“I think Lech Kaczynski bears ultimate responsibility for the crash…I feel he should be condemned a murderer.”
Kaczynski with bloodshot eyes and a sparkly crown.
I made this work to commemorate the tragedy of April 10th, 2010 when Lech Kaczynski quite literally crashed Poland’s core government and its most important intellectual elite into foggy mist of Smolensk. It defined irony, as the plane full of the most respected Polish people was travelling to Smolensk with the sole purpose of honoring the victims of the Katyn Massacre exactly 70 years before. The Katyn Massacre was a deliberate ethnic cleansing directly overseen by Josef Stalin in which over 21,000 of Poland’s most intelligent people were systematic murdered.
Normally it is taboo to say a bad word about the dead, especially ones pursuing such a noble purpose, but in this case I think it is different, at least for three of the dead. Many people in Poland have made this issue about Russia, and I would say the majority of Poland feels that Russia instigated a conspiracy against Poland. I feel directly the opposite, because I think Lech Kaczynski bears ultimate responsibility for the crash. So much so that I feel he should be condemned a murderer.
I really can’t stand when people blame us Russians today for all of the atrocities of the Soviet Union and World War II. It makes me really sick. Angry and sick. We were subject to the same awful things everyone else was, and then some. It was incomprehensible what happened. Through luck alone my grandmother survived the Siege of Leningrad, and thus I am here to express my viewpoint. (I won’t even mention the luck of not having any of my family deported.) We hated fascism as much as the totalitarian governance of the Soviet Union. I don’t feel Russians should feel shame today for what non-Russians and evil Russians did during the Soviet Union. All good people had it bad, we struggled together.
First I wrote all 96 names and made a fiery smoke effect for a background.
There is no animosity in Russia today, only a willingness to expose the chilling truths of the past. My work here is just one more look at a piece of history that needs further analyzation (at least for some). Nobody will ever heal if we ever embrace fantasy accountings of what really happened. I don’t blame Polish people for suggesting conspiracy theories in the aftermath, but now that most of the truth is out, it is clear that pain is ruling over rational thought.
What motive would Russia have to kill the Polish president who is virtually powerless outside of the confines of the EU? And why would the Russian government seek to replicate a tragedy in Smolensk after it opened its archives to expose the painful truth of Katyn and educate Russian citizens finally of what occurred? It can’t be both ways, that Russia seeks to hide the truth of the Katyn Massacre, and at the same time conspires something so loud that assures no one ever forgets what happened in the Spring of 1940 in the Smolensk forest. A conspiracy needs a plausible motive, and I have yet to hear a reasonable one. Usually the simplest explanation is the correct one.
I hand painted each name without stencils.
Let’s get back to what happened in 2010. So Kaczynski and his cronies (including Air Force Commander Andrzej Blasika) were drinking either before or on the flight. Nothing abnormal or negative here. When it was time to land, Kaczynski with a history of confusing his power with expertize, got angry they couldn’t land. He took the controllers words as an attack on Poland that they were being told to land elsewhere. Although it is unlikely they were having anymore than a couple drinks as evidenced by their blood alcohol levels (about the drink drive limit), even a little alcohol tends to magnify emotions in a stressful situation. I too would be annoyed if I had an extremely important event I needed to be on time for and some air traffic controller told me I was going to be late. I understand the situation they were facing full well. It is often a common denominator in transportation accidents…people seem the need to get there at any cost, especially being tired and under stress.
Blasika and Kaczynski both had a history of pressuring pilots to push the limits of safety, and Kaczynski even fired his pilots after they choose safety over the advice of someone not certified to fly the plane. They choose to divert to an alternate airport under similar weather and this caused a delay for Kaczynski, sending him ballistic because his orders were disobeyed. No matter who is in the back seat, the pilot in command always should have the final authority over the airplane.
Then I painted the Polish eagle leaving an empty outline of Kaczynski’s body.
