This morning we learned about the Polish military and Katyn and visited the Field Cathedral of the Polish Army, (also known as the Church of Our Lady Queen of the Polish Crown) which came about through the Military Ordinariate of Poland.
Inside the church there are medals and plaques and statues all dedicated to the military who perished at war.
The main altar contains a sculpture of the patron saint of the church, Our Lady Queen of the Polish Crown. Beneath the sculpture there is a steel grating with hundreds of military decorations and votive plaques donated by the soldiers. To the left there is a small Chapel of the Polish Soldier – a Mausoleum of the Defenders of the Motherland. Among the battles featured on stone slabs there are the battle of Cedynia, battle of Grunwald, battle of Vienna, battle of Westerplatte, defence of Warsaw, Warsaw Uprising and the battle of Berlin, as well as other battles of World War II. A chapel to the right of the altar is devoted to the victims of the Katyn massacre. Approximately 15,000 small tablets mark the names of the Polish officers mass murdered by the NKVD in 1940, while additional 7000 wait for the names of those, whose bodies are yet to be found.
And down the stairs is the museum and shrine to those clergy who died. Noting that my dad speaks Polish and that we were very interested in the subject matter, the curator followed us around the exhibit interjecting some commentary. My dad discussed old Polish war movies and my mom and I walked on.
We entered a room dedicated to the 2010 Polish Air Force Tu-154 crash which occurred on 10 April 2010, when an aircraft of the Polish Air Force crashed near the city of Smolensk, Russia, killing all 96 people on board. These included the Polish president Lech Kaczyński and his wife, the chief of the Polish General Staff and other senior Polish military officers, the president of the National Bank of Poland, Poland’s deputy foreign minister, Polish government officials, 15 members of the Polish parliament, senior members of the Polish clergy, and relatives of victims of the Katyn massacre. They were en route from Warsaw to attend an event marking the 70th anniversary of the massacre; the site is approximately 19 kilometres west of Smolensk.
Over 10 clergy members perished leaving behind in the rubble: rosaries, rings, glasses, prayer books, cloaks, etc. all which we saw displayed in sand. A chilling reminder and compelling exhibit.