Polish prez, wife given emotional farewell
Millions of Poles glued to television sets and thousand teary-eyed men and women, gathered in the historic city of Krakow on Sunday, gave an emotive farewell to Polish President Lech Kaczynski and his wife Maria, who died in a horrific aircrash in Russia eight days ago. See picsworld Updated: Apr 19, 2010 01:39 IST
Millions of Poles glued to television sets and thousand teary-eyed men and women gathered in this historic city on Sunday gave an emotive farewell to Polish President Lech Kaczynski and his wife Maria, who died in a horrific aircrash in Russia eight days ago.
Several world leaders joined Poland in a national mourning not witnessed in the country since 1935, with a Church leader upstaging politicians by calling for reconciliation with Russia.
The April 10 aircrash also killed 94 other Poles, including top political and military leaders, all of whom were flying to western Russia to mark the 70th anniversary of the massacre of Poles by Russian troops.
From the city's mediaeval market square where St. Mary's Basilica is situated, the coffins of the first couple were carried along a route lined with Polish flags with black ribbons and photos of the couple.
The president's body, along with that of his wife, was laid to rest in the crypt of Wawel Cathedral, the final resting place of Poland's kings, national heroes and saints. They were given a 21-gun salute.
It was the greatest state funeral in the history of Polish nation since 1935 when Josef Pilsudski, who liberated Poland, was buried here.
Earlier, a funeral mass was attended by the Polish leaders, along with many foreign heads of states.
The mass was held by Cardinal Stanislaw Dzwisz who took the initiative to select the burial site for the Kaczynski couple.
In his address, he pleaded openly for a process of reconciliation with Russia. Pleading directly to the Russian president for a new friendship between the two Slavic countries, he upstaged the ruling politicians.
He said: "The sympathy and help we have received from Russian brothers has breathed new life into a hope for closer relations and reconciliation between the two nations." Once again he demonstrated the active role the Church played in Polish history and politics to the assembled audience and the world at large.
Among the foreign dignitaries, only heads of states from East European countries could reach to attend the ceremony. The prominent among them was Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, whose plane could land at Krakow airport despite flying restrictions.
The volcanic ash which covered the airspace in Europe in the last four days did not allow many foreign dignitaries to attend the funeral.
They could have come had the funeral date been postponed for a few days. But the Kaczynski family insisted that the funeral should not be postponed even for a single day.
Those who could not make it to Poland were US President Barack Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, Prince Charles of Britain and many other leaders.
From within Poland, former president Lech Walesa did not attend the fineral service because he ahd developed sharp differences with President Lech Kaczynski.
Indian charge d affaires Rajesh Vaishnaw represented the country.
First Published: Apr 18, 2010 21:40 IST