There are a few aspects of this disaster that deserve further exploration at a later date, however, the question of whether President Kaczyński (and his wife) should be buried in Wawel Cathedral is, judging by reactions, something we should cover immediately. Furthermore, this is definitely an area where we foreigners need help to be able to better understand the feelings behind the reactions.

My wife and I were discussing the burial yesterday and the only options we settled on were:

  1. Powąski Cemetery – where numerous illustrious Poles rest including composer Stanislaw Moniuszko, pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman, Noble-prize winner Wladyslaw Reymont, film director Krzysztof Kieslowski, actor Tadeusz Lomnicki.
  2. Warsaw Cathedral – which houses the likes of the last Polish monarch Stanislaw August Poniatowski, presidents of Poland Gabriel Narutowicz and Ignacy Moscicki and renowned Polish writer Henryk Sienkiewicz.
  3. A more private location perhaps previously instructed by the family.
  4. A specially created tomb that would somehow provide a collective resting place for all of the victims of this crash but with special attention given to the President & his wife.

Wawel, which boasts undoubtedly the strongest collection of tombs every one being a truly legendary Pole, did not make our list. I did actually think of mentioning it but decided not to as I’d only get one of those “you just don’t understand” looks. The inference being I suppose that we didn’t consider such treatment was appropriate in this case. I think in our mind, burial at Wawel would have been entirely appropriate for Pope John Paul II, for example, had he returned home but in general it would need to be someone of that stature to justify it.

It is therefore fair to say that yesterday’s news that they are to be buried at Wawel came as something of a surprise and it appears that we are not alone. Also rather surprising is the news that the late President’s twin-brother Jaroslaw Kaczynski and his daughter Marta were given a free choice of three locations – Wawel, Powązki & Warsaw Cathedral – and not unexpectedly chose the first option. I’d do the same given the choice and the power to decide, we probably all would.

I think therefore it is fair to ask why this decision has been made, or perhaps more accurately to ask why Wawel was on the short-list of options from which the family could choose? Furthermore to wonder whether, for example, the family of Lech Walęsa or Aleksander Kwaśniewski will be given the same freedom of choice when the time comes?

In trying to understand this I’ve jotted down a few possibilities for either the decision or for the reaction it is causing (in no particular order):

  • Warsaw-Krakow rivalry – is there as much questioning of this decision in Krakow as there is in Warsaw?
  • Logistics – I’m struggling to imagine how Obama and all the other assembled dignitaries would work their way through Powąski’s narrow alleys or even the streets of the old town, especially with the attending media and public.
  • Showing off – it’s not often Poland gets this much publicity, the world will be watching for the people that are attending let alone the people being laid to rest. How can Poland give the world the best impression?
  • Confusion – this doesn’t happen often, in fact it’s never happened before so is there an element of just not having any better ideas and not having any preordained plan for such occasions either in terms of where to bury people or to know who or which committee makes such decisions?
  • Sympathy – who can blame anyone for displaying a lot of this at the moment, in the heat of this moment but could this lead to a case of “bury in haste, repent at leisure”?
  • Inconsistency – is it possible to form any conclusions about who should be buried where based on who is already buried where? Has there been any kind of consistent approach in the past or is it just a big mess?
  • Expediency – there needs to be a burial soon and Wawel is the only place able to deal with that at short notice.

I have a lot of questions, I don’t have any answers and I’m not qualified to be providing them anyway. There are going to be one hell of a lot of Polish citizens somewhere in the range between slightly miffed and downright furious about this decision so I think it would be very prudent of whoever has to explain it (if anyone feels that should be done) to have a clear answer that covers not only the present situation but also the past and future. This is not a decision that should be made for matters of short term expediency, this is history we’re dealing with and as far as I can tell this stuff has very strong currents. Poles love their heroes, their kings, their illustrious forefathers it’s in the blood and I think they/you take this stuff extremely seriously. It’s absolutely crucial, I believe, in the absence of any clearly laid down official protocol (if there is one and it is being followed then this post is pointless!) that a large majority of the population are 100% behind this decision, that the nation feels that it has made this decision or at the very least feels that those that have made the decision have made the right one. The people must collectively agree that President Kaczyński is suitably qualified to be treated in such a way. It is essential that Poles for centuries to come can walk around Wawel Cathedral with the same sense of pride as they have today. Or a greater one, of course.

