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Polish professor speaks about countrys turmoil in wake of tragedy
President and other leaders killed Saturday in plane crash
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Anna Rulska, a native of Poland and an assistant professor at North Georgia College & State University in Dahlonega, talks about her initial reactions to Saturday’s plane crash that killed Poland’s president and dozens of other leaders.

Investigators have said that human error may have caused Saturday’s plane crash that killed Poland’s president and dozens of other national leaders.

But Anna Rulska, a native of the central European country now living in Lumpkin County, believes Poles think differently.

“Some Poles think automatically the Russians had something to do with this,” said Rulska, an assistant professor at North Georgia College & State University in Dahlonega.

Poland has long held bitterness toward Russia.

The Soviet Union invaded the country in 1939 only to be expelled later by the Nazis. And then it reoccupied the country in 1944, instituting a Communist government.

In speculating about the cause of the crash, Polish media have focused on a 2008 incident in which people aboard the presidential plane said President Lech Kaczynski pressured pilots — unsuccessfully — to land in Georgia during the war there with Russia in 2008.

The 88-member Polish delegation aboard the plane was on its way to Smolensk, Russia, where Kaczynski was due to visit the nearby site marking the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre, a mass murder of Polish nationals by Soviet secret police.

As Rulska told a Gainesville audience at a March 29 political forum concerning Russia, it’s hard to find anyone who dislikes Russians more than Poles.

In an interview earlier this week, Rulska said she heard about the plane crash from her mother, who called her Saturday morning from her home in Poland.

“I was pretty shocked,” said Rulska, 33, who came to the U.S. at age 17 as part of a student exchange program and is now here on a work visa.

She said her first thoughts were “how is the country going to function ... (and) is this going to cause any sort of backslide in democracy?”

Now, though, her bigger concerns are the loss of military leaders on the plane, as the president is more of a political figurehead.

The country is governed by a prime minister and his cabinet.

“All the heads of the (military) branches were on that plane, so for NATO and the (European Union), that creates somewhat of a significant worry,” Rulska said.

Also, “there was a lot of history on that plane,” she said.

The president of Poland’s government in exile during Communist rule was killed, along with some of the founding Solidarity trade union members.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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