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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » September 30, 2009
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A Painful Anniversary
September 30, 2009 By W.Ż.    
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Political controversy marked high-profile public commemorations of the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland Sept. 17.

During the ceremonies in Warsaw, President Lech Kaczyński said that the 1940 Katyn massacre of Polish prisoners-of-war by the Soviet NKVD secret police had been "an act of revenge."

Kaczyński added that the Polish officers had been murdered at Katyn following a decision issued March 5, 1940. "If an act like that, involving 30,000 people, is not genocide, then what is?" Kaczyński asked rhetorically, adding that the real motive behind the massacre was retaliation for the defeat of the Soviet Army when it invaded Poland in 1920.

Kaczyński said he understood the need for reconciliation "perfectly well," but "nations can only reconcile in truth." He added that the prewar Ribbentrop-Molotov pact between Germany and the Soviet Union had been one between "two exceptionally aggressive imperialist and totalitarian systems."

Kaczyński also took part in the opening of the Avenue of Katyn Victims at the Warmia-Mazuria University campus in the northeastern city of Olsztyn.

The Soviet invasion of Sept. 17, 1939 left Poland unable to resist the Nazis for much longer and "changed the map of Europe in those days," Kaczyński said.

Earlier, following a prolonged dispute, Polish parliamentary caucuses agreed on a resolution that the lower house would pass concerning the Sept. 17 anniversary. The resolution states that Katyn was a "war crime" that "bore signs of genocide."

"The process of Polish-Russian reconciliation has to take place with respect for the historical truth that must not be manipulated or left unspoken," said Bronisław Komorowski, the speaker of the Sejm, the lower house of the parliament. Komorowski added that the house would call on "all people of goodwill" in Russia to "work together in solidarity" to uncover and condemn Stalinist-era crimes.

The dispute over the contents of the resolution had been sparked by deputy Sejm speaker Stefan Niesiołowski from the Civic Platform (PO), who said in an interview that the Katyn massacre had not been genocide. That caused an outcry from deputies of the Polska XXI parliamentary group, who demanded that Niesiołowski be dismissed. The opposition Law and Justice (PiS) party, in turn, made a public appeal to Niesiołowski to apologize to the public for his words.
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