Now the Katyn tragedy has double meaning for Poland: one connecting with tragedy that happened 70 years ago, in April 1940, and the second one with disaster that took place in a foggy Saturday morning 10 of April 2010, the plane crash that took lives of 96 people.
Polish President Lech Kaczynski and his wife, Maria Kaczynska were flying to Katyn to give homage to almost 22 000 Polish officers murdered in April 1940 in Katyn Forest near Smolensk. The Poles, mostly inmates of Russian POW camps (among them were generals, college professors, teachers, diplomats, civil servants, engineers, writers and artists, politicians; members of the Polish elite), many had taken part in Poland’s military defeat of the Red Army in 1920, a campaign Stalin took part in, were executed by the Soviet security service NKVD on orders by Josef Stalin as enemies of communism. Stalin’s orders were unambiguous. The Polish prisoners were to receive the „supreme measure of punishment—shooting.” In March 1940, the central committee of the Communist party accepted a proposal to kill those prisoners it classified as enemies of the state. The victims were never tried or presented with any charges. Until the fall of the Soviet Union the Russians blamed the killings on the Germans.
They were shot in the back of the head, their bodies dumped in mass graves in Katyn and at other sites.
The families of the victims of the Katyn massacre have endured decades of lies, discrimination and frustration. For 50 years, the Soviet Union blamed the murder of more than 20,000 Polish officers on the Nazis, who uncovered one of the mass graves in the forest of Katyn, near the city of Smolensk, in 1943. It was only in 1990 that Mikhail Gorbachev admitted Soviet responsibility.
Despite the Soviet admission in 1990, the issue has acted like an open sore on Polish-Russian relations since then.