Thursday 23 November 2017

Mourners flood the streets as president's body brought home

Monika Scislowska in Warsaw

Tens of thousands of Poles softly sang the national anthem and tossed flowers at the hearse carrying the body of President Lech Kaczynski to the presidential palace yesterday.

The coffin bearing Mr Kaczynski's remains was met first by his daughter Marta, whose mother Maria also perished in the crash. She knelt before it, her forehead resting on the coffin.

She was followed by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the former prime minister and the president's twin brother. He, too, knelt and pressed his head against the flag-draped coffin.

There was no sign of the twins' mother Jadwiga, who is in hospital. The president had cancelled several foreign trips lately to be by her side.

Earlier, the country held two minutes silence in memorial for those killed in the crash.

Church bells pealed at noon and emergency sirens shrieked for nearly a minute before fading. Hundreds bowed their heads, eyes closed, in front of the presidential palace. Buses and trams halted in the streets. No date for a funeral has been set.

The death of the president and much of Poland's state and defence establishment in Russia, en route to commemorating one of the most tragic events in Poland's long, complicated history, was laden with tragic irony.

Hundreds gathered for a morning Mass and left flowers and written condolences.

Government spokesman Pawel Gras said the country's armed forces and state offices were operating normally despite the devastating losses.


Mr Kaczynski's twin brother flew to Smolensk, Russia, on Saturday evening and identified the body of his brother and sister-in-law.

In Warsaw's historic centre, large sections of the street were blocked to traffic to allow the flow of people expressing their grief. Mourners carried candles and roses and queued to sign a book of condolences in the palace.

Children placed simple drawings and messages of mourning. "I love our president," said one.

Russian president Dmitry Medvedev declared today a day of mourning in Russia.

Irish Independent

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