a huge part of Poland's identity, deeply connected to its people's struggle for freedom.

I would guess that most Poles, had you told them about a spare seat on that flight yesterday, would have taken it without a second thought.

And so, important people being by definition the sort of people who can get a seat on a plane if they want it enough, it becomes less surprising that there were a lot more important people on that plane than, with hindsight, there should have been.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 4:22 AM on April 10, 2010 [9 favorites]


A guy came round about 20 minutes ago to hang a flag (mourning variety, with black ribbon) on our building.

From what I can see, people on the street are suspicious. If this had happened any other way -- a French plane flying into Paris, for example -- it would be different, but an old Russian plane landing in fog in Katyn? A former president says the place is damned.
posted by pracowity at 4:28 AM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is incredibly shocking. I cannot, offhand, think of any disaster involving so many dignitaries outside of a war situation. I honestly can't think of any.

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posted by winna at 4:30 AM on April 10, 2010


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posted by Thorzdad at 4:48 AM on April 10, 2010


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strange echoes of this, particularly as the conspiracy theories are emerging...
posted by peterkins at 4:49 AM on April 10, 2010


I'm so shocked. The pilot sounds like a madman. I hope it turns out there was a very good reason for not going on to Moscow or Minsk.
posted by harriet vane at 5:17 AM on April 10, 2010


I did not know much about the Katyn Massacre but these pictures from a Nazi Era book (the Nazi's, trying to show the brutality of Stalin, photographs of exhuming a fairly recent mass grave, not for the squeamish).

Condolences to the people of Poland.
posted by readery at 5:21 AM on April 10, 2010


The Victims:

Mr. Lech Kaczynski, Polish President
Mrs. Maria Kaczynska wife of Polish President

OFFICIAL DELEGATION
1. Mr Ryszard Kaczorowski, former president of Poland in Exile 2. Mr. Krzysztof Putra Sejm Marshal 3. Mr. Jerzy Szmajdzinski Sejm Marshal 4. Krystyna Bochenek Deputy Senate 5. BAHR Jerzy Ambassador of the Russian Federation 6. Mr. Wladyslaw STASIAK Chief Presidential Chancellery 7. Mr. Aleksander Szczyglo Head of National Security 8. Mr. Jacek Sasin Secretary of State, Deputy Head of the Presidential Chancellery 9. Mr. Paul WYPYCH Secretary of State in the President's Chancellery 10. Mariusz Handzlik Undersecretary of State in the Chancellery of the President 11. Mr. Andrzej Kremer, Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs 12. Mr. Stanislaw Komorowski, Undersecretary of State in the Defence 13. Mr. Tomasz Merta Undersecretary of State in the Ministry of Culture 14. Gen. Franciszek Gagor Chief of General Staff of Polish Army 15. Mr AndrzejPRZEWOZNIK Secretary ROPWiM 16. Mr. Maciej Plazynski President of the Association "Polish Community" 17. Mariusz KAZANA MFA Diplomatic Protocol Director

REPRESENTATIVES OF THE ARMED FORCES RP
1. Gen. Gen. Bronislaw KWIATKOWSKI Operational Commander of Polish Armed Forces 2. Gen. broni pil. Gen. pil. Andrew Blasik Polish Air Force Commander 3. Gen. dyw. Maj.-Gen. Tadeusz BUK Commander of Land Forces of Poland 4. Gen. dyw. Maj.-Gen. Wlodzimierz POTASINSKI Polish Special Forces Commander 5. Andrzej KARWETA Dowódca Marynarki Wojennej RP Vice Admiral Andrzej Karweta Commander Navy 6. Gen. bryg. Brig. Kazimierz GILARSKI Commander Training Centre Warsaw

PARLIAMENT REPRESENTATIVES RP
1. Mr. Leszek Deptula deputy to the Sejm 2. Mr. Gregory Dolniak deputy to the Sejm 3. Ms. Grazyna Gesicka deputy to the Sejm
4. Mr. Przemyslaw Gosiewski deputy to the Sejm 5. Mr. Sebastian KARPINIUK deputy to the Sejm 6. Ms. Izabela Jaruga - Nowacka Member of Parliament of the Republic of Poland 7. Mr. Zbigniew Wassermann deputy to the Sejm 8. Ms. Alexander Natallia - WORLD Member of the Sejm 10. Mr. Arkadiusz Rybicki deputy to the Sejm 11. Jolanta Szymanek - Deresz Member of the Sejm 12. Wieslaw WATER deputy to the Sejm 13. Mr. Edward Wojtas deputy to the Sejm 14. Janina FETLINSKA Senator RP 15. Mr. Stanislaw ZAJAC Senator RP

ACCOMPANYING PERSONS
1. Mr. Janusz Kochanowski Ombudsman Citizen Laws 2. Mr Skawomir Skrzypek, President of the Polish National Bank 3. Janusz Kurtyka President of the Institute of National Remembrance 4. Janusz Krupski Director of the Office for War Veterans and Repressed Persons

