THE WORST TRUTH IS BETTER THAN A LIE
Artur Stelmasiak talks with Dorota Skrzypek – a widow of the chairman of the National Bank of Poland Sławomir Skrzypek
ARTUR STELMASIAK: – It has already been four years since your husband’s death. Can you tell us that time heals wounds?
DOROTA SKRZYPEK: – It is usually so that after death of our relatives time heals wounds, because it brings the truth, consolation and peace. However, I do not know the truth about my husband’s death. Therefore, I cannot feel consolation or peace. My wounds are still being reopened, because new circumstances of the catastrophe and scandals connected with the investigation are still being revealed. It is obvious that after four years I recovered from emotions and today I am more rational. The man does not even know how much it is possible to endure. I had to be strong because now I take the whole responsibility for bringing up my sons. Protecting them was a natural mother’s instinct.
– Staś was 9 and Aleksander only 7 at that time. In the evening, on 10 April, after his return from Katyń, their dad was going to go to the cinema with them. How did they get to know about how he had died?
– I told them about it. It was one of my most difficult moments in my life. Truly speaking, I do not know how I would have survived it, if it had not been for my family who are religious and I could assure my sons that their dad had not died.
– These words are a testimony. What is more, they show that the answer to the most difficult question is given only by faith in God. Did your faith help you survive this difficult family trauma?
– We still miss Sławek. He left behind an enormous gap which we will never be able to fill in. My life will never be the same, because it was broken on 10 April 2010. But I have a feeling of a great strength which does not come from me. It is from God, because it exceeds any human possibilities. Without support from God, I would not have coped with it. Death of Sławek and everything which happened later, renewed and strengthened my faith.
– On the tombstone of Sławomir Skrzypek there are words: ‘Who believes in me, will live, even if he died’. Why are just these words?
– I wanted this place to be a faith testimony of Sławek, and also a confirmation of Jesus’ victory over death and sin. I simply know that my husband did not die….God keeps His promises. I and my sons know that dad is waiting for us.
– Does your desire to meet with him determine the desire to live better?
– Apart from the desire to meet with God, certainly, it does. My love to Sławek did not die on 10 April 2010. I live with hope that we will meet together.
– Many people in such a situation are angry with God. Why did you come closer to Him?
– It is not my merit in it. The grace of faith is always a gift. In this sense, not being angry with God is also a gift, for which I thank Him. In my earlier life God saved me and my family from any unlucky situations. I experienced a lot of good things from Him. I was brought up in a loving Catholic family. I met a wonderful man with whom I had wonderful sons. Therefore my faith from before 2010 was a little like air, with which one simply breathes. After death of Sławek, the words of Lord’s Prayer ‘Be thou will’ showed me a different sense.
– And, now what is your faith like?
– He is my whole strength. He is over everything bad, because He is the source of infinite goodness. Only thanks to Him can I accept Smoleńsk. I believe that everything what I experience has a deep sense…Also my life, and the tragic death of my husband had sense.
– What sense?
– I do not know the answer yet, but I believe that I will get to know it one day.
– Once you said that it was easy to love Sławek. Why?
– He was a very good, honest, responsible and wise man. He was like a rock for our family, on which we could support strongly and feel safe. And it is easy to love such people. I can say that I was really lucky because I was certain that I was loved by this special man.
– Did he have time for his family?
– Once he was asked what gave him strength. He said that he was strengthened by work for Poland. Sławek was a statesman, worked and studied a lot. So, he did not have much time for us, but he always tried to find it. We always felt that we were important for him. He talked with our sons every day. Even when he used to return home in the late evenings and was tired, he used to sit down with the boys and play chess with them. We also used to watch action movies, science-fiction with our children, and he used to tell them a lot about history.
– And what did your common moments look like?
– We happened to buy private tickets for me so that I could fly on business trips with my husband. In the beginning of April we booked five days in Colombia where our economic conference was held. Sławek stopped that meeting on purpose, in order to fly to Katyń with the President. We were coming back from Colombia by four airplanes for 25 hours. We arrived home in the afternoon on 9 April. Next day I got up with him at 5 a.m. , had breakfast, and I said goodbye to him only for a while. A few hours later I sat in front of TV in order to watch the transmission from Katyń.
