People of Polish origin in Toronto and around the world were shocked by news this morning that Polish President Lech Kaczyński, First Lady Maria Kaczyński, and many dignitaries and senior members of the Polish government and military perished in a tragic plane crash in western Russia.
The tragedy, which resulted in the deaths of nearly 100 people, is heightened by the cruel irony that the delegation was arriving in Russia to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the infamous Katyn massacre of World War Two, in which some 22,000 Polish soldiers were slaughtered by the Soviet NKVD.
Roncesvalles Village is deeply connected to this tragedy, being the heart of the Polish community in Toronto. Polish First Lady Maria Kaczyński visited Roncesvalles Village only last year, and a powerful monument to the Katyn massacre (photo at left) stands at the foot of Roncesvalles Avenue.
At noon today, mere hours after the crash, many people arrived at the Polish Credit Union to commemorate this tragic event. A blessing prayer was given by Father Pawel Rataczak of St. Casimir’s Church, the Polish national anthem was sung, the Polish flag was lowered to half mast, and Halina Marszalek McGregor (CEO, Polish Credit Union) and RVBIA Vice-Chair Andrew Chomentowski laid a wreath among the many flowers and candles that have appeared at the base of the statue of Pope John Paul II. Also present was Jan Gasztold, Polish World War II veteran and representative of the Knights of Columbus.
The Roncesvalles Village BIA has sent a letter of condolence to the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Toronto and Andrew Chomentowski signed a book of condolences at the consulate on behalf of the BIA.
The following photos detail events on the Sunday after the tragedy, a memorial mass at St. Casimir’s Church and Copernicus Lodge followed by a procession to the Katyn monument. Among the numerous dignitaries from the Polish community were Jesse Flis and Tracy Kamino from Copernicus Lodge and Halina Marszalek McGregor, CEO of the Polish Credit Union.