Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

Trump accuses Google of 'suppressing bad news about Clinton'

Read more

THE DEBATE

What's the deal with oil? Saudi Arabia's about-face on OPEC (part 2)

Read more

THE DEBATE

What's the deal with oil? Saudi Arabia's about-face on OPEC (part 1)

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

Dublin courts post-Brexit business

Read more

FOCUS

Afghanistan's national unity government faces political deadlock

Read more

REPORTERS

World War I: When northern France was on German time

Read more

INSIDE THE AMERICAS

Mixed reactions to historic Colombia peace deal

Read more

ENCORE!

The adventures of Hergé: Tintin's creator in the limelight

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

Carmakers rev up for Paris Motor Show

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

2016-09-29 Afghanistan

Afghanistan's national unity government faces political deadlock

As part of a power-sharing deal agreed back in 2014, Afghanistan's government was supposed to introduce several ambitious reforms before its two-year anniversary this Thursday....

Read more

2016-09-28 Algeria

Will France repatriate its collection of 19th century Algerian skulls?

Today we report on a little-known chapter of the French conquest of Algeria: the Algerian fighters shot and beheaded in the mid-19th century for resisting French colonialism....

Read more

2016-09-27 civil rights

Video: 'Buy Black' movement gains momentum in US

In the US city of Atlanta, the birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr., a group of residents have started a "Buy Black" movement, inspired by the civil rights struggle. These...

Read more

2016-09-26 Libya

FRANCE 24 exclusive: The last stand for Libya’s Oil Crescent

While filming a report about a militia leader allied with the internationally recognised Libyan government in Tripoli, FRANCE 24 journalists witnessed the takeover of a key oil...

Read more

2016-09-23 UK

The battle for UK Labour’s leadership

D-Day is fast approaching for the embattled leader of Britain's Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn. Just a year ago, the election of this radical London MP brought about a sharp swing...

Read more