On April 7th, 2010, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk landed at the Smolensk airport, near Katyn. He was to preside over the 70th anniversary ceremony of the Katyn Forest Massacre (in April 1940, Stalin ordered the mass execution of thousands Polish officers and intellectuals). On April 10th, the President of Poland, Lech Kaczynski, was due to arrive at the same airport to carry on the extended anniversary ceremonies. His plane crashed on approach. All 96 passengers aboard died.
After a few minutes for all around was clear: a polish TU 154 M has crashed with the President of Poland, Lech Kaczynski and 96 passengers an board.
Hundreds of Russian soldiers were involved in the clean up of the airplane debris, strewn in a radius of several miles. They all cried.
In Russia, the coffins are red. Made of cardboard. Despite not being used to transport airplane disaster victims, on April 10, those red cardboard coffins were the most prominent.
Coffins with human remains were coming into Warsaw for nearly two weeks after the catastrophe - by the dozen, by hundreds.
They stood as long as twenty hours just to be able to walk by the caskets of Maria and Lech Kaczynski at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw. Women with small children were exempt from waiting in line. In five days, over a million people walked by the coffins...
Among the people paying their respect were also the profiteers, selling votive candles and national flags. Even an Native American hawked his wares. One doesn't meet an Indian in Poland every day.
On April 18th, 2010, Lech Kaczynski's funeral took place in Cracow. It was transformed into a huge rally. The participants carried posters with images of the tragically killed President.