I should add that the response I’ve had from many people this morning starts with “Why are you interested?”, meaning it is a personal matter and not for discussion. This is then followed up by a general feeling that they would not make the same decision but will respect the family’s wishes.

117 thoughts on “Wawel?

  1. Just woke up and logged in to facebook. The voices opposing their burial on Wawel are spawning:

    NO for burying Kaczynscy on Wawel!

    NO for national stadium named after Kaczynski!

    YES for national stadium on Wawel ;)

    I am ashamed for deputy Artur Gorski (who in an interview for Nasz Dziennik said it’s almost sure Russians are to blame for a tragedy)

    I also want to be buried on Wawel.

    No for terrorist attack on Wawel

    Wawel only for kings and really distinguished Poles

    Powązki, not Wawel.

    People organise marches to protest against. Probably it will all go in vain, but the power of civil society is heartening.

  2. When the initial news of the tradegy calmed down, I began to think that the 96 victims would go and be buried in their own communities (including the Kaczynski’s). My feeling was that it affected all of Poland, and those that died hailed from all parts of Poland and thus would be returned to their own part of Poland to ‘finish’ the mourning period.

    The decision to go to Wawel was interesting, and I believe that image is a big part of it – with Obama, Sarkozy et al coming in, the necessity to make a good impression will be important. I believe this is to show that Poland is strong and will carry on.

    I feel that burying the President in this way will ‘glorify’ him, probably above where he would have been had this tragedy not happened. So, of course the family will want to make the biggest deal of it as possible, and in that regard their decision makes sense.

    However my impression of Wawel has been that it’s the resting point of Polish kings, heroes and revered persons – and I just don’t see Kaczynski fitting the bill. If those in power wanted to give him some glory, they could name the new national stadium in Warsaw after him – but Wawel seems to have been the choice based on image more than anything else in my mind.

  3. I understand the pain of families and friends, but I, as a Pole think we overreacted a little. With 4 more days to come we will probably blow this much more.

    Kaczyński was probably a good man, he also was (not very bad) president, his image was destroyed by oponents before his death, and now the process is going in reverse in 7 days. So it all looks a little ridiculus for me. Praising and the cult of the person, almost like after the Pope death. I understand – “About the dead only good words or no words”. But why all the day everything in media is about that?

  4. scatts – agree with all your conclusions – found yesterday http://tinyurl.com/y6nj7sr where kś. Pieronek agrees with you also – saying (before the actual final decision was made):

    – W tej sprawie wszyscy powinni mieć szansę zabrania głosu. Rodzina, bo to ich bliski krewny. Lech Kaczyński był prezydentem narodu, więc i naród powinien mieć szansę zabrania głosu w tej sprawie. I powinien być to głos decydujący. Podejmowanie decyzji na kolanie jest przedwczesne. Może dobrym rozwiązaniem byłoby pochowanie go tymczasowo w godnym miejscu, a trwały pochówek zostawić na późniejszy czas.

    Wawel to też pewne tradycje. Ostatnie pochówki to generał Sikorski i Piłsudski. W katedrze leżą królowie, królowe, ale nie ma prezydenta. Prezydenci są chowani w stolicy, a stolica została przeniesiona do Warszawy i to jest naturalne miejsce spoczynku prezydenta.

    Jest jeszcze szereg innych racji, żeby zamiast podejmować pochopną decyzję, otworzyć dyskusję, ale nie polityczną, tylko wypływającą z dojrzałej kultury i tradycji.

    (chance for you to practice your Polish )

  5. I do not see any problems there. In a couple of years Kaczynski still can be moved to Warsaw, for example to the swiatynia opatrznosci when it is ready (now it is a huge construction site).

    Right now Wawel is a good decision. Lech Kaczynski is a symbol of a huge tragedy with a lot of victims. And maybe the future will show us that this tradegy and Lech Kaczynski brought Russia and Poland together and helped people around the world to understand what KATYN and communism really means. This would be an amazing accomplishment, even if the price was too high.

    ps: I feel ashamed by people like Bartek and all the other facebook users. A really sad image. Kaczynski was an average president, but he was a great man who started his great career in the 70s and not in 2005. The younger generation simply does not get it. They do not get it that Kaczynski was in prison in his fight for freedom, and that HE was Lech Walesa’s “brain”. They do not get it that it was lech Kaczynski who let the world know that powstanie wasrzawskie and powstanie w gettcie are two separate things.

