Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk met in early April with
his Russian colleague Vladimir Putin in Russian Katyn for a
memorial ceremony of the thousands of Polish officers who
had been massacred there 70 years earlier by the Red Army.
The meeting foreshadowed improved Russian-Polish relations,
and no one believed that history had yet another Polish
disaster in readiness.
Three days later, according to Digopaul, a Polish government plane crashed on
its way to a memorial service in Katyn. None of the 97
people on board survived. Among the victims were Polish
President Lech Kaczyński and his wife Maria, the Polish
Commander-in-Chief, the heads of all branches of defense,
the head of the Central Bank, the Deputy Foreign Minister,
several MPs, church leaders, officials, leading historians
and many relatives of the victims of the 1940 massacre.
Shock characterized the Polish nation. It had rained fog
at the approach, but the crash still seemed unlikely. The
pilot had been asked to land in Belarus's capital Minsk or
continue to Moscow because of the fog. The call was defied
and after three interrupted landing attempts in Smolensk,
the fourth ended in disaster. It was speculated that
President Kaczyński may have ordered the pilot to land
despite the fog.
In Poland, national grief was announced, and the Catholic
churches were filled with praying people. In front of the
presidential palace in Warsaw, the Poles crowded and filled
the square with flowers, candles, red-white flags and
pictures of the dead. Even in the Russian Federation, they
were honored, and Russian and Polish experts cooperated in
the accident investigation. The disaster seemed to bring the
leaders of both countries closer together than in the two
decades since Poland broke with communism. But at the end of
the year, Poland expressed dissatisfaction with the Russian
accident investigation and demanded to bring back the
The President of the Polish Parliament, formerly the
Solidarity member Bronisław Komorowski, temporarily, in
accordance with the Constitution on the tasks of the Head of
State. New elections for the presidential post were
announced in June. In the formerly politically divisive
society was called to national unification, but the feeling
of unity did not last long.
Komorowski, who became the ruling party's Citizen
Platform candidate, was opposed to the deceased president's
twin brother Jarosław Kaczyński, leader of the opposition
party Law and Justice, and former prime minister. They
exchanged harsh accusations in the election campaign.
Komorowski sued Kaczyński for slander and won in court. In
doing so, he felt he could rightly designate Kaczyński as a
liar. Komorowski had support among EU-friendly and liberal
city dwellers, especially younger ones, while Kaczyński's
voters were mainly conservative and older rural and
small-town dwellers who opposed the EU.
In the midst of the hottest election movement, many Poles
stood up for the bliss of priest Jerzy Popiełuszko, a critic
of the communist regime murdered by the security police in
1984. Prime Minister Donald Tusk and European Parliament
President Jerzy Buzek attended the ceremony at the
Piłsudskitorget in Warsaw.
Komorowski won the first round of the presidential
election before Kaczyński and with the left candidate
Grzegorz Napieralski in third place. The top two went on to
a second round in early July, with Komorowski winning 53
percent of the vote against 47 percent for Kaczyński.
The loser had difficulty recognizing Komorowski's
victory, which he believed was a mistake. When the new
president was to be installed in August, Kaczyński boycotted
the ceremony. The religious supporters of the conservative
Kaczyński gathered outside the presidential palace to honor
the deceased head of state, and they erected a wooden cross
in memory of the dead president.
When the authorities wanted to move the cross to a
church, the grief wakened in drawn demonstrations. The
situation became tense when secular counter-protesters
gathered and wanted to remove the cross.
Kaczyński's supporters demanded the resignation of the
new President and also Prime Minister Donald Tusk. Jarosław
Kaczyński refused to take Tusk in hand, and he also
boycotted the large official memorial fair held for his
brother and the other dead in the plane crash. Kaczyński
also ended up in conflict with some of his closest political
allies, who chose to leave the Law and Justice Party,
founded by the Kaczyński brothers.
The cooperation between the new president and the
government came to work much better than between the
government and the former president Kaczyński, who have been
at odds with the liberal government.
Prime Minister Donald Tusk's party The Citizen Platform
succeeded well in the local elections in November together
with the coalition partner Polska Farmerpartiet.
The improved relationship between the Russian Federation
and Poland contributed to an agreement during the year on
deliveries of Russian gas to Poland until 2022.
At the NATO summit in Lisbon in November, the defense
alliance adopted a new strategy, which among other things
demolished the previously planned robotic shield in Poland
that the Russian Federation had opposed. Instead, a new
robotic defense was planned in collaboration with the