REPRESENTATIVES Churches and Religious Affairs
1. Tadeusz Ploski Ordinary of the Polish Army 2. Miron Chodakowski Orthodox Ordinary Polish Army 3. Adam PILCH Ewangelickie Duszpasterstwo Polowe 4. Col. Adam Pilch Evangelical Chaplaincy 5. Lt. Col. John OSINSKI Ordinariate of the Polish Army


Katyn Families REPRESENTATIVES AND OTHER ASSOCIATIONS
1. Mr. Edward Duchnowski Secretary General of Association of Siberian Deportees 2. Ks. Fr. Monsignor Bronislaw Gostomski 3. Ks. Fr. Parafiada Association President Joseph Joniec Parafiada 4. Ks. Fr. Zdzislaw KING Chaplain Warsaw Katyn Families 1987-2007 5. Ks. Fr. Chaplain Andrew Kwasnik Federation of Katyn Families 6. Pan Tadeusz LUTOBORSKI 7. Bozena Lojek President of the Polish Foundation for Katyn 8. Mr. Stefan Melaka Katyn Committee Chairman 9. Mr. Stanislaw Mikke Vice ROPWiM 10. Mrs. Bronislaw Orawiec - Löffler 11. Ms. Catherine Piskorska 12. Mr Andrew SARIUSZ - SKAPSKI President Federation of Katyn Families 13. Mr Wojciech SEWERYN 14. Mr. Leszek Solski 15. Ms. Teresa Walewska - PRZYJALKOWSKA Foundation "Golgotha of the East" 16. Ms. Gabriela Zych 17. Ewa Bakowska granddaughter of Brig. Mieczyslaw Smorawinski 18. Mrs. Maria Borowska 19. Mr. Bartosz BOROWSKI 20. Mr. Dariusz MALINOWSKI
posted by empath at 5:25 AM on April 10, 2010 [12 favorites]


Russia Today on Youtube gives a good summery of people involved and the politics behind. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nucwf6DvpG4
posted by monocultured at 5:34 AM on April 10, 2010


Smolensk. 200 miles west of Minsk. 200 north of Kursk. 1500 miles west of Omsk.
posted by charlie don't surf at 5:45 AM on April 10, 2010


I hope it turns out there was a very good reason for not going on to Moscow or Minsk.

My bet is that piloting a planeload of dignitaries (including your president) to Smolensk is going to make you feel a lot of pressure to land in Smolensk, which was a short drive from their true destination, rather than give up and land them all in some very inconvenient alternative airport.

Then fog, trees, torn metal, and fire.
posted by pracowity at 5:45 AM on April 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


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I don't know very much about Poland, and I appreciate Mutant's comment for that reason.
I'm just shocked at the idea of this happening to the government of any nation.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:50 AM on April 10, 2010


Jesus, that's scary.

. x 131
posted by bwg at 5:56 AM on April 10, 2010


Not to be a derail for this shocking news and the conversation it deserves but reading mutant's column (and I respect him immensely ) made me feel very uncomfortable re: the culture of india, china, poland vis a vis upstate nyc
posted by infini at 5:56 AM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Russia Today on Youtube gives a good summery of people involved and the politics behind.

That's a sort of pro-Russia video, right. And he's talking about how the crash will affect Poland-Russia relationship right off the bat. Kind of tacky.
posted by delmoi at 5:59 AM on April 10, 2010


oh my god. how does such a thing happen? how do you drape an entire country in black?

not polish, but of slovak descent and, depending on whether you count my grandmother being born in america, then moving back to slovakia at age 1, and returning at age 13 to marry my grandfather, am either 2nd or 3rd generation american. we let a few poles sneak into the family through marriage, though, and i grew up in a tightly knit community of eastern europeans who worked hard to integrate into american culture while maintaining their ethnicity. i contend that you'd be hard pressed to find a group of people who work harder, love stronger, welcome others more enthusiastically, worship more devotedly, and embrace life more passionately than eastern europeans.

poland will survive this because they are a strong people with an unfortunate history of being able to adapt to tragedy. but jesus christ, this is unfathomable.

. times 130+
posted by msconduct at 6:17 AM on April 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


My G-d. Those poor people. Their families. :(

Busy Old Fool, thank you very, very much for the additional information you posted in the comments. It helped me process the scope of this tragedy and further understand how this could have happened.

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posted by zarq at 6:29 AM on April 10, 2010


This 70th anniversary of Katyn was to be special as Vladimir Putin was scheduled to be part of the ceremony, the first Russian leader to ever do so. Now is shall be special for a very different reason.