  6. I am very sorry because of all this terrible turmoil. I disagree with the decision about burying Kaczyński and his wife in Wawel, mostly because I think this decision is really agenst them. I am absolutely sure they would not like it! Mrs Kaczyńska was a very nice and MODEST person, she would feel embarrassed with this whole idea. Kaczyński was much more connected to Warsaw and I am sure he also would prefer to be bury in the capitol. Somebody made this decision and persuaded the family to agree… I am sure it was Kraków’s goverment decision – they wanted show off and get some attention from the world… I find it extramely hipocritical (cauple of weeks ago some of them didnt want to give Kaczyński the honour citizenship!) I am very sorry about this whole situation. Specially because all these turmoil is happening over the coffins, during the nationas mourning. Somebody who made this decision (Dziwisz?) made a big misteake and did something wrong to the Kaczyński family… (Sorry for my English)

  7. My wife brought this up yesterday – after I’d already read about it. She’s pretty irritated since, as she aptly noted, there was nothing heroic about his death and nothing great about his presidency – adding that if he’s a hero then so is ever schmuck who dies on Poland’s roads every day. However, if someone was stupid enough to offer Wawel to his brother and his brother is egotistical enough to take it… then that’s that I guess.

    Here’s the good news: famous people NEVER spend long in the ground in Poland. They’ll have him in and out of the grave so often (“just gotta check one more thing and do one more test!”) that they ought to install a revolving door at the grave site.

    PS: if I was ol’ Lech I’d be kind of pissed at being buried in a city I never spent any time in and more or less openly disliked.

  8. Quick follow-up to my own comment: I figured they offered Wawel because, collectively, the 96 people were worthy but since you can’t put them all in there they settled on two.

  9. Perhaps he wasn’t the best Polish politician ever. But considering how many undeserved insults he had to endure throughout his time in office, Pere Lachaise or Westminster Abbey wouldn’t be enough.

  10. Please count my vote – YES for Wawel. It is the only place in Poland that has a gravity to be remembered for generations to come, especially in the world and remind people WHY this president died in this flight, WHY was he flying out to Katyn and what for. This has the biggest meaning in all this tragedy and maybe their death would not be in vain if in 20 years time tourists visiting Wawel will be told what KATYN was. This will always be associated with Lech Kaczynski’s name and this is his victory. He was one of the few who understood the importance of being proud of your history and what happens if you don’t maitain the historical truth – you will be wiped out of the map again. It happened so many times in our history just becuase we can’t appreciate what we’ve got as a nation.
    This means the most to me in this tragedy – that the history will not be twisted again and
    I know Wawel is the place that the whole world will recognize in the future.

    Just an example from my office today :
    I told a French girl about the president’s funeral at Wawel in Krakow…
    – What is Wawel ? she’s asking
    – Wawel is our Kings’ Castle where they all are buried (I’m answering)
    – So you had Kings in Poland !!??? ( with eyes wide open)
    No comment.

    That is why I am voting YES for Wawel.

  11. indeed, my initial thoughts were also that the church was instrumental in the decision and that the President and his wife would prefer Warsaw. I have read that they actually liked Kraków very much, unlike Brad think he was a good president, but agree it should not be the final resting place. Otherwise should all Presidents be buried there, tragically killed ot otherwise? No, Świątynia Opaczności, once it’s finished, gets my vote. This would be a much more fitting plave for the present and future departed Presidents (if that be their wish – Wałesa I’m pretty certain would prefer Gdansk).

  12. Guest, I really appreciate all merits of Mr Kaczynski, but I think none of living Poles deserves burial on Wawel. This is a place for absolutely outstanding people. He was an average president, an average mayor of Warsaw (he did built Warsaw Uprising Museum, but what about other developments?) and there were many other people who fought for free Poland and truth (and were imprisoned for it). None of them derserves such a honour. I am against exagerration. If it was Mt Tusk, Mr Wałęsa, Mr Balcerowicz believe me, I’d protest too.

    And facebook – this a platform which enables quick communication and gives its users chance to support causes the identify with. If thousands of people joined groups against funderal on Wawel that means something. And if the news item that Poles are against Kaczynski’s burial of Wawel it means facebook works.

