NEW YORK—Polish Americans gathered for a memorial service at the Katyn Memorial in Jersey City, N.J., on Sunday to honor victims of the 1940 Katyn Massacre and the 2010 Polish delegation's plane crash.
The Polish Association of Veterans, the Polish American Congress, and the Polish Katyn Memorial Committee sponsored the ceremony.
Approximately 22,000 Poles were massacred in the village of Katyn in the former Soviet Union in April and May 1940. The order to execute these imprisoned Polish nationals was based on a recommendation by Soviet head of security Lavrentiy Beria. The Soviet secret police carried out the mandate.
An airplane carrying 96 Polish officials, who were traveling to Smolensk, Russia, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Katyn Massacre, crashed on April 10, 2010. There were no survivors.
Polish President Lech Kaczynski headed the delegation. He was joined by his wife, former Polish president in exile Ryszard Kaczorowski, the president of the Polish National Bank, Polish Parliament members, military commanding officers, World War II veterans, and other distinguished representatives.
Polish Americans came together not only to commemorate the victims of both incidents, but also to demand an independent investigation of the Polish delegation's plane crash.
Heidi Kowala from New Providence, N.J., who represents the Pulaski Parade organization and the Polish Festival in Holmdel, N.J., explained: “We came here to commemorate the victims of the … plane crash. We come here every year to commemorate Katyn Massacre.”
Krystyna Osiadacz added: “We also would like to learn the truth about this plane crash. … We know a lot about this plane crash from the media, but still do not know why this happened. We would like this [tragedy] to be finally explained. We would like the families of the crash victims to learn the truth about the crash.”
The wreath-laying tradition enhanced the solemn ceremony at the Katyn Memorial. Representatives from various Polish organizations, Polish School in Jersey City, and individuals brought wreaths of white and red flowers to symbolize the Polish national colors.
The students of the Polish School read remarks about the tragic events. “We would like to forgive, but we cannot forget,” concluded Boguslava Huang, director of the school.
Polish Americans also assembled in front of the Polish Consulate on Madison Avenue and 37th Street in Manhattan on Sunday to demand an objective investigation into the cause of the Polish delegation's plane crash. They brought flowers, displayed banners, and lit candles by the agency’s entrance.