Mysterious deaths of high profile individuals haunt Poland
The theme of a series of unexplained suicides by prominent officials and experts, whose actions could have been damaging to those in circles of power, has once again surfaced in the media.
“In Poland unfortunately we also dealing with a series of mysterious deaths of influential people, who could have endangered powerful interest groups,” Bogdan Swieczkowski, former head of the Polish Internal Security Agency (ABW) and a retired public prosecutor, told Polish conservative weekly “Do Rzeczy,” September 16.
Swieczkowski compared the goings on in Poland to what has allegedly been happening in Russia for many years where “people who may turn out to be a danger to the regime or the interests of the secret services keep dying.”
Numerous internet publications and blogs have alleged throughout 2012 and 2013 that a large number of deaths have taken place in Poland under strange circumstances. These include a lack of suicide notes, signs of struggle, alleged missing evidence and delays in the start of post-humous investigations.
Perhaps one of the most prominent cases involves former deputy PM and agriculture minister, Andrzej Lepper, who allegedly hanged himself in August 2011. He was believed to have compromising material on leading Polish politicians and businesspeople. Lepper’s lawyer Dr. Ryszard Kucinski was also found dead a few months prior to his employer’s suicide. The same goes for Lepper’s advisor Wieslaw Podgorski (who committed suicide in June 2011) and his party colleague and lawyer Roza Zarska (found dead in Moscow in June 2011). Kucinski, Podgorski and Zarska are also believed by some journalists to have had access to the infamous compromising material.
General Slawomir Petelicki, the founder of Poland’s renowned special forces unit GROM, is unfortunately also on the list of potentially controversial suicides. Petelicki died in June 2012 in the underground garage of his apartment building in Warsaw. According to the official version of events, he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
The General did not leave a suicide note, but opinions as to the reasons behind his death were divided. Most of his friends and family expressed shock at the news. A few of his associates, including his friend General Gromoslaw Czempinski, stated publicly that the general had financial, professional and personal problems.
Politicians, bloggers and journalists from various Polish newspapers wrote that the General had been murdered, and some speculated on theories that the current government “takes out” its critics and potentially inconvenient sources of information.
Before his death Petelicki openly criticized the Polish government for a weak national security policy, ineffective public spending and corruption.
Another high-profile case, frequently mentioned in relation to the series of mysterious deaths is the case of Krzysztof Olewnik. Olewnik was the son of a local businessman from Plock, who was kidnapped in October 2001 for ransom and murdered in September 2003.
Olewnik’s alleged killers Wojciech Franiewski, Slawomir Kosciuk and Robert Pazik, were found dead in their prison cells in 2007, 2008 and 2009, respectively. Officially all three deaths were classified as suicide. However, these events caused a media and political storm leading to the resignation of Poland’s justice minister at the time, Zbigniew Cwiatkalski.
Several reportedly suspicious deaths were also noted during the investigation into the crash of the presidential airplane in April 2010.
The TU-154 crashed near the Russian town of Smolensk killing everyone on board, including Poland’s President Lech Kaczynski, his wife, and many other high-ranking politicians and military personnel.
The debate is additionally fueled by those who do not believe in the official version of events, which stipulates that the crash was nothing more than a horrific accident. Conspiracy theorists believe that the crash was planned and executed by the Russians with some help from Poland’s high ranked politicians.
To support this idea conspiracy theorists evoke the mysterious deaths of people who were in one way or another connected to the Smolensk accident.
These include: aircraft expert; Dariusz Szpineta, former deputy transport minister; Eugeniusz Wrobel, head of the archeological group that was to be sent to Smolensk to investigate the crash site; Marek Dulinicz, Mieczyslaw C. rumored to have received a phone call from one of the victims shortly after the plane crash and Grzegorz Michniewicz, director general at the prime minister’s chancellery (found hanged shortly after returning from an inspection of the crash site).
Perhaps the most controversial is the death of Remigiusz Mus, the pilot who landed a plane at the Smolensk airport on the same day but prior to the presidential plane crash. He was reportedly the last witness to a conversation held between the captain of the TU 154 and the control tower at Severny airport where the crash happened. Mus was found hanged in his basement. His family believes that he may have been coerced into taking his own life to protect them.
Szpineta, Wrobel, Dulnicz, Michniewicz and Mus could have been well placed to shed more light on the biggest tragedy in Poland’s recent history, had they lived to tell their story.
The atmosphere of pending threat has pushed a number of public figures to post declarations on the internet, stating that they have no intention of committing suicide.
Romuald Szeremietiew, former deputy defense minister, recorded a short video clip in 2012, stating that he had no financial or health issues, and that he had no intention of committing suicide. In the video he explains that he is acting for his own protection due to fears that he might be eliminated because of the knowledge he possesses.
Activist Elzbieta Kodym-Flanagan who publicly opposed multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation Monsanto also made a recording declaring that she had no intention of committing suicide.
Flanagan claimed that she was hit by a truck on purpose (she survived) and that her medical records were hacked and modified, adding a terminal disease to her medical chart.
Although the cases described in this article could have indeed been suicide by choice, the strange circumstances surrounding the deaths, and their bearing in the investigations that the subjects were often involved in, should not be dismissed lightly.
In fact, most of the mainstream Polish media has been strangely silent as to the above deaths. This is unusual considering the relative news value of the theories surrounding the supposedly unexplained deaths.
Photo courtesy of Polish news agency PAP/EPA.