  13. My first instinct was to stay well away from this subject. I’m not Polish and, therefore, my opinion on the matter is of no importance whatsoever. In fact, I think it would be a genuine moral wrong for a non-Pole to sign-up to petitions or take part in demonstrations for or against the choice of Wawel as a burial site.

    I think it is okay for us to speculate on the reasons for the choice though, and since this is the thrust of Scatt’s article and of comments by non-Poles so far I feel reasonably comfortable adding my thoughts on the matter here, for what they’re worth.

    1. Precedent

    As Scatts points out, there isn’t one. The last president of an independent Poland to die while Poland was itself independent was Gabriel Narutowicz in 1922, almost a century ago. There is no established custom. Maybe all Polish presidents, as heads of state, will be buried at Wawel.

    2. ‘Showing off’

    I don’t think this comes into it. Ninety-nine percent of the rest of the world have no idea what Wawel is or know anything of it’s significance. Nobody watching from outside Poland is going to say ‘Wow, they’re burying them at Wawel!’

    3. Symbolism

    My best guess is that Wawel was chosen because the president and his wife are being treated as symbols of a national disaster. While it’s clearly questionable whether Kaczyński was of sufficient stature in the history of Poland to warrant burial at Wawel, I don’t think there is any doubt that the Smolensk disaster is an event of sufficient importance to warrant a memorial at Wawel.

    The fact that Maria Kaczyńska is also to be buried at Wawel is the big clue here. I’m sure she was a lovely person, but she clearly has no claim as a figure of historical importance. The ‘first family’ (president and his wife) are being treated as the symbols of a national tragedy. The national tragedy is not the death of the president, it is the violent death of a swathe of public figures on their way to an event that is iconic of Poland’s suffering.

    The funeral will be a symbolic focus of grief for the entire tragedy, just as the arrival of the president’s body back in Poland on Sunday was a symbolic return of the missing. I’m sure a large proportion of those who turned out to see the hearse were not personal supporters of Kaczyński, they were there because he represented the broader tragedy. That’s essentially the job of a head of state.

    4. Krakow pride
    AN79 makes a very good point above. It wasn’t long ago that Krakow’s city authorities caused a major embarrassment to Kaczyński by arguing about whether he deserved honorary citizenship. The fact that the city is now willing to have him buried at Wawel is another big indicator to me that this is about the president as a symbol of a national disaster and not at all about the president as a man or a politician.

    5. Family pride
    There have been some hints that the Wawel burial is some kind of personal triumph for the surviving members of the Kaczyński family. I find this very hard to swallow. Clearly it’s an honour to have a family member buried in Wawel, but it must pall into nothingness at a time like this. Who would really want their brother, father, or mother buried in such a public and significant place? How are you going to visit the graves? You can’t just pop down there on a Sunday afternoon when you feel like it. There’s going to be a media circus for years every time a Kaczyński goes anywhere near Wawel. Think of the daughter, Marta, who has already had to go through the appalling experience of meeting the returning coffins of her mother and her father in the full glare of public and media scrutiny. If anything, this is a sacrifice for the family.

  14. Who gave Jaroslaw Kaczynski the opportunity to choose between the three sites?

    Maybe he should have also been given the option of having him buried in the Kosciuszko Mound.

    I also heard that the resting site would be somewhere adjacent to Pilsudski’s in the Wawel crypts…. Has anyone else heard this?

  15. I’m an old fart and I don’t think Kaczynski was a great man or even an average president. His loss is to be mourned as is the loss of all the people on that plane who dies as a result of somebody’s decision to land the plane in terrible conditions after having been warned repeatedly how dangerous any such attempt would be.

  16. Uh, but as per a post above, it was Jaroslaw Kaczynski, presented with three options, who chose the Wawel. Seems political considerations weighed predominant in his choice rather than what may well have been the wishes of his brother and wife to be buried in Warsaw.

  17. Again, if anybody knows who had the authority to present the three choices to Jaroslaw, please post the information here. Thanks.

  18. Jarosław was Lech’s brother and tradition says the family should choose the place. Still – I think Jarosław was persuaded by some people from the goverment and church that Wawel would be a good idea. As far as I know he wanted his brother to be buried in Warsaw, so dont criticise him. I am sure it wasnt an easy decision for him, respect that!

