It was a moment of thaw, sunshine on a dark chapter of history. Russian Prime Minister and Tough Guy Vladimir Putin was accepting Soviet culpability for the Katyn Massacre of 1940. (After dividing Poland with the Nazis, Stalin's secret police executed 21,768 Polish military officers and intellectuals.) Putin wrote an article last year in a Polish newspaper, and Russian state television screened Katyn, a film about the massacre, for the first time on Friday. Its Polish director Andrzej Wajda, whose father was killed at Katyn, said: “I never anticipated this day.” What's more, Putin met with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk to memorialize Katyn on Wednesday.
Russia prepared a somber welcome this morning for Poland's President, Lech Kaczynski, and a delegation, at the site of the Katyn massacre, near Smolensk. As the Polish state plane came down to land in a heavy fog, it hit treetops and broke up. Ninety-six people were on board; all of them are now dead.
The cathartic moment is broken. Irony smote the remembrance cruelly. The handshakes and embraces and good feelings are all inapposite, awkward. Putin is cursing fate. Again, on a much smaller scale, Katyn holds the corpses of a generation of Polish leaders.