VIRGIN MARY OF SMOLENSK
In recent years, much has been said about Katyn and the tragic events that had occurred there back in 1940. Today, one cannot reflect on these tragedies without also recalling the catastrophic plane crash in Smolensk on April 10th, 2010. The village of Katyn became irreversibly linked with the city of Smolensk, and the two will forever represent great wounds in Poland’s history.
On the Smolensk-Sewernyj military airfield, en route to commemorate the Katyn massacre, Poland’s presidential airplane crashed, killing president Lech Kaczynski and his wife, Poland’s highest military officials, numerous representatives of the nation’s political elite, and representatives of Katyn Families .
It seems like only yesterday that I was talking to my friend, Leszek Solski, about his forthcoming journey to visit the crude gravesite of his father, uncle, and thousands of others. With somber heart, he was anxiously awaiting this opportunity to at last commemorate his kin and he promised to share his experience with me upon his return.
He was unable to keep this promise. He and 95 others never arrived in Katyn.
I have thought of my friend often since the tragedy and of the many others who died. In my own attempt to memorialize those 96 individuals, I began sketching and my sketches eventually grew into my most recent icon, the Virgin Mary of Smolensk. Though the centre of the icon features the traditional image of the Virgin Mary of Smolensk, I have adapted specific details to reflect the disastrous events of that early April morning. The insignia of the Polish air force, a white and red checker pattern, is represented in the four corners of the frame of this icon. Also in the frame rest 96 white crosses, in light of the 96 lives lost.
In iconography, the colour red symbolizes love, warmth, and life. Red is a symbol of resurrection; of life’s victory over death. However, it is also the color of martyrdom. White represents God’s Universe. It is a color of purity, holiness, and simplicity.
It is my hope that this icon may one day comfort others the way creating it has brought comfort to me. It is my hope that this icon respectfully remembers those who perished in that plane and reminds us of what they intended to do on that day
(Translation to English by Emily Charczuk)