  19. Recently heard of a letter from Andrzej Wajda and Krystyna Zachwatowicz-Wajda appealing to the church to change their minds re the place of burial, and saying that they find it highly inappropriate to be justifying it as a ‘family’ decision.
    Now there’s talk Kaczorowski would be buried there also.
    If Jarosław is responsible for the decision it will really do his party no good at all in the long run http://mylilefeluke.blogspot.com/

    Hate this political aspect cropping up so soon.

  20. It’s obvious that there is no better way of remembering this national Tragedy than to construct a piramid for Kaczynski in Krakow. Or better two.

  21. Tradition says family can choose the place of burial? Then when I die, I hope my wife chooses to bury me in the Wawel, too.

    On what basis do you think Jaroslaw was persuaded to choose to bury his brother in the Wawel? Who from the Church persuaded him? Who from the government? Did it take much of an effort to convince him?

    If he wanted to have his brother buried in Warsaw, he could have done so.

    I still want to know who gave him the options.

  22. Great post guys! 100% definitely NO for burial at Wawel. Would we react this way if President Kaczynski was the only one on that plane? This is a huge tragedy because 96 of some of Poland’s most dedicated and talented people have died not just one president.

  23. In the end, it’s a decision for the family and the church. Church is curate of Wawel, and as the President’s minister Andrzej Duda says – this wasn’t the family’s idea but they gave their approval. It won’t be convenient for the family etc, and despite my original objections, I’ve changed my mind and am happy to support what they decide. None of my business after all. And to cap it all, it will make a splendid place to receive all the dignitaries. Arguments can be held later if need be – but I think we should leave well alone.

  24. Ad, you know, I’m not sure we should leave it alone. If this were the UK and they were burying Ken Livingstone in Westminster Abbey next to Darwin, Newton, Dickens, Chaucer, Gladstone, Elizabeth 1 or Edward the Confessor, I would be more tempted to forget about it than I am this.


    Because large chunks of UK citizens know and care far less about their history and nation than do the Poles. No point getting het up about it.

    Poland, however, is a very different story. I’ve seen so many times over the years Polish people standing firm on the side of government, President, nation even when it seemed to me a silly thing to do. When those same people now tell you they don’t agree and don’t understand this, you know you’ve got a big problem. These are people who know their history and care about it. All the more serious when you know they are not complaining because they just didn’t like Kaczyński but because of something more fundamental to the Polish nation.

  25. All I know is I wouldn’t want to be the Church official responsible for giving Jaroslaw the choice and then finding out that Lech was responsible for commandeering the pilot to land as might be proven by the cockpit recordings. Hmmm, maybe that’s why Moscow is so slow to publically release them.

    And I still haven’t seen any documentation that it was the choice of anyone other than Jaroslaw to have Lech buried in the Wawel. It seems he had two other choices presented to him by some Church official as well: Powązki & Warsaw Cathedral. If he didn’t make the choice, who twisted his arm?

    My bet is that orders were given and orders were followed but that the pilot will be blamed.

    For those of you who think this will be a big boost for recognition of Poland in the US, my guess is that most Americans are wondering how the Unibomber got out of jail and became president of Poland.

  26. I know where they’re coming from, after all my initial reaction was the same. I’ve just come to the conclusion that it’s not worth the hassle, if only for ones own peace of mind at this time. Draw the knives later if you (not you specifically) want, get all high and mighty about it etc later. I’ve been reading about this and listening to different opinions and come to the conclusion, that if Sikorski could be buried there, then so can Kaczyński. Let those who loved them bury them where they want. I agree with Island and think, that once the dust settles, most people will come round to a similar point of view. If not at least the discussions will be taking place after and not before they are ‘cold in the ground’.

  27. I don’t think that within another generation Lech Kaczyński will be remembered for much of anything, President of Poland, Warsaw, builder of museums, homophobe, patriot, flight instructor, identical twin (well, maybe), fervent Catholic, or whatever. He will, however be connected with Katyń, and that terrible accident, and all the symbolic luggage that travels with it. With luck, he might become associated with a turning point in Polish-Russian relations. It’s Katyń, all those who were executed there, all those who died on the flight with him, and the memory of that blighted spot, that is being commemorated in Wawel.