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posted by tommasz at 6:34 AM on April 10, 2010


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posted by TrialByMedia at 6:37 AM on April 10, 2010


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posted by custardfairy at 6:37 AM on April 10, 2010


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posted by codswallop at 6:48 AM on April 10, 2010


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posted by DreamerFi at 6:49 AM on April 10, 2010


Holy crap.
posted by mazola at 6:50 AM on April 10, 2010


Woke up to a couple of texts about this from Polish friends, what a terrible, terrible event.
There's a Wikipedia page up already which has links to bios of the victims. Details on the plane they were flying on and this is the Google maps data for the crash area.
posted by SyntacticSugar at 6:51 AM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jesus christ what? Yikes
posted by The Whelk at 6:52 AM on April 10, 2010


Obama comments.
posted by empath at 7:01 AM on April 10, 2010


"Without wishing to moderate the thread, I'd like to suggest that references to Kaczyński's social conservatism (he twice banned gay pride marches in Warsaw) be kept in proportion and not dominate."

I really didn't like him him banning and criminalizing gay pride marches (a friend of mine who went to warshaw in 07 was arrested for defending against the nazi-hooligans attacking the demonstration and was held in prison for two months), but this is obviously a tragedy not limited to this one person and his policies.

Also on the plane was Izabela Jaruga-Nowacka of the Lefts and Democrats who was an advocate for gay rights and took part in the forbidden pride march in 05.

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posted by ts;dr at 7:14 AM on April 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


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What a horrible tragedy.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:14 AM on April 10, 2010


You didn't forget Poland.
posted by ed at 7:17 AM on April 10, 2010


[A couple comments removed.]
posted by cortex at 7:20 AM on April 10, 2010


A guy came round about 20 minutes ago to hang a flag (mourning variety, with black ribbon) on our building.


I have never heard of a mourning flag, although it makes good sense. We always just fly the US Flag at half mast, but now a mourning version seems like a good idea.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:21 AM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


What a horrible tragedy. I'm stunned by reading that list of victims. My thoughts are with Poland today.
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posted by gemmy at 7:25 AM on April 10, 2010


Jesus, how terrible.
posted by rtha at 7:29 AM on April 10, 2010


How terrible and awful. My prayers go out to the people of Poland.

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posted by Atreides at 7:29 AM on April 10, 2010


Plus, there's the question of what would be gained by killing off most of the government of a putatively friendly state;

Relations between Russia and Poland are not exactly "friendly".
posted by KokuRyu at 7:32 AM on April 10, 2010


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posted by JoeXIII007 at 7:53 AM on April 10, 2010


That's terrible and shocking news. Busy Old Fool, thanks for posting this.

Regarding Katyn, Stalin proposed at Tehran to decapitate Germany's armies after the war, by shooting fifty thousand officers and technicians. After Churchill reacted angrily, Stalin claimed to be joking. (Churchill, Closing the Ring.) Katyn was Stalin's attempt to do this to Poland.

Plans for continuing government, from the BBC link:
After an emergency meeting of ministers, Mr Tusk, who runs the day-to-day business of government, said a week of national mourning had been declared with two minutes of silence on Sunday at midday. ...

Mr Tusk added: "The Polish state must function and will function".

A government spokesman said that according to the constitution there would be an early presidential election, and the speaker of the lower house of parliament, Bronislaw Komorowski, would be acting president.
posted by russilwvong at 7:57 AM on April 10, 2010


Oh my god. I can even imagine what most Poles are feeling right now.

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posted by Solon and Thanks at 8:02 AM on April 10, 2010


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am i the only one who feels like it's the 1970s again with all these plan crashes happening around the world?
posted by liza at 8:03 AM on April 10, 2010


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posted by farishta at 8:10 AM on April 10, 2010


Oh my God, oh God.
posted by ruelle at 8:12 AM on April 10, 2010


What a tragedy. Could you imagine if Air Force One went down while carrying half the Cabinet and several senior Congressmen?

Trying an approach four times at a fogged in airport suggests some pilot judgment issues. It must be very hard to say "no, Mr. President, you will have to drive an extra two hours", but that's what the pilot has to do. Or maybe he thought he could make it, who knows? I'd be interested to learn what kind of instrument approaches are available at Smolensk. My understanding is that in general Russian airports have older technology and there aren't many approaches that would safely let you get down to treetop level while still in the soup.
posted by Nelson at 8:17 AM on April 10, 2010


So very low visibility, pilot under pressure makes fatal decision -- that's speculation at this point, but it seems likely, likelier at least than any of the wild-eyed conspiracy theories that are no doubt springing up.

I just wish the person leading the investigation wasn't someone of whom you know that if he wanted you dead, he could probably have you killed.

I don't mean that in an inflammatory way, but why not immediately invite Polish officials for a joint investigation? At least ask for some EU delegates. I'm sorry, that just seems like the right thing at this point.

