Parliament Speaker and acting President Bronislaw Komorowski has announced a national week of mourning in Poland following the tragic death of President Lech Kaczynski, first lady Maria Kaczynski and a number of Polish military, economic and civic leaders in a deadly plane crash over the weekend. Hundreds have gathered outside the Presidential Palace in Warsaw to pay tribute, lighting candles and leaving letters of condolence for the late President and others killed in this tragic crash. Kaczynski and his Polish delegation were traveling to Russia for the 70th anniversary of the massacre of 20,000 Polish prisoners of war in Katyn, when their refurbished Tupolev-154 crashed late Saturday morning. Among those believed to have been killed are Aleksander Szczyglo head of Poland’s National Security Office, Slawomir Skrzypek head of the National Bank of Poland, and Chief of Staff for the Polish Army, Gen. Franciszek Gagor. The exact cause of the crash has yet to be determined however aviation officials in Russia have stated that the plane ignored repeated requests by air traffic control to divert their landing to another airport in order to avoid inclement weather conditions. On a fourth aborted landing attempt, the Polish aircraft appears to have clipped the tree line and crashed into a wooded area outside Smolensk. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has been announced as the head of the commission charged with investigating the cause of this tragedy.
Kaczynski had been President since December 2005 when, as leader of Poland’s Law and Justice Party, he defeated rival Donald Tusk in a second round election. For many, Kaczynski carried a larger than life persona. He was a leader steeped in middle class Polish values, and a distinguished statesman who was characterized as gutsy, scrupulous and principled. He was an unabashed Atlanticist who embraced Poland’s leadership role in Easter Europe. As an influential player in Poland’s solidarity movement, Mr. Kaczynski earned respect in Poland and admiration amongst those fighting for freedom and democracy in the post-soviet world. Arrangements have been made for Mr. and Mrs. Kaczynski to be laid to rest in Warsaw this Saturday.
The NATO Council of Canada would like to extend our warm and heart-felt condolences to the Polish community in Canada for their deep and tragic loss. We wish you strength and resolve moving forward. Formal letters of condolence have been sent to the Polish Ambassador and the Consul General.