  28. Seems some folks may think Dziwisz may be the authority who presented Jaroslaw with the choice. But how could he preside over any choices outside his Krakow diocese?

    According to a recent BBC article:

    “Hundreds of people staged a protest in front of the residence of Krakow’s Archbishop, Stanislaw Dziwisz, on Tuesday evening, carrying banners reading: “Not Krakow, not Wawel”, and “Are you sure he is the equal of kings?”

    I think Jaroslaw will soon enough set himself up as the legacy of his great patriot brother interned and honored in the Wawel as he assumes the PIS candidacy for president.

    Even if it was Lech who ordered the pilots to land.

  29. I would much rather commemorate it in Powązki Wojskowe, where the entirety of the last 75 years of Polish history – both good and bad – is carved in tombstones. Unlike Wawel, Powązki are a living memory – an endless sea of candles on every November 1st.

    But I guess neither the fallen heroes of the Uprising, nor the Solidarity’s prisoners of conscience, are worthy enough to rest in such a splendid company.

  30. A propos of the Świątynia Opacznośći (Temple of Divine Providence). First attempt to put one up gets held up for 120 years by the Partitions. Second one gets go ahead for construction in 1939. Third one underway right now and this happens.

    Making any connections?

    Evidently God does not think Poland should consider itself to be the Chosen Nation.

    God is infinite, God is the God of all conscious life whereso’er it be in the Universe.

    “Boże coś Polskę/Przez tak liczne wieki/Otaczał blaskiem/Potęgi i Chwały/Coś Ją osłaniał/Tarczą Swej Opieki/Od nieszczęść które/Przygnębić ją miały..” Well, the divine shield did not prove particularly effective between 1795 and 1918 or 1939 to 1989. Nor on Saturday.

    If I were God, I’d be jolly cross with a nation that treats my name in this fashion!

    I’m as patriotic as the next Pole, if not more so, having taken the active step to live in my fatherland rather simply doing so by default, but Polish messianism can go too far.

  31. It looks like he wears it on the left hand. Well, I don’t find it that strange. Here in Sweden wedding rings are also worn on the left hand. Maybe the ring has become to small for the right hand, or he might have hurt a finger, or something similar. Would it be possible that it is not a wedding ring? That would be odd, but why not. :)

  32. Maybe he’s a closet Englishman? After all these years, he’s ‘come out’ and these are the first photos taken of him…and judging by his face, he’s proud of it!!

  33. I see the demonstrations are beginning in Kraków already. Some very strong opinions being shown by the locals. But as the American Secret Service will be crawling all over Kraków over the next few days (they usually take a year to plan Obama’s overseas visits), I expect the demonstrators to disperse rather quickly!

    I think the Poles would find it easier to accept if Lech Wałęsa was elected to be buried in Wawel as he’s considered a true National hero and an influential part of shaping Poland’s independence. Perhaps Kaczyński’s political antics have overshadowed who he really was and what he’s done for the country in the past?

    As a Brit, I’m not sure I can answer this, but my wife and Polish colleagues at work all seem to find it astonishing that this decision has been made. But as it’s already been stated, if you were given the choice to bury a family member in Wawel, what would you say??

    I really can’t imagine that given the shock of what’s happened and the events of the last few days, anyone has had the time or clarity of thought to highlight all the for and against arguments to Jarosław so that he can make an informed and objective decision on where his twin brother should be buried. And yes, I get the Katyn significance, but does burying Lech and his wife in Wawel really honour the rest of the victims and the scale of the disaster? It seems a little too personal for that.

  34. So banning gay marches makes you a homophobe? Who’d have guessed? I suppose the fact that Poland has never had any anti-gay laws like the UK or other civilised western countries doesn’t mean anything either? Yeah, we’re all homophobes over here.

  35. For those of you Anglophones yearning to know more Polish history, here’s a weird little item from the past: http://portalwiedzy.onet.pl/4869,1581,1409956,1,czasopisma.html If you’re still lagging behind in your Polish, do Google translate or ask your partners :)

    Krakowski zjazd monarchów, czyli uczta u Wierzynka.

