Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

FOCUS

Morocco sees drop in tourist numbers

Read more

REPORTERS

Video: Welcome aboard the West African Express

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Migrant crisis: Is Calais the dead end on the migrant trail?

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other'

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Is there a future for French farming?

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Merkel's Migrant Conundrum

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

Japanese shares slump as global market sell-off continues

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Beyoncé's Black Power Message

Read more

EYE ON AFRICA

Defense lawyers say Hissene Habre had 'power of life and death' over his people

Read more

Our Focus programme brings you exclusive reports from around the world. From Monday to Friday at 7.45 am Paris time.

FOCUS

FOCUS

Latest update : 2010-04-19

A country in mourning: Poles prepare to bury their President and First Lady

He was a divisive figure in life and has proved just as divisive in death. The funeral of Polish President Lech Kaczynski and his wife Maria has been overshadowed by an argument over whether they should be buried in Wawel Cathedral in Krakow, an honour usually reserved for past kings and national heroes. But the final decision has now been taken, and Wawel Cathedral will indeed be their final resting place.

Since Saturday, Poles have been flocking to the presidential palace in Warsaw in their tens of thousands. They stand, usually quietly, in the beating sun or drizzling rain. Some wait their turn to go inside and pay their last respects to Lech Kaczynski and his wife, Maria; some just come to lay flowers or candles.


There are so many candles now outside the presidential palace that you can feel their warmth as you walk down the street. And you can feel a certain warmth in the atmosphere, too, as Poles pull together in their grief.


But at the same time, cracks are starting to appear in the national unity the country has been displaying since Saturday’s terrible plane crash. The decision to bury the presidential couple at Wawel Cathedral in Kraków has sparked controversy. As demonstrators' banners put it, “Wawel is for Kings, Warsaw is for Presidents”.


Kaczynski will be the first president to be buried at the 14th-century cathedral in Poland’s former royal capital. It is not only kings who are buried there, but also heroes such as Josef Pilsudski, credited with regaining independence for Poland in 1918. Many do not feel that Kaczynski should be given such heroic treatment. “He died in a plane crash, that’s all,” said Patrice Gren at Wednesday’s demonstration in Warsaw. “He was not a popular president. This is ridiculous.”


To people like Edward Dulewicz of the conservative KPN organisation, on the other hand, the late President emphatically was a hero. “He will go down in Polish history because he fought against communism and totalitarianism,” says Dulewicz.


Some supporters of Kaczynski were even to be found among the demonstrators. The administrator of a Facebook page set up to organise protests – who did not wish to be named – was very keen to stress that “we bear him great respect and honour. It is not our idea to 'break the society' or cause any more problems than we already have.”


Among the victims of Saturday’s accident there are other heroes of the Poland struggle against communism and totalitarianism. Perhaps foremost among them is Anna Walentynowicz, godmother of the Solidarity movement in Gdansk. Ryszard Kaczorowski, the last President of the Polish government in exile, which met in London from the Second World War right up until 1989, was also on the plane. Poles lined the route of his funeral procession from the airport to the centre of Warsaw on Thursday, as they had done for Lech Kaczynski and his wife. “We’re burying the wrong president in Krakow – Kaczorowski is the one who should go to Wawel”, one remarked.

By Gulliver CRAGG

COMMENT(S)

Archives

2016-02-09 tourism

Morocco sees drop in tourist numbers

Unlike its neighbours, particularly Tunisia, Morocco has been spared terrorist attacks in recent years. The last one was five years ago. But tourist numbers are still down.

Read more

2016-02-08 Tunisia

Arab Spring's unfulfilled promises

In January, Tunisia saw a week of protests as people voiced their anger over unemployment and corruption. The country is often held up as an example of one which survived the...

Read more

2016-02-05 children

Transgender children: Embracing the transition process

A generation ago, only adults would go through the daunting, but often liberating, process of changing their gender. Today, a growing number of children and adolescents undergo...

Read more

2016-02-04 Syria

Syrian refugees forced into statelessness

In Lebanon one in five people is now a Syrian refugee. The country closed its borders over a year ago, and the government has become more restrictive in issuing residence...

Read more

2016-02-03 jihad

Belgium's Molenbeek seeks to restore tarnished image

In the wake of the Paris terror attacks, the working-class district of Molenbeek, in the suburbs of the Belgian capital Brussels, was blamed. As the days passed, the...

Read more