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posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 8:17 AM on April 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


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Holy shit.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:26 AM on April 10, 2010


Being that I'm in a relationship with a man whose family was strongly active in Solidarity and fled Poland for their own safety in the 90s, this is sobering news. There's gonna be a lot to talk about today.
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posted by msbutah at 8:26 AM on April 10, 2010


Words just fail me.
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posted by vespertine at 8:45 AM on April 10, 2010


Wow, the sheer scope of this, plus the destination and ceremony they were trying to get to. Just, wow. It's hard to even take in the magnitude of what has happened and what lies ahead for Poland.
posted by cmgonzalez at 8:47 AM on April 10, 2010


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posted by spinifex23 at 8:52 AM on April 10, 2010


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posted by iamkimiam at 8:55 AM on April 10, 2010


Can someone please explain what you're referring to by Mutant's column/comment? (Unless it's been deleted or is inappropriate. Otherwise, I'd like to read it. Thanks.)
posted by iamkimiam at 8:58 AM on April 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


Wow, I just wish I could somehow give Poland a hug.

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posted by TooFewShoes at 8:59 AM on April 10, 2010


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posted by Smart Dalek at 8:59 AM on April 10, 2010


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posted by nihraguk at 9:03 AM on April 10, 2010


My buddy's Polish wife is cooking us a fine meal this evening, it's been planned for weeks. I'll be working all day on what to say to her.

The universe sure does seem to line up some really nasty bank shots for Poland.

Also, seconding iamkimiam's request; to what Mutant column or comment are folks referring?
posted by Rat Spatula at 9:06 AM on April 10, 2010


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posted by Xany at 9:07 AM on April 10, 2010


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posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:09 AM on April 10, 2010


iamkimiam...the comment was deleted...contact him, I'm sure he would send it to you...
posted by HuronBob at 9:09 AM on April 10, 2010


Oh, this is terrible.

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posted by SLC Mom at 9:11 AM on April 10, 2010


Back home after venturing out into central Bydgoszcz.

Basically, everything is closed tomorrow - in a town of 350,000 people. All cultural events are canceled. There are, as pracowity mentions, flags with black ribbons everywhere, and a mass is starting sometime around now in the cathedral.

However: the Harley-and-classic-car show in the main square, with moon bounce, was still on when I went through a few hours ago. The shopping mall/supermarket was full, probably because people expect that they'll be shut over the next couple of days.

It may be hard for non-Poles to comprehend the meaning and significance of Katyń in Polish consciousness, but this is more than, say, the President and half of the US Congress crashing somewhere. This is the President and half the US Congress crashing on some impossible combination of Pearl Harbor, Antietam, Ground Zero, and the beaches of Normandy.
posted by mdonley at 9:13 AM on April 10, 2010 [27 favorites]


[Comment in question was a paragraphs-long bit of travel writing not particularly related to the actual thread. If Mutant wants to link to it or something that's fine, but pasting the whole thing in here was not a good idea. Had I noticed the other references to it I probably would have cleaned them up to avoid the confusion, but it's a moot point now.

Carry on.]

posted by cortex at 9:16 AM on April 10, 2010


Just saw this on Wikipedia, culled from a news link in Polish:

A 90th passenger, presidential aide Zofia Kruszyńska-Gust, felt sick just before the trip and did not board the plane.

I can't imagine how she must feel.
posted by cmgonzalez at 9:17 AM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


...he twice banned gay pride marches in Warsaw...

...the late President Lech Kaczyński and his twin brother Jarosław...


10/24/2006:
"The Prime Minister and the President of Poland are identical twin brothers, known by some as the 'terrible twins' because of their policies, and this week the PM Jaroslaw Kaczynski was outed in Polish media.

Doug Ireland of Gay City News reports: 'Poland's second-most important newspaper, Rzeczpolita, published documents-some only recently declassified, and some that were leaked-from the files of the Polish Secret Service that discussed Prime Minister Kaczynski's homosexuality. As part of an investigation, begun in 1992, of right-wing political parties that, the documents said, "could threaten democracy," a Secret Service department then headed by Colonel Jan Lesiak reported, 'It is advisable to establish if Jaroslaw Kaczynski remains in a long-term homosexual relationship and, if so, who his partner is.'

Poland's anti-gay policies have been severe and unrelenting, despite what the Prime Minister has tried to express. In August he traveled to Brussels to appeal to the EU Commission to try to persuade them that homophobia and anti-semitism in the country were on the wane.

....Kaczynski's homosexuality had been rumored since Lech Walesa made a comment 13 years ago on national television regarding the twins' arrival at his birthday party: 'Lech came with his wife and Jaroslaw came with his husband.' Not until the surfacing of the Secret Service documents did it become so public."
posted by ericb at 9:26 AM on April 10, 2010


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The mind (and soul) boggles. And then you read something like Tragic crash marks end of tumultuous era in Polish politics and you start to think, yup, this is definitely going to change things ... or not.

