by Lech Kaczynski, President of Poland
This is the speech that the President was to have delivered on April 10, 2010 at the Polish War Cemetery in Katyn during the ceremony of 70th Anniversary of the Katyn crime. He was killed, along with many senior members of his government, just before this speech was to have been delivered.
Dear Representatives of the Katyn families! Dear Ladies and Gentlemen!
In April 1941 more that 21,000 Polish prisoners from NKVD cages and prisons were murdered. That genocidal crime was committed by Stalin’s will, by order of the supreme authorities of the Soviet Union. The alliance of the Third Reich and the USSR via the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, and the aggression against Poland on September 17, 1939 found its astonishing culmination in the Katyn massacre.
Not only in the forests of Katyn but also in Twer, Kharkov and other known and still unknown tragic places, the citizens of II Rzeczpospolita (the Second Polish Republic) were killed. These were people who were creating the foundations of our statehood, who were relentless in the service to our Motherland.
At the same time the families of the killed and the thousands of pre-war borderland citizens who were deported to the depth of the Soviet Union where their silent sufferings were marking the way of Poland’s Eastern Golgotha. Katyn was the most tragic station on this way. Polish officers, clergymen, civil servants, policemen, border guards and prison service officials were exterminated without legal proceedings and court sentences. They became the victims of the war that had not been announced. They were murdered with total disregard of the rights and conventions of the civilized world. Their dignity as the soldiers, Poles and human beings was trampled.
Death caves were supposed to hide the bodies and the truth about the genocide forever. The families of the victims were stripped of their rights for public mourning, sorrow and dignified commemoration of their closest loved ones. The soil had covered the traces of the crime and the lie was supposed to erase it from peoples’ memory.
The hiding of the truth about Katyn — the effect of the decision of those who planned the crime — became one of the communist policy fundamentals in post-war Poland: it became the founding lie of the PRL (the Polish People’s Republic). That was the time when for remembering the truth about Katyn one could pay a very high price. Nevertheless, the families of the murdered and other brave people were true to that memory; they were defending it and were passing it to the next generations of Polish people. They carried it through the times of the communist governments and confided it to their fellow citizens of 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 thanks to you, because by defending the memory of your loved ones you have saved an important dimension of our Polish consciousness and identity.
Katyn became the most painful wound of Polish history; it also has been poisoning relations between Poles and Russians for decades. Let us make the “Katyn wound” finally heal and scar over. We are already headed in that direction. We, the Polish people do appreciate the activities of the Russians during recent years. We have to follow the way that brings our peoples closer to each other. We cannot stop or turn back.
All the circumstances regarding the Katyn crime must be fully investigated and clarified. It is important that the guiltlessness of the victims becomes legally confirmed and that all the documents regarding the crime are disclosed, so that the lie about Katyn disappears forever from the public sphere. We demand these steps primarily in memory of the victims and out of respect for the sufferings of their families. We also demand these things in the name of common values that alone can create the foundations of trust and partnership between the neighboring peoples of all Europe.
Let us together pay homage to the murdered, and let us pray for them. Praise to the heroes! Honour to their memory!