Sunday, April 18, 2010

President Lech Kaczynski's Undelivered Speech: and a Lesson to Learn

I don't, as a rule, copy my sources in their entirety.

In the case of the late Polish President, Lech Kaczynski's undelivered speech, I'll make an exception.

I've found a number of copies - and versions - of the speech's English translation. Some which seem to have been: "Edited" would be a polite euphemism.

The following copy is on the website: an English-language news site covering Poland. I checked the URL out: it's registered by an outfit in Poland:

AZ.PL Spolka Jawna (AZ.PL General Partnership)
ul. Sosnowa 6a
71-468 Szczecin
Polska (Poland)

A Polish address doesn't guarantee authenticity, of course: but this translation includes material which some non-Polish sources omitted.

Besides, I think people living and working in Poland may be somewhat more likely to understand Polish than, say, an American in Paris. They may also be a bit more interested in accurately transmitting the thoughts of their late president than foreigners would be. For these reasons, I think this translation may be a trifle closer to what the late President Kaczynski intended to say about Katyn.
"President Kaczynski's last speech"
Polskie Radio S.A. (April 12, 2010)

"Below is the text of the speech which Lech Kaczynski, who died on Saturday, was going to deliver at the 70th anniversary ceremony of the Katyn massacre."

" 'Dear Representatives of the Katyn Families. Ladies and Gentlemen. In April 1940 over twenty-one thousand Polish prisoners from the NKVD camps and prisons were killed. The genocide was committed at Stalin's will and at the Soviet Union's highest authority's command."

"The alliance between the Third Reich and the Soviet Union, the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact and the Soviet attack on Poland on 17 September 1939 reached a terrifying climax in the Katyn massacre. Not only in the Katyn forest, but also in Tver, Kcharkiv and other known, and unknown, execution sites citizens of the Second Republic of Poland, people who formed the foundation of our statehood, who adamantly served the motherland, were killed."

"At the same time families of the murdered and thousands of citizens of the eastern territory of the pre-war Poland were sent into exile deep into the Soviet Union, where their indescribable suffering marked the path of the Polish Golgotha of the East."

"The most tragic station on that path was Katyn. Polish officers, priests, officials, police officers, border and prison guards were killed without a trial or sentence. They fell victims to an unspeakable war. Their murder was a violation of the rights and conventions of the civilized world. Their dignity as soldiers, Poles and people, was insulted. Pits of death were supposed to hide the bodies of the murdered and the truth about the crime for ever."

"The world was supposed to never find out. The families of the victims were deprived of the right to mourn publicly, to proudly commemorate their relatives. Ground covered the traces of crime and the lie was supposed to erase it from people's memory."

"An attempt to hide the truth about Katyn – a result of a decision taken by those who masterminded the crime – became one of the foundations of the communists' policy in an after-war Poland: a founding lie of the People's Republic of Poland."

"It was the time when people had to pay a high price for knowing and remembering the truth about Katyn. However, the relatives of the murdered and other courageous people kept the memory, defended it and passed it on to next generations of Poles. They managed to preserve the memory of Katyn in the times of communism and spread it in the times of free and independent Poland. Therefore, we owe respect and gratitude to all of them, especially to the Katyn Families. On behalf of the Polish state, I offer sincere thanks to you, that by defending the memory of your relatives you managed to save a highly important dimension of our Polish consciousness and identity."

"Katyn became a painful wound of Polish history, which poisoned relations between Poles and Russians for decades. Let's make the Katyn wound finally heal and cicatrize. We are already on the way to do it. We, Poles, appreciate what Russians have done in the past years. We should follow the path which brings our nations closer, we should not stop or go back."

"All circumstances of the Katyn crime need to be investigated and revealed. It is important that innocence of the victims is officially confirmed and that all files concerning the crime are open so that the Katyn lie could disappear for ever. We demand it, first of all, for the sake of the memory of the victims and respect for their families' suffering. We also demand it in the name of common values, which are necessary to form a foundation of trust and partnership between the neighbouring nations in the whole Europe."

"Let's pay homage to the murdered and pray upon their bodies. Glory to the Heroes! Hail their memory!' (mg)"
[copied from April 18, 2010. Edited: blank lines between paragraphs were deleted; " ’ " replaced with " ' "]

So What?

A speech that wasn't read by a dead Pole may not seem either particularly important, or relevant to a blog about the war on terror.

I think it's both.

The speech which the late President Lech Kaczynski intended to deliver discusses an atrocity which is of great importance to Poles. The Soviet Union's decision to pretend that the Katyn massacre never happened has gotten in the way of Russia-Poland relations.

In a more general sense, the Katyn cover-up is, I think, a pretty good example of why it's a really, really bad idea to try pretending that embarrassing things didn't happened.

Aside from getting in the way of dealing with people in other countries - who may have at least an inkling of what's being concealed - suppression of inconvenient realities makes it impossible to learn from mistakes.

The American military have been known to make mistakes. When that happens - the mistakes are scrutinized, analyzed, recorded - and made part of officer's training. I think that approach makes sense. (June 30, 2008)

I think one of the strengths of America is not that we make mistakes - everybody does that. It's that, once we recognize that we've done something wrong: we make sure that generations that follow won't forget how we screwed up. Embarrassing, and occasionally over-done: but I'd rather have that, than a nice, well-run country where all the masses hear about is how wonderful their leaders are.

America isn't the only country that's learning to learn from mistakes, of course. I think it's an idea that's catching on globally.

About time, too.

Related posts:In the news:More:
A tip of the hat to deacon_jim, on Twitter, for the heads-up on the Polish president's undelivered speech. (And responding to my query about the origins of the speech on his blog (April 20, 2010))

Normally, I wouldn't copy an entire document. But with so many versions floating around, I wanted at least one copy to come from a Polish source: with links and a citation.

Besides, commercial websites sometimes remove content after it's become 'old news.' I did not want what may well be an adequate translation to disappear.


Brigid said...

"more likely to both understand Polish" and?

Plural confusion: "the Katyn cover-up are, I think, a"

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian H. Gill said...


Yeah. I see that. Those. On my way to fix them now. Uff da. The hour it was when I wrote this, I'm a little surprised there aren't more.


Unique, innovative candles

Visit us online:
Spiral Light CandleFind a Retailer
Spiral Light Candle Store


Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.