Many analysts expected presidential elections this autumn to produce a victory for Civic Platform, and thus a collapse and crisis of identity for the nationalist conservative branch of the old anti-communist alliance, symbolized by the charismatic twins.

Today’s disaster could precipitate that collapse even sooner - - or it could provoke a sympathetic return to support of a political dynasty that has thrived on visions of threats from outside. A plane crash in Russia, even if it was a thoroughly innocent event caused by a Polish leader’s aging aircraft, may help resurrect just such visions.

posted by philip-random at 9:26 AM on April 10, 2010


The situation is evolving in that more info is coming in. Apparently now they are claiming the crash happened on the second landing approach, not the 4th. And it's "only" some 90 rather than 130+ people. Still shocking.
posted by VikingSword at 9:27 AM on April 10, 2010


wow.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:28 AM on April 10, 2010


This is terrible, terrible news. My condolences to all family members and to the Polish people. What an enormous risk to take and such awful consequences.
posted by purephase at 9:29 AM on April 10, 2010


Looks like seven days of mourning here.

There were five days when Pope John Paul II died, a week when Józef Piłsudski died, and two weeks after the failure of the Warsaw Uprising during the war.
posted by mdonley at 9:29 AM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


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posted by nostrada at 9:30 AM on April 10, 2010


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Reading the list (which monocultured posted above) brings chills. Those poor families. That poor country. Just devastating.
posted by ericb at 9:33 AM on April 10, 2010



.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who personally assumed charge of the investigation

Not helping.
posted by bukharin at 9:37 AM on April 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


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posted by Ink-stained wretch at 9:54 AM on April 10, 2010


I've just finished several hours of talking with Polish friends, some of whom knew victims of the crash personally. As you might expect, there are tears, black humour, incomprehension and the odd shot of vodka.

There's not a lot of very new information, besides the revised death figures. The body of the president has been found. Two more notable victims are the distinguished actor Janusz Zakrzeński and Anna Walentynowicz, whose sacking from the Gdansk shipyard is often seen as the spark that began the strikes that led to Solidarity and the end of Soviet domination of Poland.

Fwiw, I greatly appreciated Mutant's comment as a tribute to Poland at one its dark hours. However, if the mods felt it was derailing to have it in-thread, I'm happy with that judgement.

It's half past one here in Korea, so that's me done for tonight. Thanks for the respectful tone, everyone.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 10:05 AM on April 10, 2010


The NYTimes is reporting that the President was headed right to Katyn because he was not welcome to the official Russian ceremony due to tensions with Putin.

Not to worry, I read somewhere else that Putin has been put in charge of the official investigation.
posted by nevercalm at 10:08 AM on April 10, 2010


Oh, and 90ish x "." My deep sympathies to all our Mefites from Poland, of descent, married to, living in...this is another in a large collection of very dark days in your history.
posted by nevercalm at 10:11 AM on April 10, 2010


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posted by languagehat at 10:18 AM on April 10, 2010


Putin to head investigation into Polish president's death
posted by nevercalm at 10:19 AM on April 10, 2010


this is incomprehensibly tragic

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posted by desuetude at 10:22 AM on April 10, 2010


However, if the mods felt it was derailing to have it in-thread, I'm happy with that judgement.

It was more the text-dump aspect of it. Mutant is welcome to put a link to it back in the thread.

I am so sorry to hear about this, thanks for the taking the time to make the post and updates Busy Old Fool.
posted by jessamyn at 10:26 AM on April 10, 2010


In the high-tech company I last worked for, it was policy that our brainaic folk not travel together, as losing them all at once would be the end of the company.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:36 AM on April 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


.

Wow. This is surreal, like some movie decapitation strike. It is literally hard to process the concept of that many people, that much government, just gone. My heart goes out to the Polish People.

I gotta confess a distrust of Russian Airframes, tho.
posted by djrock3k at 10:38 AM on April 10, 2010


Wow, this is unfathomably awful.
posted by ellieBOA at 10:39 AM on April 10, 2010


What an incomprehensible loss. For what it's worth, Katyn is an excellent movie.
posted by phaedon at 10:45 AM on April 10, 2010


Wow. This is surreal, like some movie decapitation strike. It is literally hard to process the concept of that many people, that much government, just gone.

My mom's long retired but she spent a substantial chunk of her life working with various government/cultural agencies and came to quite respect the job that certain career bureaucrats did essentially "holding things together" as subsequent elected officials came and went.

Other than the obvious shock at the news from Russia, her first comment was, "Well, I guess Poland's going to find out how good their bureaucrats are."
posted by philip-random at 10:52 AM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is why big companies and all levels of government in the US have rules about how many of their people are allowed to be on a single flight.
posted by chimaera at 10:58 AM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


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posted by Caduceus at 11:07 AM on April 10, 2010


"Well, I guess Poland's going to find out how good their bureaucrats are."

