Friday

24th Feb 2017

Opinion

Full text of Lech Kaczynski's letter to Katyn families

Dear representatives of the Katyn families, ladies and gentlemen,

Over 21,000 Polish prisoners were in April 1940 taken from the NKVD's [the Soviet secret police] camps and prisons and murdered. This crime of genocide was perpetrated by the will of Stalin, on the orders of the highest authorities of the Soviet Union. The alliance of the Third Reich, the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact and the aggression against Poland of 17 September 1939 culminated in the shocking Katyn crime. These citizens of the II Polish republic, people who formed the basis of our statehood, unconquered in the service of their fatherland, were murdered not only in the forests of Katyn, but also in Tver, in Kharkov and in other known and as yet unknown places. The families of the victims and thousands of other inhabitants of Poland's pre-war borderlands were at the same time deported into the depths of the Soviet Union where their unspoken sufferings mark the path to Poland's eastern Golgotha.

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The most tragic station along the way was Katyn. Polish officers, clerics, officials, policemen, officers of the border police and the prison service killed without judicial process or verdict. They were victims of an unsung conflict. They were murdered in violation of the rights and conventions of the civilised world. Their dignity as soldiers, as Poles and as human beings was trampled. These death pits were to forever hide their bodies and the truth about this crime. Their families were deprived the right to public mourning and grief and to a dignified rememberance of their closest ones. The earth covered traces of the crime and the Katyn lie tried to eradicate it from human memory.

Hiding the truth about Katyn - on the decision of those who perpetrated it - became a pillar of Communist politics in post-war Poland: the foundation myth of the PRL [the Communist-era People's Republic of Poland]. This was a time when people paid a high price for remembering the truth about Katyn. But people close to the victims and other brave souls remained faithful to their memory. They defended it and passed it on to following generations of Poles. They preserved it through the times of Communist rule and entrusted it to their compatriots in a free, independent Poland. That is why we owe them all, and especially the Katyn families, respect and gratitude. In the name of the Polish republic I give you profound thanks for preserving such an important aspect of Polish consciousness and identity, even as you defended the memory of your loved ones.

Katyn has become a painful wound in Polish history, poisoning relations between Poles and Russians for long decades. Let us make sure it can finally heal, scar over. We are already on this path. We, Poles, appreciate Russia's actions in recent years. We should go further on this path, which brings our two nations closer, without halting or turning back.

All the circumstances of the Katyn crime must be made public and examined. It is equally important to confirm the innocence of the victims, to release all the documents relating to this crime so that the Katyn lie can fade forever from public discourse. We demand this above all for the sake of the victims and the sufferings of their families. But we also demand it in the name of shared values, which must create the foundation of trust and partnership between neighbouring states in all of Europe.

Let us together honour the murder victims and pray over their bodies. Glory be to the heroes! May they rest in peace.

Translation by EUobserver

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