In Memoriam: Lech Kaczynski
The death of Poland's president carries a terrible echo of his country's past
Apr 11th 2010 | From The Economist online
HE WAS a figure from another age. Weekend guests at Lech Kaczynski’s presidential retreat on Poland’s Baltic coast often found the conversation turning to the opposition politics of 1970s Gdansk.
That is indeed a fascinating subject, though not necessarily the most burning one for the head of state of eastern Europe’s most important country nearly 40 years later. Mr Kaczynski, who died along with 95 others, including many of Poland’s military and political elite, in a plane crash in Russia on April 10th, epitomised some of the best and the worst features of Polish politics.
He was a man of unquestioned, almost painful, integrity. In 2005 he moved to the presidential palace not from one of the palatial homes favoured by most mainstream Polish politicians, but from the shabby flat in Warsaw in which he and his wife, Maria, had lived for decades. His values, attitudes, habits and behaviour were those of the pre-war Polish middle class: a culture so strong that it survived decapitation and evisceration under Soviet and Nazi occupation, and the regime installed at gunpoint after the war. Obstinate, old-fashioned, provincial, gutsy, rather shy, awkward, suspicious, pernickety and scrupulous, the 60-year-old law professor was utterly uninterested in the tactful doublespeak usually required of politicians in modern Europe.