13 kwietnia 2022

Organizers and Participants
of the Commemoration of the Day of Remembrance
for Victims of Katyn Massacre,
Katyn Museum
in Warsaw

Ladies and Gentlemen,

My cordial greetings go out to all of you gathered to commemorate the Day of Remembrance for Victims of Katyn Massacre. I wish to thank for their presence the members of Katyn Families, officials representing the authorities and institutions of the Republic of Poland, members of the Diplomatic Corps, researchers and society organizations committed to the upholding and uncovering memory of one of the greatest tragedies ever in the history of our Home Country. Most regrettably, due to the present–day exceptional conditions I am not able to attend in person. I join with you in paying tribute to the victims of Soviet genocide: officers, policemen, officials, citizens, Polish patriots, who paid the highest price of their lives for their loyalty to the Republic of Poland.

The anniversary of the disclosure of the Katyn Massacre – April 13 – we officially commemorate as a state for the fifteenth time running. But today this anniversary and that genocide speak to us even more strongly than usual. In recent weeks, the names of places associated with the annihilation of the Polish elite have again resounded loudly – in dramatic news from across the eastern border. Starobilsk in the Lugansk region, where our officers were imprisoned in a monastery, was swept through during the first days of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Russian bombs fell on the cemetery in Pyatykhatky, where those murdered by the Kharkiv NKVD were buried. The Bykivnia necropolis in eastern Kyiv shared the fate of the Ukrainian capital under fire. Finally, just 10 days ago, the world learned of the massacre in Bucha, and other towns recaptured from the Russians by Ukrainian forces. And just as happened in 1943, the undoubted perpetrators again denied their deeds, lying bald–facedly.

The history of Central and Eastern Europe has thus come to a full circle and has repeated itself, marked – as always – by Russia's imperialism, by its desire to subjugate other peoples, by its contempt for human life and freedom, and by its trampling on dignity and truth. We Poles, as well as Ukrainians and other nations of our region are perfectly familiar with this mentality, cruelty and lies. Unfortunately, we are not surprised by Russian attacks on defenceless population, violations of international law, killings of civilians, kidnapping and torture of members of the local elite, mass deportations to the East. We have known all this for centuries – ever since the Muscovite state grew in strength and began its quest to rule over all its neighbours.

The Katyn Massacre was another chapter in the centuries–long struggle to deprive the nations of Central and Eastern Europe of their freedom. It claimed about 25 thousand members of the Polish military and state elites. The Soviets committed this murder in revenge for the defeat in the war of 1920, when together – Poles with the support of Ukrainians – we defeated the Bolshevik invaders. The goal of the Russians was to annihilate the leadership of the nation, to deprive us of the will to resist and to force us to submit to Sovietization.

The matter of attribution of the Katyn Massacre was undisputed. Nobody in our region of Europe doubted that in the uncovered mass graves, in the mortal wounds in the occiput – one could see Stalin's open and clear signature. But Moscow denied responsibility. For half a century it tried to put the blame elsewhere. It maintained its own false version of the course of the crime. Wherever the Soviet power reached, historical falsehood was forcibly spread and instilled in children at schools, it was reproduced in publications and textbooks. But we, Poles, never believed this lie, albeit to speak about the truth aloud was forbidden.

From the very beginning there were also courageous people who told the truth to the world, such as Józef Mackiewicz, whose memory is commemorated by a plaque unveiled today in this very Museum. The fortunes of the depositary of truth were not easy ones: he could not return to his country, which was controlled by the communist regime, and he was often not listened to abroad. The political calculations of the West and the need not to inflame the conflict with the Soviets made them turn their heads away from the truth about Katyn. But the truth has finally overcome. The Soviet evil empire crumbled. Falsehood was officially called falsehood. Great credit in this respect goes to steadfast researchers, courageous intellectuals, and, above all, the Katyn Families who always preserved the memory of their loved ones – heroes of the Independence, something I wish to particularly acknowledge today thanking them on behalf of our Home Country.

The history of the struggle for the truth about the Katyn Massacre is now being recollected as we are witnessing new crimes and new lies. We, the citizens of sovereign and democratic countries, cannot give in to any intimidation attempts on the part of the perpetrators. It is our duty to remember the victims and to defend those who are still threatened with suffering and death at the hand of Russian aggressors. We must also identify the henchmen and bring to justice those who ordered, planned and carried out these new crimes.

Soviet regime and its functionaries who obeyed their orders and murdered our compatriots back in 1940 were never brought to justice, nor were they duly punished. Nevertheless, the Katyn Massacre is not subject to statute of limitation; on that ground we will demand to have it tried before international tribunals. I will discuss the matter next week with experts and members of the Katyn Families whom I will invite to the Presidential Palace to plan ahead further actions to be taken.

Russian perpetrators of the most recent acts of genocide committed in Ukraine must be also branded as most disgraceful criminals. It is my firm belief that their condemnation by the entire free world marks just the beginning of the punishment that will be meted out to them.

Andrzej Duda
President of the Republic of Poland