Exactly right. This is staggering.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:08 AM on April 10, 2010


Katyn is merely the standout chapter in the terrible book of Poland's WWII suffering; sort the first table here by "Deaths as % of 1939 population". Consider also that "Two thirds of the Jews who would be killed during the war were already dead by the end of 1942."

Poland ought to have produced more blues musicians than last.fm can find for me by now.
posted by Rat Spatula at 11:11 AM on April 10, 2010


Just saw excerpts of an animated reconstruction of the flight's final moments made by Polish TV on Dutch news. If anyone has a link to this video on the web I'd be very grateful.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 11:16 AM on April 10, 2010


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posted by Iridic at 11:24 AM on April 10, 2010


holy shit.

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posted by desjardins at 11:41 AM on April 10, 2010


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posted by graventy at 11:46 AM on April 10, 2010


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posted by BaxterG4 at 11:48 AM on April 10, 2010


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posted by heyho at 12:06 PM on April 10, 2010


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posted by mollymayhem at 12:20 PM on April 10, 2010


Absolutely horrific and nigh incomprehensible. I can't imagine the process to replace all these parts of Poland. Horrible.


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posted by lazaruslong at 12:22 PM on April 10, 2010


I just can't wrap my mind around the concept of losing such a huge chunk of one's government in an instant. My condences to the people of Poland worldwide.
posted by shiu mai baby at 12:27 PM on April 10, 2010



"Wow. This is surreal, like some movie decapitation strike. It is literally hard to process the concept of that many people, that much government, just gone."

I wish it would be made obligatory in my home country for politicians to fly such old, russian made machines.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 12:27 PM on April 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


.

This is beyond belief. I do feel Poland has resilient institutions and will survive this, and it's a warning to any other country to adopt stringent travel rules for its leadership. I can't remember a Wikiipedia article on a tragedy that listed so many blue -- notable -- deaths. Fortunately there were no top ministers, but to have four top military officials on the same flight seems preposterously risky.

And of course, it would be essential to have complete confidence in the investigation to be certain that there was no involvement by Russia. The unfortunate timing is potentially poisonous. It would probably be best to describe Russia and Poland today as having achieved grudging mutual respect. This visit seems like it already had potential diplomatic incident written all over it.
posted by dhartung at 12:30 PM on April 10, 2010


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posted by zaelic at 1:14 PM on April 10, 2010


why, oh why, were so any dignitaries on the same plane?

My company typically will not allow more than a handful of its employees to travel on the same flight to a corporate event.
posted by stargell at 2:04 PM on April 10, 2010


I wish it would be made obligatory in my home country for politicians to fly such old, russian made machines.

Please don't do this.
posted by rollbiz at 2:43 PM on April 10, 2010 [10 favorites]


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posted by gingerbeer at 2:50 PM on April 10, 2010


This is also why Jean-Claude and Christo never flew together.
posted by ReeMonster at 2:55 PM on April 10, 2010


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posted by Wuggie Norple at 4:11 PM on April 10, 2010


130x .

(Can someone please put a link back to whatever Mutant posted?)
posted by longdaysjourney at 6:01 PM on April 10, 2010


Here is Mutant's giant text dump. If someone wants to put it someplace better than pastebin, be my guest. I'll remove it if Mutant wants.
posted by jessamyn at 6:05 PM on April 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


In the high-tech company I last worked for, it was policy that our brainaic folk not travel together, as losing them all at once would be the end of the company

My firm has that policy. These were my exact thoughts.

Unimaginable tragedy for Poland. Tragic.

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posted by the cydonian at 6:32 PM on April 10, 2010


old, russian made machines

It's not like old Tu-154s are inherently much more dangerous than planes built in the rest of the world. As far as technical failures go, their safety record is pretty average.

And as far as age goes, the Boeing 747 variant used as the U.S. president's plane is just about the same age as the plane that crashed here. And plenty of major U.S. carriers use planes well over 20 years old. For example, Northwest kept planes from the late 1960s in the air until they were absorbed by Delta a few months ago. Some of those birds are now being retired, but not due to safety issues. It's a question of good maintenance and careful flying, not the age of the plane.
posted by SpringAquifer at 7:32 PM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


What a mind-boggling loss. My heart goes out to all of Poland.
posted by stoneweaver at 8:20 PM on April 10, 2010


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posted by The Shiny Thing at 10:17 PM on April 10, 2010


.

I heard from a few folks I know from Poland and they all seem to be one or two steps removed with someone they knew on that plane. The shock I can detect in their words underline the level of devastation here. What a horrific and profound loss.

Spoczywaj w pokoju.
posted by myopicman at 10:51 PM on April 10, 2010


My condolences to Poland, thankfully, there were rules which prevented the Prime Minister from being on board as well.

I have heard the generals were ignoring rules put in place after the Mirosławiec air accident.

