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Madam Speaker, I also rise today to join all my colleagues in mourning the death of President Lech Kaczynski and many others who died in that plane crash on April 10, 2010. Poland lost some of its most famous political figures. They were heroes among the Polish people. The 95 people that died that day included the President, a very pro-U.S. and anti-Soviet individual, and his wife and numerous other political government officials.
It's interesting to note why so many officials were going to Russia, why they were on that particular plane headed to a specific event. Well, that Polish delegation was traveling to Russia to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre.
On September 17, 1939, the Red Army invaded the territory of Poland from the east. They captured hundreds of thousands of Poles and deported them to prisoner of war camps in the western Soviet Union.
Once at the camps, the Poles were subjected to lengthy interrogations; and if the prisoners could not be induced to adopt a pro-Soviet attitude, they were declared ``hardened and uncompromising enemies of Soviet authority.''
So on March 5, 1940, Joseph Stalin and three of his henchmen signed an order to execute over 20,000 prisoners, all Poles, to weaken any future Polish military. In the Katyn forest, Soviet secret police executed more than 20,000 Polish nationals who were mainly officers in the Polish military.
And beginning on April 3, the killings were methodical. After a condemned person's information was checked, that individual was handcuffed and led to a secret cell that was insulated with felt to make sure that no noise could come from that cell. The sounds were also masked by the operation of loud machines that were working in the factories. And after being taken to the cell, the victim was immediately shot in the back of the head. His body was taken out through the opposite door in the cell and laid in one of the five or six waiting trucks, whereupon the next condemned Pole was taken inside and the same procedure was methodically followed again.
This occurred over 20,000 times; and the procedure went on every day, every night, except, ironically, for the May Day celebration. In the end, those 20,000 POWs and prisoners were executed without a trial, just a summary judgment.
Those who died at the Katyn include an admiral, two generals, 24 colonels, 79 lieutenant colonels, 258 Polish majors, 654 captains, 17 naval captains, over 3,000 noncommissioned officers. It included even seven chaplains, three landowners, a prince, 43 public officials, 85 privates, and 131 other refugees.
Also among the dead were 20 university professors, 300 doctors, several hundred lawyers, engineers, teachers, and more than 100 writers and journalists, as well as about 200 pilots, all leaders in the Polish community. The effort of the Soviet Union was to destroy those leaders and destroy Poland as well. These were all Poles, all victims of the terror of communism.
For over half a century, Moscow even denied this ever occurred. The Soviet government had suppressed all the information about the shootings and blamed it on the Nazis. In 1992, Russia finally released the documents showing that the entire Politburo, including Joseph Stalin, signed an order dated March, 1940, to kill these Polish officers.
Poland had a rough history in the last century. They were invaded by the Nazis, and many of the Poles were taken to Germany and died in concentration camps. And then the Soviets invaded the same country trying to drive out the Nazis; and they, too, took many Poles and put them in concentration camps, where many of them died.
In the United States, we celebrate the end of World War II in 1945, but the Poles, they don't celebrate the end of World War II in 1945. They celebrate it in 1989, when the wall finally fell and the Soviets left town. It was a long war for our friends in Poland.
So now, Madam Speaker, we know the rest of the story and why President Kaczynski and so many Poles were on that plane that crashed in Russia. Now they, too, ironically, have died on the same land where thousands of other Poles died over 70 years ago.
It is appropriate today that we pay homage to all of those Poles who have lived and died in a quest for Polish liberty, those Poles who have always been an ally of the United States, and we grieve while they grieve in Poland.
And that's just the way it is.
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