Lech Kaczynski’s last speech
The text of a speech which the late Lech Kaczynski, President of the Republic of Poland was due to deliver in Katyn on 10 April 2010, the 70th anniversary of the Katyn Forest massacre.
Representatives of Katyn families! Ladies and Gentlemen!
In April 1941, more than 21.000 Polish prisoners from NKVD camps and prisons were murdered. This genocide was committed at Stalin’s behest, by order of the highest authorities of the Soviet Union. The alliance of the Third Reich and the USSR, the Ribbentrop – Molotov Pact and the attack against Poland on September 17 1939 reached their shocking culmination in the Katyn massacre. The citizens of the Second Polish republic were killed, not only in the forests of Katyn, but also in Twer, Kharkov and other known, and still unknown, places of execution. These were people who were building the foundation of our statehood, who were unbowed in their service to our nation.
At the same time, the families of those who had been murdered, and thousands of citizens from Poland’s eastern borders, were deported to the depths of the Soviet Union. Here their silent sufferings waymarked our Golgotha of the East. Katyn was the most tragic station of the cross on this route. Polish officers, clergymen, civil servants, policemen, border guards and prison service officials were exterminated without legal process or court sentences. They became the victims of a war that had never been declared. They were murdered in contravention of the rights and conventions of the civilized world. Their dignity – as soldiers, Poles and human beings – was violated.
The death pits were forever to hide the bodies of those who were murdered and the truth about the crime. The world was never to know. The families of the victims were denied their rights to mourn in public and to commemorate with appropriate dignity the lives of their nearest and dearest.
Hiding the truth about Katyn – the effect of the decisions of those who were responsible for the crime – became one of the policy fundamentals of the communists in post-war Poland. It became the founding lie of the Polish People’s Republic. That was the time when one could pay a very high price for keeping alive the memory and the truth about Katyn. Nevertheless, the families of the murdered and other brave people were true to that memory, they defended it and handed it on to successive generations of Poles. They preserved it through the times of the communist governments and entrusted it to the citizens of a free and independent Poland. That is why we owe respect and gratitude to all of them and especially to the Katyn Families. On behalf of the Republic of Poland I am offering you heartfelt thanks as by defending the memory of your nearest and dearest you have preserved a very important dimension of our Polish consciousness and identity.
Katyn became a painful wound of Polish history, it also poisoned relations between Poles and Russians for long decades. Let us make it possible for the Katyn wound finally to heal. We have already started out on this journey. We, the Polish people, appreciate the actions of the Russians during the last years. We should follow the road that brings our peoples closer to each other, without stopping or turning back.
All the circumstances regarding the Katyn crime must be completely investigated and clarified. It is important that innocence of the victims becomes legally substantiated and all the documents pertaining to the crime are released. The Katyn lie can then disappear forever from public affairs. We demand this primarily in memory of the victims and also as a mark of respect for the sufferings of their families. We also demand this in the name of the common values that must constitute the foundation of trust and partnership between neighbouring nations in the whole Europe.
Let us pay homage together to the murdered and pray for their souls. Praise to the heroes! Honour to their memory!
This translation is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Poland License.
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