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University News

Community honors killed Polish officials

Contributing Writer
Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Candles flickered Monday in the palms of the 18 people who came to commemorate the plane crash that killed Polish President Lech Kaczysnki and numerous Polish government officials on Saturday. The afternoon vigil was held in Manning Chapel.

“As someone whose great-grandfather was killed in the Katyn massacre that (on) Saturday victims were flying to commemorate … I felt this whole thing struck very close to home,” wrote Sara Weschler ’10, during the silent vigil.

Members of the Polish government were flying in memory of the massacre of Polish soldiers in the Katyn forest during World War II, the very forest that the plane went down in.

“The dark, dark symbolism of the whole situation — the weight that Katyn already carries in the Polish national memory — it’s all too much somehow… as though that place were truly cursed for us,” Weschler wrote.

The chords of a piano punctured the silence that reigned between remarks from University Chaplain Janet Cooper Nelson and Michael Kennedy, director of the Watson Institute for International Studies.

“We’re connected, in ways that I think are probably surprising. So, this is our tragedy,” Cooper Nelson said, mentioning not only the Polish citizens who reside at Brown, but the role Poland plays in academics and the ancestry of people at Brown.

“I tried for a minute on Saturday to think what would happen if Air Force One had gone down,” Cooper Nelson said. “The nation would be plunged into not just despair, fear.”

“We are without words to capture all that this tragedy means for those in Poland and beyond,” Cooper Nelson said.

“Let us pray this tragedy does not rehearse a repertoire of mistrust among nations,” Kennedy said, referring to troubled relations between Russia and Poland.

Kennedy hopes to see “mornings of grief turned into days of peace,” he said.

“I came because I feel detached from my friends and family back home,” wrote Kasia Sierzputowska ’13. “I feel that by coming I’m honoring the lives of those who perished in the crash.”

“The last few days my heart been very much in Warsaw,” Weschler wrote. “I really appreciate that the University organized this vigil for us to come together. It means a great deal.”

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