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Local Poles Reflect on This Weekend’s Tragedy

Over this past weekend, the country of Poland suffered a substantial tragedy. Its president, political leaders, and Polish cultural and historical figures were killed when their airplane crashed in Russia. Poland is still reeling from this devastating blow, and many Polish communities in the United States are also in mourning. KSMU’s Theresa Bettmann spoke with members of the Springfield Polish community and has this report.

The impact of a deeply tragic event can be so great that many who experience it often can remember simple things such as what they were wearing or where they were when they first heard the news. For many Poles their recent tragedy is just such an experience. Jacek Fraczak is an assistant professor at Missouri State University, and says that this event really hits home in many ways.

" For me it's also a kind of personal tragedy. First, because I knew a few people who died in the crash, personally. Secondly, this is such an ominous date and [set of] circumstance[s] that was to be celebrated on that day," said Fraczak.

Ninety-six of Poland’s top leaders were traveling to Russia to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the massacre of Polish officers by the Red Army, during the Second World War. Fraczak says the scope of this weekend’s loss remains hard to comprehend.

"[The] importance of those who lost their live[s] include members of [Poland's] elite of this country [such as] political, cultural, and scientific [elite]. Poland lost their commanding hats of the Polish army. So the scale of the loss...I would say [is] irreparable," Fraczak said.

Many Polish residents have family back home and have been in regular contact since the tragedy. For some the shock has not yet worn off. Michal Winiewiez is a student at Drury University and says he is talking to his family as much as he can.

"I spoke with them a couple of hours after it happened. In the very beginning they didn't actually know what had happened. They didn't know what to do or what to say. They were pretty much shocked," said Winiewiez.

Fraczak says that the outpouring of American support to the local Polish community has been strong. He says that he is grateful for the support of friends who were very quick to call with support and condolences. For KSMU News, I’m Theresa Bettmann.