Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

AFRICA NEWS

Senegalese photographer's flashbacks to Africans throughout history

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Hollande photographed with Julie Gayet on Elysée Palace balcony

Read more

REVISITED

Is Beirut still haunted by ghosts of the civil war?

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

Band Aid 30 - Hit or Miss? Bob Geldof in Hot Water over Ebola Single

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

Deal or No Deal with Iran? Home Stretch to Reach Historic Agreement

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Football scandals: The ugly side of the beautiful game

Read more

#THE 51%

Ending violence against women: The dangers of trial by Twitter

Read more

#TECH 24

Tech giants under scrutiny: The problem with Uber

Read more

FOCUS

Inside an Iranian nuclear research reactor

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

2014-11-21 Iran

Inside an Iranian nuclear research reactor

Iran's nuclear objectives have long been a bone of contention between Tehran and members of the international community. While Iran claims its nuclear programme is solely for...

Read more

2014-11-20 Iran

Little support in Iran for nuclear negotiations with West

Representatives from Iran and the West have until Monday, November 24, to reach an agreement that would restrict Iran’s controversial nuclear programme in exchange for a lifting...

Read more

2014-11-19 Iran

Iranian Kurdish female fighters battle to fight IS group

Kurdish peshmerga fighters in Iraq are on the frontline of the battle against the Islamic State (IS) organisation. But for a young Iranian Kurdish fighter and her group, it’s a...

Read more

2014-11-18 Pakistan

Pakistan's blasphemy laws back in spotlight after murder of Christian couple

At the start of November, a young Christian couple in Pakistan's Punjab province were murdered by a mob of local villagers after rumours spread that the couple had committed...

Read more

2014-11-14 Iraq

On the frontline: Peshmerga fighters hold off Iraq's jihadists

Kurdish peshmerga forces are at the forefront of the international battle against the Islamic State group in Iraqi Kurdistan. Thousands of civilians were forced to flee their...

Read more