When I lived in Eastern Europe and regularly traveled to 18 countries, while I loved all of them, some captured my heart even more than the others. One of those was Poland. I was in awe of the indomitable spirit of the Poles, a nation squeezed between the two 20th century tyrants of Germany and Russia, a nation who never lost its identity. The Polish people have suffered horribly and have proven that their essence is unconquerable.
Once again, tragedy has come to this land. Ironically, it occured as the Polish president and many of the nation’s brightest and best were headed to Smolensk, Russia to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the massacre of thousands of Poles. World War II began when Hitler invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, against firm resistance and untold courage. Just 17 days later, Stalin thrust a dagger in Poland’s back, attacking from the other side. As a result, Poland became a victim of purges at the hands of both Nazis and Soviets. In 1940, Stalin gave an order to murder 22,000 Polish military officers in the Katyn forest near Smolensk.
For many decades this event had been kept secret, initially to placate the newest Allied Power, Russia. After WWII, Poland was left under Soviet domination for the next 45 years, until Poles themselves, through their Solidarity movement, shook off the Soviet yoke, initiating the collapse of the Eastern Bloc.
In the plane crash on Saturday, 96 people were killed – including President Lech Kaczynski, his wife, many top political leaders, military elite, church leaders, and families of the victims from 70 years ago – at the same site as the mass murder they were coming to remember. May God comfort those grieving and cause this proud people to rise once more from the ashes.