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Respect Polish tragedy as such

Monika Grzesiak | Monday, April 19, 2010

I am writing to respond to the show of disrespect I have witnessed on campus concerning the recent tragedy in Poland, in which a plane carrying the Polish president, the First Lady and many senior officials crashed in Smolensk, Russia. Those on board were traveling to a ceremony that would commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre, when Stalin’s secret police murdered 22,000 Polish military leaders and intellectuals. Until 1990, the Soviet Union denied responsibility for the massacre, suppressing those who attempted to speak out. The speech President Kaczynski was to deliver last Saturday was meant to help heal a national wound, honoring the dead and offering hope of reconciliation between Russia and Poland. In a tragic coincidence, however, Poland lost its political and military leadership yet again, including the commanders of the army, air force and navy, the president of the national bank and many others.

While world leaders have extended their condolences to a grieving Poland, however, the magnitude of what has happened has not reached certain Notre Dame students. I found the following joke in The Rover just days after the crash: “The only thing Polacks have ever contributed to civilization are John Paul II and Esperanto. They can’t even avoid crashing their presidential plane.” At Trivia night this past Thursday one team thought it would be funny to name themselves “What’s Polish for ‘crash and burn?'” I was told that the name received bonus points for creativity.

As a Notre Dame student who was born in Poland and is deeply affected by what is happening there right now, I was very hurt to hear my fellow students treat the Polish tragedy with such disrespect. Repeating cruel stereotypes about Poles, especially at such a time, is simply mean. I’d like to point out to The Rover and to those trivia night participants that when 9/11 happened, Poles mourned with you, as did the entire world. Tragedies remain tragedies even if they do not happen to your country, and I think Poles deserve a little better than to have theirs turned into a punch line.


Monika Grzesiak


off campus

April 18