The Presidential Crash

Warsaw Presidential Palace

In my currently conducted film workshop I insist that effective storytelling does not present an event but its meaning.

If so, what did crash in Smolensk? Wasn't it a physical manifestation of many tensions that have been tormenting Poland for decades? Perhaps this one:

The unbelievable grandiosity, hatred and hubris have kidnapped Polish politics ever since the country become drunk on a vicious political post-Solidarity confrontation. On the one side there was the conservative, martyrdom fueled, often right wing leaning, catholic church supported populist movement. On the other liberal, “live and let live” democratic, western oriented, progressive, mostly youth supported orientation.

Such telegraphic distinction clearly can’t give justice to the complexities of the new post 1989 nation particularly since both sides claim tradition, progress, social solidarity, modernization and the well being of the citizens as their utmost concerns. Yet, the cores of their distinctively opposite stands were screamingly clear. I was increasingly glued to the TV screen watching dueling political opponents eagerly assuming roles of modern day gladiators - their weapons being wit, quickness, intelligence and cold blood. All employed in the name of the only truth.

The spectacle was reaching such a high pitch that (it surfaces only now in the post-crash reflections) some of its participants felt the need to back off. Yet, the main line of the confrontation continued to escalate. On the front-line were the President and the Prime Minister. Behind them - the presidential cabinet and the government. It was not a pretty picture. A tiring, shameful and unwise spectacle - resulting in belittling of self and millions of co-citizens.

When it became unbearable - it exploded, or tragically (plane) crashed, if you will.

Now the entire country sincerely and profoundly mourns. We weep for the crash victims who were flying to Katyn to pay respect to the 22 thousand polish officers executed there 70 years ago, orders of Joseph Stalin.

We also weep for the fragility of our own existence, for its own mystery, brutality, shortness and incomprehensibility. Last night a former First Lady on a TV show was talking about her warm relationship with the tragically departed First Lady. A talk went smoothly until it turned to the Wife's coffin publicly transported to the presidential palace two days (the time needed to identify her body) after the coffin of her Husband traveled the same route.

As the former First Lady talked about the poignancy of the fact that the Presidential Wife after all will be buried next to her Husband, tears started forming in her eyes. She only managed to say “I would want the same” and choked.

The host, a seasoned TV personality (and the past frequent critic of the departed President’s politics), choked too, not hiding her tears. She was only able to turn to the camera to utter "thank you very much”. The show, in its half time, was cut to black and not resumed.


  1. Went to the Palace on the day of the crash, made some photos. I actually didn't expect myself to be hit so hard by what happened. I would shy away though from saying that the crash was somehow the result of social, political, psychological, hell, even symbolical heat of political life in Poland. It just happened. A bird fell down. And now we must gather its remains.
    I'm still struggling with the arousing hope that this will make things better after all and something WILL change. But then I wonder - what CAN be changed? Power struggle will remain power struggle, like everywhere. It's inevitable - just like the fact that we will still be just helpless witnesses with a symbolic privilege of voting every few years.
    I think you're talking about the tv program "Kropka nad i", Paweł, am I right? I recommend you the broadcast with Michał Kamiński (you can find it here: http://www.tvn24.pl/10050,1,kropka_nad_i.html). Truly moving. And hope-giving.

  2. You say - helpless witnesses? That's a status we achieve only at our own request. If that was permanent, there would be no Rosa Parks, no Anna Walentynowicz.

  3. Those are special cases and special individuals whom we can aspire to become but the realistic probability of actually becoming one and making a significant change is fairly low, I think. I'm talking about general public, general, middle-class, white Poles who like to open a beer after getting back from work and are fed by the media with another ton of garbage and bullshit.
    That's why I don't watch television :)
    But of course you're right - democracy has this nice opportunity of enabling truly willing and hard-working individuals to do what they want to do and this is what we should always remember about.