One of our Observers in Poland told us that Saturday's tragic plane crash, which nearly decapitated the nation's entire government and political elite, could have, paradoxically, drawn two long-standing enemies closer.
The Tupolev-154 that crashed Saturday in Smolensk, Russia, was carrying a presidential delegation headed for Katyn in observance of the 70th anniversary of a massacre in which 22,000 Polish soldiers were killed by the NKVD, the Soviet political police. The Soviet government had long maintained that the Nazis were to blame. Only as recently as 1990 did then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev publicly admit that Stalin had ordered the executions. The Soviet government extended an official apology to the Polish people.
Seventy years after what has become known as the Katyn massacre, the incident continues to plague relations between Russia and Poland.
In 2007, the two nations formed a joint commission to work through several historical disputes, including the Katyn massacre. The nations have been making gestures towards reconciliation. Nonetheless, Lech Kaczynski, the Polish president killed in the air crash, still had strained relations with Russian PM Vladimir Putin. The Russian former president would always be an ex-KGB agent in Kaczynski's mind. In fact, Kaczynski had failed to attend a memorial ceremony organised by Putin and Polish PM Donald Tusk three days before the crash, opting instead to attend a separate, Polish-organised event.
"The Russians understood immediately how immense the Poles' suffering would be."
Jakub Górnicki is a journalist in Warsaw, Poland.
It's surprising, but I think this tragedy will change relations between Russia and Poland for the better. Russians have shown how touched they are by the tragedy. Putin showed his solicitude on several occasions in the last few days and today, Russia even observed a day of mourning.
I think that given the location and circumstances of the tragedy, and the weight of history, the Russians understood immediately how immense the Poles' suffering would be.
From a political point of view, it's hard to take stock of these huge losses. It will take time to replace the high-ranking dignitaries who died. But at any rate, Poland is in mourning, and is not talking about politics very much."