– No stress, nor bad feelings?
– I was completely calm, because Sławek usually flew a lot. When we were coming back from Colombia, I asked him if he would fly by tupolew. He said that he was going to fly with the President. So, it would be the safest flight in the world.
– However, that time, the chairman of the National Bank of Poland was not right.
– Only people from the President’s Office knew about preparations for that flight. Everyone who thinks rationally, was not able to predict that nobody would take care of the safety of the delegation.
– That’s true. The picture of flight preparations, securing the crash place, and later investigation is terrifying.
– Therefore, we must do everything in order to get to the truth about what happened in Smoleńsk. The truth about this catastrophe is not only a private matter of the casualties’ families. It is necessary for all Poles.
– The prime minister says that everything has been explained and described in the report of Miller’s commission. What do you expect?
– For the first year I was standing aside. I was mainly concentrated on my children who needed my care. We did not watch TV, we did not listen to radio, we did not read newspapers. I do not hide that I gave a lot of trust credit to our authority. I did not suppose that the investigation would take this form and the remembrance of 96 casualties would be so profaned. I do not expect anything from this government.
– There has not been a similar tragedy in the history of the world. But there has not been such a compromising investigation either. One of leftist politicians said that the catastrophe was treated in such a way as if it had been a burglary into a garage in Warsaw.
– No wonder, as nothing was done after the catastrophe in order to protect evidence. Breaching law, bodies section was not done in Poland and nobody even cared to place the casualties’ bodies in proper graves. I did not even think that the authority of my country could leave its citizens.
– Or maybe the government does not want to know the truth, maybe it is afraid of something….
– It would be a very bad news for Poles. It would mean that the authority is neither free or independent and has its hands tied. There are also other questions: why doesn’t this government want to know the truth, why is it concealing the guilty? Why is it promoted and rewards those who were directly responsible for not preparing that flight?
– Do you think that the state betrayed?
– I feel betrayed by the authority. It did not do it could do after the catastrophe. However, I do not know if it was a deliberate action or the lack of professionalism whose consequences we are experiencing now. People in the government could have become hostages of their mistakes and bad decisions. Instead of admitting it, they are still wading into the lie.
– But the authority with the choir of pro-governmental media is persuading us to accept the thesis that everything has been explained.
– I often refer to the issue of gen. Andrzej Błasik. His case clearly shows that Miller’s report is false. Procurators proved that he had not been in the cockpit, nor that there had not been alcohol in his blood. It was not him who was reading a correct altitude of the airplane but it was one of the crew members. So, one of the basic myths was overruled that pilots did not know at what altitude they had been. The theory invented by the Russians, and later confirmed by Poles, failed. Unfortunately, today there is nobody who would be responsible for the lies about the general. Nobody apologized. Nobody bore consequences.
– We still do not know what happened on the airplane board when at the altitude of about 80 metres above the land, there was the command: ‘We are flying away’. Can you make any guess?
– Every answer to this question is only a theory today. We do not have any evidence to explain explicitly what really happened, why they all were killed. Therefore, I consider all possible scenarios. I am awaiting the truth, no matter what truth it is.
– The situation like the one of Socrates’. Wisdom is based the fact that you do not know what happened on 10 April 2010. Whereas the members of the governmental commission state that they know the truth.
– Those who say that they know the truth, do not think so. If they are a little reasonable, they must have doubts. They say so because they have become hostages of the documents under which there is their signature. Dr. Maciej Lasek defends himself and takes public money for it.
– Will we find out one day what happened in Smoleńsk?
– I do not know but I want to believe that we will. However, I must say that I have less and less hope about it.
– But you will not give in, will you?
– I will never say that I do not mind and I will never say that I am fed up. I owe it to Sławek, our sons and myself. Moreover, we, all Poles, deserve the truth, because the worst and the most difficult truth is better than the most beautiful lie.