Another rumor was that the pilot was pressured to make the landing, and his job was in jeopardy due to his refusal to land in a similar situation on another occasion.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 12:03 AM on April 11, 2010


I hope Wislawa Szymborska's up to writing a poem about this tragedy. I can't conceive of any other appropriate response.

Szymborska's a national treasure in Poland, and she won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1996. Two poems that should be read upon this occasion are "The End and the Beginning" and "Starvation Camp Near Jaslo."

To move on? "On Death, without Exaggeration."
posted by Devika at 12:50 AM on April 11, 2010


*
posted by dougzilla at 12:52 AM on April 11, 2010


God.

Poland has been screwed over so many times...

I'm not being very articulate right now, but I can't imagine losing that much of the government it one fall.

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posted by aclevername at 1:06 AM on April 11, 2010


At times such as these, we have such a swirl of emotions. There is of course the shock of such a profound tragedy that leaves you almost speechless at the enormity of the loss. Then you search for a connection with the tragedy: a friend or acquaintance who is related in some way, however, distant, with such a profoundity of death, or perhaps it is the memory of a visit to a place somehow connected with the devastating loss, or perhaps it is a poem or song, but whatever it is, we search out a connection with the tragedy. We then try to express that connection in a way that, however remote, may ease the pain of those truly suffering: family, the wider circle of work-mates or acquaintances, and perhaps ultimately the nation. Yet, it all seems so futile in the face of such awfulness. Perhaps the dot (.), representing a moment of silence, is the best way to express solidarity with those suffering. I just don't know. But to all those Poles reading this thread one cannot only hope to express a profound sense of grief at the loss of your compatriots. Our hearts are with you, however inadequately expressed.
posted by vac2003 at 1:38 AM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is also why Jean-Claude and Christo never flew together.

And presumably this also applied to Jean-Claude and Dolph?
posted by biffa at 3:24 AM on April 11, 2010


.

Although I'm a first-generation American [only from my father; my mother's family, also mostly Polish, has been in the USA for 3+ generations], I don't identify much as that or that of my Polish heritage. I'm not at all ashamed of my heritage. I don't speak Polish. I haven't visited there, yet. But, I neither wish to keep it hidden nor feel compelled or proud to speak out about it at every opportunity. I am at a loss of words expressing it.

But these events are hitting me a bit.

I wonder what grandpa will say when I pick him up for mass in a couple hours.

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posted by fizzix at 6:33 AM on April 11, 2010


It's not like old Tu-154s are inherently much more dangerous than planes built in the rest of the world. As far as technical failures go, their safety record is pretty average.

Actually, the Tu-154 has a very, very good safety record. It's a tough plane, built to land on unimproved airfields, and most of the hull loss incidents and fatalities were not caused by problems with the plane -- five were terrorist bombings, one was a accidental shoot down by Ukrainian armed forces, four were midair collisions, and one was landing on a snowy runway that had snowplows on it.

China had a couple fail in midair from bad maintenance, but most of the incidents were pilot error -- the usual "didn't fly the procedure and hit a mountain."

I suspect that this will also be pilot error -- got below the guideslope and couldn't recover when things went badly wrong.

The usual rule of aircraft accidents is that the lead investigatory agency comes from the country where the incident happened, so the fact that Russia is the lead here is actually not surprising. Since Russia/USSR also built the aircraft, doubly so -- if it were a Boeing, the usual course it to invite the NTSB and Boeing as secondary investigators, if Airbus, EADS and one of the AB coalition parties.

One things I've seen citied is that the Tu-154M that was flying was fitted for ILS, but the airbase only had the Russian/Soviet PRMG landing system. I find this extremely improbable. Given the heavy fog, attempting to land without a compatible system giving you localizer and glideslope information would have been suicidal. I know that similar pilots flying other heads of state would simply never attempt the landing in those conditions, and I'm going to make the assumption that this flight crew wasn't simply incompetent and trying to attempt a visual approach in low IFR conditions.

I do think that we're looking at pilot error, or thrust loss on final -- if the three go-arounds before the last, fatal attempt are true, it may be that fuel exhaustion is a key cause, and would explain why they didn't divert to Moscow or Minsk. It still wouldn't explain why the flight wasn't made with adequate reserves, or why the flight crew didn't abort when the fuel situation reached bingo for the alternate airports.

According to INTERFAX, during the last part of the approach, ATC saw the plane drop below glideslope and repeatedly told the flight crew to climb, then told them to abort the landing. No reply was received. This also leads to the possible of instrumentation failure or electrical failure -- the former may have led the pilot to think he *was* on the glideslope.
posted by eriko at 9:33 AM on April 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's not like old Tu-154s are inherently much more dangerous than planes built in the rest of the world. As far as technical failures go, their safety record is pretty average.