It is said Blasika was the most adamant (and most inebriated) about landing their Russian made Tupolev-154 in nearly the worst possible visibility into an airport that had no ILS (Instrument Landing System). While I certainly wouldn’t discount the manipulation of the black box recordings (I believe they omitted audio evidence that would disgrace Kaczynski), I think the toxicology reports bring the undisputed facts together in the Russian investigative findings.
While it is usually a long chain of events that lead to any crash, this is a sequence of the most likely factors that I believe happened:
• Polish Parliament balks at purchasing or leasing a new top of the line Boeing aircraft for official Polish business. Quite strange a country so paranoid about Russia destroying it would allow its most important person to fly in a Russian plane.
• Kaczynski and Blasika, had lunch over drinks. Blasika and Kaczynski’s anger fed off each other influenced by the alcohol.
• Pilot in command who was the only Russian speaker, had to contravene regulations and take on a double workload. Air Traffic Control only speaks Russian at Russian military airports, and the pilot in command should not be in charge of radio duty while on approach.
• Pilot in command was under extreme stress and duress. Visits to the cockpit from Blasika and Kaczynski distracted him and made him afraid of the correct decision (to divert). This is the heaviest piece in the chain leading up to the crash.
• Pilot in command ignored standard operating procedure from the plane’s manual and utilized the auto-pilot for his non-precision approach (one without ILS). This is most likely the result of the high cockpit workload he faced.
• Pilots lose situational awareness and declare a go around too late.
No one thing is responsible for this crash, yet a horribly negligent and criminal sequence of events took place. Normally a pilot’s decisions solely would impact the finding of fault here, except this was an extraordinary case. The accident investigators are concerned only with facts, not how the pilot got in the cockpit in the first place, but this is the real root of the crash and the liability must be placed squarely on the shoulder of Lech Kaczynski.
Then I drew the arms, head, and beer before finally filling in the middle with a suit.
If you read everything between the lines, it is clear Kaczynski personally saw to the hiring of his pilots, and groomed them to submit to his authority. The pilots were very inexperienced given the position and importance they held. It is likely more experienced pilots might not be as willing to take orders jeopardizing their safety from Kaczynski. Kaczynski was willing to exalt himself as commander of ALL decisions, and therefore must take the majority of responsibility for his actions. If you hold a gun to someone’s head and tell them you are going to kill them unless they commit a crime, that mitigates any criminality if the person under duress lacks criminal intent.
While the pilots actions are negligent and unfortunate, I believe they do not meet any European standard of criminal guilt. What is clear though is that if Lech Kaczynski survived, I believe he would have been held criminally accountable instead of being buried like a King and as a national hero.
A reasonable person would believe grooming pilots working for you to be obedient and take every order absolutely defines being negligent, especially when you are not a pilot and have a history of poor temperament and erratic behavior. It could be easily foreseen that commanding someone to land against their wishes and in defiance to Air Traffic Controllers in poor weather could result in a fatal crash.
Lech Kaczynski abused his authority before in such a situations, and was aware of the consequences possible. He ignored this and overstepped his authority one last time, fatally. Therefore he is criminally liable for murder in any legal jurisdiction I have experience with. Gross negligence is clearly there, and in my book, Lech Kaczynski will forever be known as a murderer to me.
His selfish actions have devastated a nation, many families directly, and opened old wounds that might not ever heal right now. I hope someday President Kaczynski will be shown to children as an example of someone abusing their authority, even if it was innocuously until the very end. By all accounts Kaczynski was a passionate and likable person that somehow got so disconnected from reality having power, that he abused it in a way that killed 95 other people. I hope my work serves to represent this truth.
Work details: Acrylic 60x80cm on white canvas. Names written represent the 96 people killed in the Smolensk crash. The painting depicts Lech Kaczynski flying atop the Polish eagle supposedly impaired by alcohol. He is desecrating the eagle by stealing its crown symbolizing his abuse of power and the desecration to the glorious history of those now buried alongside him in Wawel Cathedral in Krakow. The stamped exclamation of “Laduj!” (Land!) characterizes his final mandate. He decided like vetoing a law, that everyone aboard should be extinguished by the stamp of his wreckless authority.
Other notes: I paid a visit in late 2010 to Wawel Cathedral.