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Adam Michnik: "All our hearts have been moved..."

Source: (Author), 16/04/10
“Today, a genuine Russian-Polish sense of mutuality and shared fate is being born from the blood that was shed 70 years ago in Katyn, and again, this Saturday near Smolensk…” – Adam Michnik

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Four days after the tragedy in Smolensk, the Russian President announced that the Polish officers had been executed on orders from the then leaders of the USSR, including Stalin.

The crime at Katyn, more than any other event of the 20th century, has divided Poles and Russians. For 20 years, our countries have been engaged in the difficult process of revealing the truth and restoring knowledge about this crime of Stalin’s totalitarian regime. Outstanding Russians have participated from the very beginning in this process – government officials, academics, and ordinary citizens. Poland has often expressed its thanks and respect to these people.

The catastrophe in Smolensk moved Russian and Polish hearts – the hearts of government leaders and of ordinary people. This was like the bursting of a gigantic dam that had held back a mass of unspoken words and gestures. Over the past few days, not only has the whole world learned of the crime at Katyn, but also Russian politicians, in the face of this most recent tragedy, have taken unprecedented steps that will themselves become part of history.

These steps included the broadcasting of Andzej Wajda’s film Katyn on the most popular television channel in Russia, President Dmitry Medvedev’s words about Stalin’s guilt, and the earlier remarks and actions of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. These have all laid the foundation for a new relationship between Poland and Russia.

This new relationship has also been built by all those who brought flowers and lit candles at the site of the tragedy in Smolensk, to the Polish Embassy in Moscow, and outside Polish consulates in other Russian towns. In the same rank is Russia’s readiness to cooperate with Polish experts in investigating the causes of the crash.

History has often separated Poles and Russians. On both sides, hearts have burned with hatred or smouldered with resentment and misunderstanding. Nonetheless, our shared pain, shared tears and shared mourning can change this.

Even during the worst times of our common history, there were people on both sides capable of overcoming prejudice. During the period when the country was divided, Adam Mitskevich wrote “To my friends the Muscovites”. Aleksandr Hertsen sympathized with the Poles suffering under the tsar’s yoke. In the 20th century, we were united by the terrible experience of the GULAG, that “inhuman land” about which Solzhenitsyn and Gustaw Herling-Grudziński wrote.

Today, a genuine Russian-Polish sense of mutuality and shared fate is being born from the blood that was shed 70 years ago in Katyn, and again, this Saturday outside Smolensk

Thank you, Brother Muscovites, for the compassion, understanding, and spontaneous and genuine expressions of solidarity, and for all the help that has been given in the wake of the air crash.

Each death is a cause of pain and seems senseless. But your reaction to the tragedy near Smolensk may do good service to both our peoples, taught such bitter lessons by history.

Adam Michnik,

Editor Gazeta Wyborcza

Source: Gazeta Wyborcza
Rights in Russia,
21 Apr 2010, 12:07