Tuesday 12 December 2017

Leader's twin 'like a robot' amid grief of Polish tragedy

Roger Boyes in Warsaw

Members of the Polish parliament wept yesterday as they remembered the 18 deputies and senators who died with their president in Saturday's air crash.

Only one MP refused to shed tears: Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the twin brother of President Kaczynski and the man who may yet replace him.

Jaroslaw (60) should have been on the doomed Tupolev 154 flight with the other 96 passengers but opted to stay in Warsaw to tend the twins' ailing mother, Jadwiga Kaczynska.

"He's like a robot at the moment," said one of his friends. "Jarek (Jaroslaw) is functioning at a public level but he's not sharing his feelings. He's wrapped up with the question of why he survived while his brother did not."

Joachim Brudzinski, a leading member of Jaroslaw's Law and Justice party, said: "I thought I was a hard man who could keep his emotions under control, since Saturday I have realised that I'm not that kind of person. We've been crying like babies."

Mr Brudzinski was also supposed to have been on the flight to western Russia to commemorate the 22,000 Polish officers and intellectuals killed in 1940 by Soviet forces in Katyn forest. Instead, he ended up going to Smolensk on a later flight to help Jaroslaw identify the dead president.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski was present at every stage of Poland's public mourning yesterday. When the body of his sister-in-law, Maria -- recognised only by the colour of her nail polish and her gold wedding ring -- arrived in Warsaw from Moscow, he was there to kiss the coffin.

The hearse wound its way through the streets to the presidential palace, before her body was taken to the small chapel in the palace for a blessing and family prayers. Then her coffin was placed next to her husband's. They will lie in state until Saturday.


After prayers, Mr Kaczynski went to the Polish parliament, standing in the front row, whey-faced. Bouquets of flowers lay on the desks of dead parliamentarians.

Jaroslaw wants his brother honoured as one of Poland's great leaders and appears to have persuaded the government to bury him in the crypt of the Wawel cathedral in Kracow.

US President Barack Obama is to attend the funeral on Sunday, along with a million Poles who are expected to crowd into Warsaw.

In an attempt to fill the gaping political vacuum caused by the crash, Poland's acting president, Bronislaw Komorowski, has pledged to announce a date for early presidential elections today. Under the Polish constitution polling will have to take place within 60 days, making a June election likely.

The key question being asked was whether the president's twin brother would attempt to step into his late brother's shoes.

But party politics took a backseat for most Poles yesterday. Marek Podgorska (17) was one of hundreds of Polish students who had been given the morning off classes to witness the event: "The whole class feels that this is such a terrible tragedy," he said. (© The Times, London)

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editors Choice

Also in World News