The 2010 Katyń Families Association

A speech delivered on 21st October 2016 by Mrs Ewa Kochanowska (wife of Smolensk crash victim Janusz Kochanowski) in the Polish Parliament during a sitting of the Defence Committee addressing the exhumations of the Smolensk crash victims announced by the Polish Prosecutor's Office.

With coffins sealed shut in Russia and never opened in Poland, Polish authorities having not carried out autopsies violated Art. 209 of the Polish Criminal Procedure Code. Out of nine exhumations carried out so far in 2012, six bodies were buried in the wrong graves. As it turned out, the victims were buried naked in plastic bags containing dirt, mud, waste, rubbish, cigarette butts, ripped pieces of clothing and with organs having been moved around (displaced). This aspect alone perfectly portrays how the entire case was handled. Bodies were buried without being investigated and the other main piece of evidence – the wreckage - is still held in Russia.

Mrs Kochanowska addresses the further planned exhumations of all remaining victims as announced recently by the Polish Prosecutor's Office:


Full speech:


Dear Chairman,

Dear Minister,

Dear Members of Parliament,

Ladies and Gentlemen,


The State Prosecutor’s Office announced the exhumation of the remains of the victims of the 10 April 2010 tragedy; this understandably arouses intense emotions among the victims’ families. This is less understandable or even suspicious among those people not involved, usually not knowing what they are talking about and thus should most likely keep silent. Today, I would like to present a brief account of events to which I was a witness and a participant. I will share information from documents and discuss the situation of families in the context of exhumations.


The families say that they are going through hell. This is true, but it is easy to name the people who condemned us to this hell. These are Prosecutors:


- [Andrzej] Seremet, [former Prosecutor General];

- [Krzysztof] Parulski, [former Chief Military Prosecutor]; and

- [Ireneusz] Szeląg, [former head of Warsaw’s District Military Prosecutor’s Office].


Clearly under the Polish Criminal Procedure Code, if a suspicion exists that a death is caused by a criminal act – and such a suspicion existed at the time and exists in every disaster – it is the Polish Prosecutors’ obligation to carry out an external inspection of the corpses once they arrive in Poland and, if necessary, to order a post-mortem (autopsy) examination. This was not done, and to this day I still do not know why.


On 11 April 2010, I travelled to Moscow to take part in the identifications. At a meeting held at in the morning, former Minister [of Health] Kopacz and Mr Arabski informed the families that we should be particularly scrupulous when carrying out the identification, as the coffins were going to be sealed and would not be opened once in Poland. Many people at the time protested vehemently against such statements. I personally did not take part in this discussion because as the wife of a former Consul General to the UK in London and aware of procedures I knew that a body of anyone who died a death abroad is submitted for examination once returned to Poland. In our case, for unknown reasons, this did not happen, and we have never obtained a credible explanation as to why. Coffins were returned to Poland soldered shut, with no accompanying medical documentation and no doctor’s certificate confirming the death, which made arranging burials difficult for many families.


Many families were already suspicious in Moscow, and these suspicions have only increased with time. The coffins were either too light or so heavy that several men were unable to carry them. Moreover, several days after the official funerals, the first additional remains started to be uncovered, leading to additional ‘burials’. Some families had several additional ‘burials’ lasting until recently.


In May 2010, 13 families decided to bury further additional remains of their loved ones at Powązki [Military Cemetery] including the remains two people who were so mixed up and compressed that they could not be identified.


In July 2010, a memorial was erected for the victims at Powązki [Military Cemetery], beneath which an urn was placed containing 200 kg of unidentified remains. Such a decision was taken without notifying the families by Michał Boni the then Minister of Administration.


On 29 April 2010, the then Minister of Health, [Ewa Kopacz,] presented a report to the Sejm. We have long known that to call her a compulsive liar is no exaggeration. There was no ‘sieving’ or digging, and in the early stages there was not even ‘side-by-side’ cooperation or the presence of Polish Prosecutors during the post-mortem examinations in Moscow. Whereas, people making pilgrimages to Smolensk were still uncovering human remains at the disaster site.


In October 2010, the District Military Prosecutor’s Office received the first bundle of medical documentation from Russia. The next arrived in August 2011. The families acquainted themselves with the documentation, which were given a ‘classified’ status by Military Prosecutors. My experience – it happened like this: A victim’s family member sat opposite two prosecutors. Between us were documents. We were not allowed to have telephones, paper, pencils or any means of taking notes. We were able to read the files on location and submit our reservations. This is my story, but most families were in the same situation. We were leaving convinced ‘My God, that wasn’t my loved one’s body’. In most cases, only the sex could be determined.


At the end of October, the first applications from families requesting exhumations were submitted. The families were publicly called ‘emotionless psychopaths, graveyard scavengers and necrophiliacs’.


The Military Prosecutor’s Office did not respond [negatively] to those applications for exhumation until a few weeks before it was abolished, when it sent notification of the dismissal of these applications.


All nine of the exhumations took place ex officio also against the will of the families. Six of them were carried out under Russians indication. This was a huge shock for families, since they were absolutely convinced that they had properly carried out the identifications.


The examinations commissioned by the Prosecutor’s Office were aimed solely at identification and did not provide for the cause of death or mechanisms behind sustained injuries.


Expert witnesses – both well-known foreign experts and local ones – nominated by the families were not permitted to participate. Family members could participate themselves or appoint a legal representative.


After the exhumations, it turned out that the bodies had been packed in leak-proof seven-layer plastic sacks. They were dirty and contaminated with waste, cigarette ends and ripped pieces of clothing, and the organs had been moved around [displaced].


We were deeply distressed by this desecration of the bodies of our loved ones.


When we finally received access to the documentation describing the crash site, it was the families that completed the detailed map of the crash site – not the Miller Committee, not the Prosecutor’s Office, but the families. The way in which the aeroplane disintegrated points to a different course of events from the one set out in the official version.


Upon gaining access to the full medical documentation, after having applied and identified the location of the remains [onto a detailed map of the crash site] we uncovered even greater divergences in the official version of the disaster. We were also able to identify which passengers occupied which seats on the plane.


In light of the foregoing, it is impossible that the disaster happened as stated in the Miller report.


The genetic documentation that was put together in Poland and in Russia points to the possibility of body parts being buried in incorrect graves. Some of the families have been living with that knowledge for almost five years now.


You can argue endlessly about the legitimacy of appointing the [investigation] committee, issues regarding acceleration, rivets and trajectories. The bodies of our loved ones have already said a lot, and they would surely have said even more back in April 2010. Could this be why they were not examined?


Thank you.


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