A Monument to Forgetting

Our own Morgan Meis in the Virginia Quarterly Review:

ScreenHunter_04 Sep. 01 13.07On the morning of April 10, 2010, a ball of flame erupted in the forest outside of Smolensk, Russia. A plane had crashed. Everyone on board was killed. This was a significant fact, especially for Poland. Lech Kaczynski, the president of Poland, was on that plane, along with a significant portion of his cabinet. Ryszard Kaczorowski, the last man to serve as president in exile, was also aboard the plane. He was the man who passed the presidential insignia to Lech Walesa as the first democratically elected president since WWII. The chiefs of staff of the Polish Army, Navy, and Air Force were aboard the plane. The deputy foreign minister was aboard the plane, as well as the head of the National Bank and the head of the National Security Bureau. Important lawmakers and members of parliament were aboard that plane, as well as other top military leaders, bishops, priests, political advisors, and aides. Ninety-six people died.

It was an incredible event, for a country to lose so many of its top civilian and military leaders in a single blow like that. But these people were Polish after all, and in Poland, tragedies have a way of magnifying and expanding through history. The rest of the world was less aware, however, of the background history and thus less aware of just how strange an event that plane crash really was. You see, this was not the first time that the forests around Smolensk had claimed the lives of so many prominent Poles. It had all happened before. In shocking and unexpected ways, history was repeating itself.

More here.