Don't miss




American choreographer DD Dorvillier makes Paris her stage, step by step

Read more


The Philippines' deadly war on drugs

Read more


What's the price of a 'pain au chocolat'?

Read more


'What's Wallonia's deal?'

Read more


Canadian, EU leaders hopeful of saving trade deal

Read more


Trump advisor: 'Muslim Americans would be first to help with immigrant vetting'

Read more


Cameroon mourns train crash victims

Read more


Support as well as criticism online for evacuation of Calais 'Jungle' camp

Read more


Calais migrant camp dismantled: Short-term solution to long-term problem? (part 1)

Read more

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



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



2016-10-24 France

What next for migrant children after France clears Calais 'Jungle' camp?

As French authorities move in to clear the huge migrant camp near the northern city of Calais, questions remain about the fate of the children who've been living in the "Jungle"....

Read more

2016-10-21 Cameroon

Revisiting a dark chapter in France and Cameroon's history

In this edition we revisit a little-known period in the history of France and Cameroon. In the 1950s and 1960s, the French army fought alongside Cameroonian government forces...

Read more

2016-10-20 Germany

German authorities struggle with radical Salafist preachers

Hundreds of young Germans have joined the ranks of the Islamic State group. Many of them were radicalised in Germany by Salafist preachers well known to the authorities. Our team...

Read more

2016-10-19 US Presidential Election 2016

US presidential race: Women voters divided over Trump

US presidential candidate Donald Trump's recent lewd remarks about women have no doubt alienated many female voters. Both he and his rival Hillary Clinton need to get women...

Read more

2016-10-18 China

Chinese authorities clamp down on tiny Jewish community

In China, only five religions are officially recognised by the state and Judaism is not one of them. The eastern city of Kaifeng is home to a tiny Jewish community that dates...

Read more