Sunday

25th Sep 2022

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

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

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

How to apply the Nuremberg model for Russian war crimes

A Special Tribunal on Russian war crimes in Ukraine must be convened, because no permanent or existing international judicial institution is endowed with jurisdiction over Russian high-ranking officials, writes the head of the Ukraine delegation to the Council of Europe.

Losing on the Ukrainian battlefield will not unseat Putin

Notwithstanding the remarkable Ukrainian advances, a Russian defeat would not necessarily translate into regime change in Moscow. It is likely Putin will try to spin his military setbacks as evidence of the existential threat facing Russia.

Column

'Emancipatory catastrophism' — why being scared works wonders

The current energy crisis is a good example of "emancipatory catastrophism" — the idea that humanity only moves forward out of fear for a catastrophe. Sometimes one needs a looming disaster to change what should have been changed long ago.

Column

How to respond, if Moscow now offers peace talks

It is difficult to see how Vladimir Putin can survive more major setbacks or outright defeat. Should this happen, Russia will find itself in a major political crisis. But offering him negotiations now would help him, by easing domestic pressure.

News in Brief

  1. More Russians now crossing Finnish land border
  2. Report: EU to propose €584bn energy grid upgrade plan
  3. Morocco snubs Left MEPs probing asylum-seeker deaths
  4. EU urges calm after Putin's nuclear threat
  5. Council of Europe rejects Ukraine 'at gunpoint' referendums
  6. Lithuania raises army alert level after Russia's military call-up
  7. Finland 'closely monitoring' new Russian mobilisation
  8. Flights out of Moscow sell out after Putin mobilisation order

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  3. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  5. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling

Latest News

  1. Ireland joins EU hawks on Russia, as outrage spreads
  2. Editor's weekly digest: Plea for support edition
  3. Investors in renewables face uncertainty due to EU profits cap
  4. How to apply the Nuremberg model for Russian war crimes
  5. 'No big fish left' for further EU sanctions on Russians
  6. Meloni's likely win will not necessarily strengthen Orbán
  7. France latest EU member to step up government spending in 2023
  8. Big Tech now edges out Big Energy in EU lobbying

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us