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Katyn remembered at Cannock Chase on 70th anniversary
Jozef Lopuszynski - Freelance Contributor

Katyn Memorial ceremony
Prayers were said for the dead in the forest setting

Seventy years after the event, the Polish community met at the Cannock Chase Katyn Memorial to remember the massacre of World War Two.

Thousands of Polish officers, religious leaders and elite were murdered by Russian forces on Stalin's orders.

Prayers were said for the dead; and speeches reminded listeners of the extent of the tragedy.

Prayers were also said for the Polish leaders who died in a recent air accident flying to the Katyn site.

Cannock Chase Forest

Dignitaries from across the West and North Midlands heard speeches recalling the horror that took place in the Katyn Forest, which is near Russian Smolensk on the Russo-Belarus border.

Katyn Memorial
The Polish community built the Katyn Memorial as a permanent reminder

The Honorary Polish Consul for the West Midlands, Councillor Fran Oborski praised the Cannock Chase site: "This is a beautiful silent English forest, and it's a really appropriate place to remember those who, 70 years ago, were murdered in a forest that was probably beautiful - but was turned for ever into a place of horror."

Twenty thousand Polish officers and leading intellectuals had been taken prisoner after the invasion of Poland by Russia in 1940, and transported to Katyn in April and May of that year.

They were led to believe that they were being set free, but instead were taken into the forest and shot in cold blood by the NKVD Secret Police (the forerunner of the KGB).

For many years, the Soviets tried to cover up their involvement in the massacre by insisting that it was the Nazis who were to blame for the crime, but more recently the Russian authorities have acknowledged that this was indeed a Soviet crime.

President

Most of the standards were this year draped with black ribbons, in memory of President Lech Kaczynski and his 96 colleagues who were killed in the recent air disaster at Smolensk in April. They had been journeying to the site of the original mass execution for a similar commemoration ceremony.

"The death of those at Smolensk - the President and his wife, and the other leading members of the Polish State - was a real tragedy, because they were on their way to remember the 70th Anniversary at Katyn.

"It's the most appalling coincidence of tragedy.

"But, hopefully from that, a new truth is coming from President Medvedev and the Russian government - and hopefully from that, the relationship between Poland and Russia will finally develop," added Councillor Oborski.

Chairman of the Cannock Chase Katyn Memorial Committee and organiser of the event, Miroslawa Kisiel agreed: "It was a truly moving occasion. Fortunately, we were blessed with glorious sunshine."

The prayers were led by Father Edward Pondel, priest-in-charge at Holy Trinity Polish Church, Wolverhampton.

Bugler Jim Cornes
Bugler Jim Cornes attends the ceremony ever year.

Ceremony

The ceremony, which took place on Sunday 16 May 2010, was attended by dozens of people from across the North and West Midlands including from Stafford, Walsall, Wolverhampton and Kidderminster. Afterwards, the Wolverhampton Polish Club hosted a reception for those who had attended.
The ceremony is now an annual event.

Among those attending was bugler Jim Cornes, who lives in Wheaton Aston near Stafford. He is a regular at the event.

Mr Cornes said: "It's always a great honour to come to this occasion. The feeling is there, and the sadness is there of what happened many years ago.

"That people still appreciate and remember is mainly the important thing… people do remember".

Jozef Lopuszynski - all photos copyright.

The Katyn Memorial in Cannock Chase was erected by the Anglo-Polish Society in 1979.
On the sides of the memorial's plinth are inscribed the names of the three camps which held the victims: Kozielsk, Starobielsk and Ostaszkow.

Other Katyn Memorials in the UK include one at Gunnersbury, London.




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