We mourn the tragic death of Polish President Lech Kaczynski, his wife, Maria, and scores of other passengers in the crash of a governmental plane carrying them to a memorial service in Russia.
We knew President Kaczynski very well, as we did several members of his entourage who also lost their lives in the accident. We last met the President in Warsaw in February, where we thanked him for his powerful speech at the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz a few weeks earlier, agreed on the profound danger posed by the Iranian nuclear program, and discussed the current state of Polish-American bilateral ties.
That meeting followed many earlier AJC meetings with him in the Polish capital, as well as in Israel, when he attended the country’s 60th anniversary celebration, and the United States, when he made official visits here. Suddenly and painfully, we have lost a dear and cherished friend. President Kaczynski, whom we first met when he was the Mayor of Warsaw, wasp a devoted son of Poland, a courageous activist in the struggle against Communist occupation, a proud leader of today’s democratic Poland, and a proven friend of the United States and the transatlantic partnership.
Moreover, he was steadfastly devoted to writing a new chapter in the relationship between Poland and the Jewish people. He welcomed the renewal of Jewish life in Poland, was instrumental in the decision to build the Museum of the History of Polish Jews now being constructed in Warsaw, and was deeply committed to forging a strategic link between Poland and Israel.
Our hearts go out to Poland – and to the families of those who lost loved ones. This tragedy of immense proportion touches us all deeply. We mourn the loss of everyone on the flight, as they were headed for a ceremony of mourning of their own –- to the site of the 1940 massacre, in the Katyn Forest, of more than 20,000 Polish officers by the Soviet Union.
Our lives have been indelibly touched by President Kaczynski. At AJC, we shall always remember him with deep admiration and affection. May his memory –- and the memory of all those on board the ill-fated flight –-always be for a blessing.