Sunday, April 11, 2010

Charles Crawford on the Polish Airliner Tragedy

I have just heard the appalling news about the crash near Smolensk of the plane carrying President Kaczynski and a senior delegation en route to Katyn.

As well as the President and his wife Maria it looks as if former President-in-exile Ryszard Kaczorowski, head of the Institute of National Memory Janusz Kurtyk, head of the Polish National Bank SÅ‚awomir Skrzypek and dozens of other significant Polish personalities have perished as the plane tried to land in thick fog.

The Russians have moved fast to open an official investigation. The plane itself was the official President's jet, a Soviet-era designed Tu-154.

I knew many people on board. Beyond awful.

Lech Kaczynski was a man who fought long and hard to bring his country modern constitutional democracy. Interned by the Communists for his work for the Solidarity trade union, he worked closely with - then fell out with - Lech Walesa.

In the 1990s he held various prominent decisions before making his name denouncing corruption as Justice Minister in the Buzek government from 2000-2001. He then did well as Mayor of Warsaw and was elected President of Poland in 2005.

I met him on many occasions before and after he became President. My wife and I also much enjoyed the company of his wife Maria.

This is not the moment to write some wider thoughts about what the Kaczynski family represented. No doubt it will not take long before sneers about his supposed narrow-minded anti-gay Catholic reactionary anti-EU attitudes creep forth.

Suffice to say that Lech Kaczynski was not that. He was a highly intelligent, principled Polish statesman, who above all emphasised the central importance in public life of honesty, the law and democratic constitutionality .

My own deepest condolences to his daughter Marta, his brother Jaroslaw and to his mother whom I had the honour to host in 2006 at the Residence in Warsaw on our Remembrance Day. She played her part in Poland's struggle for freedom in WW2. How tragic for her that one of her beloved twin sons has been lost today.