More on Katyń from Timothy Garton Ash in the London Guardian here. Garton Ash focuses on the complicity of Western powers in the Soviet cover-up of an atrocity, particularly Britain. He reflects on how the echoes of Katyń reverberate in the present:
In 1943, confessing that “in cowardly fashion” he had turned his head away from the scene at Katyn, the head of the British Foreign Office wondered in an internal memorandum “how, if Russian guilt is established, can we expect Poles to live amicably side by side with Russians for generations to come? I fear there is no answer to that question.” But history may even now be producing a most unexpected answer, out of a second Katyn disaster.
The first Katyn catastrope was concealed for decades by the night and fog of totalitarian lies; the second was immediately the lead item in news bulletins around the world. Most extraordinary has been the reaction of the former KGB officer Vladimir Putin, who has gone to exceptional lengths to demonstrate Russian sympathy, repeatedly visiting the crash site, announcing a national day of mourning today, and ordering Andrzej Wajda‘s film Katyn (which spares you nothing of the cruelty of the KGB’s forerunners) to be shown on primetime Russian TV. [Will no one bring this film to Palo Alto? Please? — ED]
Garton Ash is taking some hits for describing last weekend’s plane crash as a “second Katyń” — though of course, he wasn’t the first to coin the phrase. An intelligent outlook on the future by Adrian Pabst in “This Is No Second Katyn” in Telos. And a victim’s grandson, Kris Kotarski, remembers Katyń in another Guardian article “Memory Is Sacred Again in Poland“:
In the aftermath of the crash, Poles are avoiding the “second Katyn” moniker that was used by Timothy Garton Ash, calling this the “tragedy in Smolensk” instead. This is apt, since this time the victims do not have to wait decades for information, and people both in Poland and abroad have publicly poured their hearts out while the Russian authorities are assisting the families at every turn.
Postscript: Katyń is now available on DVD, and watching it tonight, it’s even better than expected — and I can expect a lot. (Hadn’t seen anything by Andrzej Wajda since Ashes and Diamonds.) Best after a bowl of borscht, “with an egg in it,” as Cary Grant says in Talk of the Town. The only vodka in the house was, alas, Russian — not quite in keeping with the mood of the film. Unforgettable movie, by an unforgettable director — one whose father, incidentally, was a Polish cavalry officer, murdered in 1940 during the Katyń massacre.