Poland’s Smolensk tragedy has taken on ridiculous proportions. First of all, the Smolensk air crash seemed to have unified, albeit briefly, the entire Polish nation. Poland’s politicians joined hands in gestures of goodwill and to honour the dead; there was talk of a new ‘beginning’ in Polish politics. The world stood aghast as millions of Poles mourned the tragic death of their President, political and military elites. Law and Justice (PiS) leader Jarosław Kaczyński was said to be a ‘changed man’. However, little over three months after the crash and the squabbling, bickering and bile have returned with increased vehemence. PO (Civic Platform) and PiS are once again at loggerheads and Janusz Palikot and Jarosław Kaczyński have returned to their old ways.
The first ‘crack’ appeared when it was being decided where to bury Lech Kaczyński. A great deal of people were against the President being buried on the hallowed ground of the Royal Castle at Wawel but the decision to lay Kaczyński to rest at Wawel together with Poland’s kings seemed to be taken without consultation. The church said the family of the deceased had requested for Lech Kaczyński to be buried in Kraków, the family, on the other hand, said it was the church’s decision.
The presidential elections clearly showed the fault lines running through Polish politics and the country as a whole. Jarosław Kaczyński together with his PiS colleagues made great use of the Smolensk tragedy for political gain but despite an amazing upsurge in support and post-Smolensk emotion, the PO candidate Bronisław Komorowski won the presidential elections. This was the tipping point for many. Kaczyński dropped his mask of ‘niceness’ and returned to his usual politics of negativity and ‘finding the enemy’ immediately calling for an inquiry into the death of his brother.
Soon after winning the elections, Bronisław Komorowski declared that he wishes for the cross erected outside the Presidential Palace in Warsaw commemorating those who died in the Smolensk tragedy to be removed and placed elsewhere. PiS politicians and supporters of Radio Maryja together with an organisation known as the ’10 April Group’ (who have elevated Lech Kaczyński to almost holy man status) are up in arms.
For those who do not believe in the seriousness of this division, it is enough to listen to the rhetoric of the ’10 April Group’, who believe Kaczyński to be a martyr and the words of Antoni ‘The Master’ Macierewicz, head of the recently-formed ‘Presidential Aircraft Crash Investigative Group’ made up entirely of PiS politicians. Macierewicz called the aircrash a “crime” which the “government were responsible for”. He also said that the work of the Investigative Group is the “most important activity we have ever undertaken in our life and is of major concern to all Polish people”. Mountains out of molehills?