Also:
"The presidential plane was fully overhauled in December, the general director of the Aviakor aviation maintenance plant in Samara, Russia told Rossiya-24. The plant repaired the plane's three engines, retrofitted electronic and navigation equipment and updated the interior, Alexei Gusev said. He said there could be no doubts that the plane was flightworthy."
posted by ericb at 9:37 AM on April 11, 2010


Actually, the Tu-154 has a very, very good safety record.

Yep. And that's the thing -- your average plane's average safety record, these days, is, pretty much across the board, utterly fantastic, save for pilot and maintenance error.
posted by SpringAquifer at 9:45 AM on April 11, 2010


. for the victims, and a million . for the people of Poland.
posted by cereselle at 12:26 PM on April 11, 2010


The Economist on the crash.
posted by rodgerd at 5:18 PM on April 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Thanks Roger, that's a nice summary.

The feeling from those inside the Polish bureaucracy who worked with Kaczyński is that it's very likely that he insisted that the pilot should land at Smolensk.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 6:25 PM on April 11, 2010


What a terrible tragedy.

The conspiracy theories and Putin jokes are kind of disheartening. The guy tried to land four times in the fog. Pretty standard aviation disaster in the making. Let 'em rest in peace.

(Also, 20 years old is nothing in plane years. The US's Air Force One fleet is 21. Hang around the cargo side of your local airport and you will see some really old planes that are flying just fine.)

"The feeling from those inside the Polish bureaucracy who worked with Kaczyński is that it's very likely that he insisted that the pilot should land at Smolensk."

If that's true, what a terrible example of tragic hubris.
posted by gjc at 8:01 PM on April 11, 2010


I dont speak for the people of poland, all i know is that i was at a polish wedding on saturday - there was a minutes silence during it and loads of conspiracy theories. Seconding the disheartening proliferation of conspiracy theories. One of the comments though was " THEY SHOULD HAVE TAKEN THE BUS ! ".
posted by sgt.serenity at 5:46 AM on April 12, 2010


"How does it feel to be Polish?
A day of mourning in Poland - and Russia - after the plane crash which killed nearly a hundred people including the Polish president and his wife. In the aftermath, there's talk of a nation that's jinxed - a "victim" country, and the online chatter is about conspiracy theories. So how does it feel to be Polish right now?"
–The BBC’s World Have Your Say, 50 minute MP3

posted by blueberry at 12:52 PM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]



I wish it would be made obligatory in my home country for politicians to fly such old, russian made machines

according to Tomasz Pietrzak, a pilot who spent 2500 hrs in TU-154 an former VIP pilot, it doesn't matter what kind of machine was there; a pilot in boeing 737 or airbus A320 would have had the same amount of information from the ground due to old technology at Smolensk's airport;

also, he reckons that pilot's estimation might have come from the fact that one hour prior to his scheduled landing there was a successful touchdown of a media/press aircraft;
above all, the pilot might have thought that the fog is just temporary, as with the one precluding landing the airport would be closed for traffic


posted by bloodandglitter at 2:20 PM on April 12, 2010


a "victim" country, and the online chatter is about conspiracy theories

I love Poland. I lived there for a long time, speak the language, and still have strong friends and many connections. So I am not saying this from a bad place:

Being a "victim" country is nothing new, this is a pat of their national myth. Surviving despite the best efforts of their stronger and more powerful neighbours to destroy them is an important part of what makes Poland what it is, and could in some historical interpretations be the reason why the place still exists.

This plane crash is not, in this sense, creating a new story - it is fitting perfectly into the already firmly constructed narrative.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:16 PM on April 12, 2010


The state funeral was today. I watched the mass on a massive screen in the square in the center of Bydgoszcz as I don't have a TV.

We didn't know what time the funeral was starting and were hanging out in a park under gorgeous sunshine, but assumed that it would start around one or two this afternoon; sure enough, at two, the air-raid sirens (which I didn't know we had!) went off and there were two minutes of silence. We walked over to the main square.

When people in the Mariacki cathedral in Kraków stood, the people in the crowd in Bydgoszcz stood; when they kneeled, the people in the crowd kneeled. The sign of peace happened in the mass, and it happened in the square.

There was no commentary during the funeral, no announcers from the station broadcasting it, no info screens, no pop-up boxes. The Metropolitan of the Orthodox Church here in Poland, a comparatively tiny community, offered one of the final blessings in English, Polish, and Russian, perhaps a hat-tip to Russia's president, who was sitting not ten feet from the coffin.

The choir was outstanding and an incredible male opera singer rounded out the musical offerings.

As the coffins emerged from the two-hour mass, the crowd of over 150,000 gathered in the Rynek Głowny, the Main Square of Kraków, began to chant "Lech Kaczyński, dziękujemy" - "Lech Kaczyński, we thank you."

Here's a short film put out by the city of Bydgoszcz about the remembrances here.
posted by mdonley at 11:35 AM on April 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


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