Exhumations of victims in Smolensk air crash open old wounds in Poland
Thursday, 08 June 2017
Anna Walentynowicz, co-founder of the Solidarity Movement in Poland, was killed in the Smolensk air crash
Photo credit: Walentynowicz family
Polish authorities have found that body parts of the victims in the Smolensk air crash in 2010 were mixed up when buried. At a recent press conference the Polish deputy prosecutor general said that half of the 24 coffins that had been examined since last year included remains of other victims.
Poland has established a commission for reinvestigating the aircraft crash in Smolensk in Russia on 10 April 2010 when 96 people, incl. the Polish president, lost their lives.
The presidential plane, a Tupolev TU-154, crashed in an attempt to land at the Severny airport in Smolensk or to find another airport because of the fog that morning. What really happened is disputed in Poland.
Polish authorities said they had found the remains of two other people in the coffin of former president Lech Kaczynski.
Poland claims that after the crash the bodies of the victims were treated disrespectfully by the Russian authorities who also misidentified them. This of course caused great anguish to the relatives.
The body of Anna Walentynowicz – known as the “The Mother of Free Poland” for her brave role in the Gdansk shipyard strikes – was identified in Moscow by her son but the wrong body was buried in Poland.
Two years after the crash, her son’s demands for an exhumation succeeded. However the body of another Smolensk victim was discovered in her grave. Subsequently, officials of the former government forced him to bury a second body which bore no resemblance to her either. To this day, he is still hoping to find her remains.
The people on board the Polish aircraft were en route from Warsaw to attend an event marking the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre. The Katyn forest west of Smolensk in Russia was the site of a mass killing of Polish officers by the Soviet security service during the Second World War.
The Smolensk air crash was the biggest tragedy in Poland’s modern history after the fall of the iron curtain. The air crash deepened existing political divides in Poland and has lingered on as an open wound.