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Tuesday, 29 January 2002

A ceremony in which Polish President hands over archival documents from Władysław Sikorski`s personal file

President Aleksander Kwaśniewski handed over archival documents from Władysław Sikorski`s personal file to the Central Military Archives and the State Archives in a ceremony held at the Presidential Palace on January 29, 2002. The documents were earlier passed to the Polish President by Russian President Vladimir Putin during his official visit to Poland. The ceremony was attended, among other personalities, by: representatives of the Government, the Polish Army`s General Staff, the Chapter of the Virtuti Military Order, churches, and ministers from the Presidential Chancellery. Addressing those gathered, President Aleksander Kwaśniewski said, among other things: Let us begin with the visit of President V. Putin and his gesture that we do appreciate. Although he had told journalists in an interview before the visit, that one must look straight ahead without burdening our relations with past affairs, we have seen him as a person sensitive to the past, and this has bee confirmed by his gesture which-as a matter of fact-made an opening of his official Polish visit, let me say it again, the first official visit in the recent 9 years. It was clearly Mr. Putin`s own initiative to bring here these documents from Russian archives, documents obtained from German archives during the wartime. That`s one. Second, this gesture has demonstrated that he is not indifferent to the past. I have seen this later too during our long conversation about present-day Poland, about our common difficult past full of dramatic moments. Then I saw President Putin to be a man who not only listens to these arguments but also draws conclusions and he has apparently become convinced that contemporary politics, even a most future-oriented one, cannot be pursued well and wisely without all that our past is made of, without referring to the experience which shapes our way of thinking today and our contemporary sensitivity. This must have been his way of thinking because his gesture of laying flowers at the monument to the Polish Underground State and the Home Army was very important. This first gesture of passing documents and the second one-laying flowers at the monument to the Polish Underground State-had a significant link: General Władysław Sikorski, one of the Underground State leaders and Prime Minister of the Polish Government. I believe this is also an effort towards coming to terms with the past not only on our Polish side, but also on the side of our Russian neighbours and partners. I say this because I am sure this is the right way to do politics-thinking about the future, talking about what has to be done today and tomorrow, but all the time being sensitive to all the historical heritage which includes great chapters as well as difficult and dramatic ones. Surely this past must be known, based on truth, and should serve a better understanding, reconciliation, and dialogue. This visit is over now and I believe it will open a new phase in our contacts, it will offer possibilities for both, a political debate, social contacts, and economic co-operation. I am convinced both, the Polish and the Russian side will do all to see this happen. Our meeting today is connected with passing the documents received from President Putin to our archives. I would like this fact also to make a beginning of very close co-operation between the Russian side and Polish historians to allow-as we have declared during President Putin`s visit-broader opening of the Russian archives to research and to allow transferring into Polish archives part of that Polish archive resource which is now in Russia. I expect this will be possible and we need to talk about it. Let us consider this handover as the first step on that road. We should only say the following about Władysław Sikorski: his memory continues to be present in Poland, in our minds. Władysław Sikorski belonged to a generation of great political leaders and military commanders who had built and re-constructed the Polish state after the slavery period longer than 120 years. Władysław Sikorski was a Prime Minister in the 1920s, then he was leader of the Government-in-Exile, he was the man who took major decisions to get the Polish state back on the map of Europe which was neither simple nor easy to do. His life was terminated in the plane crash at Gibraltar under circumstances which have not yet been completely explained. And he has been buried among Polish kings and other most outstanding compatriots at the Wawel Castle. But Władysław Sikorski continues to live in the public awareness. I hope that today`s ceremony of passing documents which pertain to his young years-because the file include his primary and secondary school certificates, military service opinions, documents from his years at the Technical University-will create new interest in the personality of Władysław Sikorski. I myself take pride in my small contribution to recalling the memory of General Sikorski. Three years ago a plafond was returned to the Presidential Palace and has been placed in the Presidential library. That plafond was ordered in 1923 by Prime Minister Nowak, who used to work in that building, and installed in 1924 by which time Prime Minister Sikorski took over the office. All this is shown on the painting by Ludomir Ślędziński. A small thing, perhaps, but it builds the memory of the great man and his merits.
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