    This whole Wawel thing might be annoying, and in some ways a travesty for Polish people, but, in a funny way, it is good for Poland. Poland’s been “off the map” for so long, now its weight is being felt again, in some ways it is punching above its weight. As a poster above mentioned, it comes as a surprise to many people that Poland even had kings. French people think it is a creation of the Treaty of Versailles, Americans think it is a flat potato field where Poles gassed Jews, and I guess I shouldn’t tell you what English people think, ’cause you’re English, and I’m not.
    But Wierzynek would be proud. If only Polish people don’t go nuts with their street protests and frighten all the latter day monarchs about to gather in Kraków, this gathering will explain more about Poland to people around the world than anything that has happened in the last century or so. The visit of all these world leaders will be very widely covered (lets hope no one falls out of the sky) and no doubt be accompanied by every kind of Poland factoid that the public can digest.
    In today’s NY times, there is an editorial wafting on about how important reconciliation between Poland and Russia is to the whole of Europe. This tragedy can purge ancient complexes and allow Poland to rise above much sought chief contender for martyr of the ages award.

  36. Well Lech is as conservative catholic as you want, even though Rydzyk called his wife a witch and the meeting of women Woman’s Day, where she signed an appeal for the abortion law not to be tightened on, a cesspit.

  37. Suppose we should throw in everyone who’s died while believing in God’s grace, from St Paul onwards, to that equation.

    Opatrzności by the way ;) I made the same mistake earlier, doh!!

  38. Listening on TOK fm to all the politicians from other parties who are being pushed into answering this Wawel question I am astounded and have the utmost respect for their discretion and good judgement at this time.

  39. 4 OJ 4,5, chillout, use hard logic and get out of Your mental inclination!
    After Your secont comment, i was almost certain, that Your next comment will include “PiS” word. As a matter of fact – You are the only person here, that’s using it. Twice!
    You’re simply implying from void, which almost always leads to cognitive mistakes.
    Stop doing Your propaganda and concentrate on topic!
    Thank you, in advance!

  40. Gee whiz Norman, phrases like “hard logic,” “your mental inclination”, “implying from void” — what the hell is any of that supposed to mean? If you are not a native English speaker, however, you are forgiven.

    What is the problem about referring to the party of the twins by using the acronym? How is discussion party politics off topic? Again, if you are mistakenly thinking I was making a piss reference, you are forgiven.

  41. But not all Catholics are “conservative,” even in Poland. The newspaper Tygodnik Powszechny, for example, is very leftward leaning on certain issues. Not all members of the hierarchy of the Polish church are “conservative” across the board. The laity doesn’t always march in lockstep following the dictates of the clergy. Glemp is obviously not all that fond of a Rydzik who seems more like a cultist to me than a Catholic. What I’m wondering about is the extent to which folks like Glemp and Dziwisz support the PiS and are actively opposed to Civic Platform??? Of course they don’t come right out and make endorsements but there must be some kind of sense out there among Poles which way they are leaning and possibly even mobilizing for the next election.

  42. If folks around the world didn’t develop some kind of understanding about Poland with the advent of the Polish Pope (Krakow, Krakow, Krakow) and the rise of Solidarity and the consequent fall of communism (all within the past century as I recall), I don’t think folks from over the borders will develop any greater understanding of the country’s history or current situation from a funeral even if it is in the Wawel. I think most folks won’t pay any attention to it, having already learned in very brief passing about the plane crash and having quickly moved on to other concerns. This is predominantly and more exclusively a Polish thing, more so than what was entailed by the era of the Pope and Solidarity .

  43. More than a funeral. Reconciliation with Russia will be a long doing, lots of ups and downs, no doubt. But there will be a lot of interest by third parties, and as Poland grows in political and economic strength, the Polish-Russian relationship will matter more and more.

  44. So Lech’s legacy will be reconciliation with Russia? That’s interesting and more than a bit ironic, no? What does Jaroslaw think about that?

  45. “Only” hundreds may have been demonstrating but it is certain that many, many more Poles are opposed to the Wawel internment. It’s interesting to see that Andrzej Wajda, director of the film “Katyn” has spoken out against it.

  46. Ryszard, your few words above speak volumes.

    If Jaroslaw doesn’t use the event as a stepping stone to the presidency himself and as a holy crusade to avenge the death of his saintly brother against the forces that are persecuting Poland (blah, blah, blah), then the Wawel episode won’t amount to much. But yea, “Jaroslaw could be a problem.”

  47. If you have something serious to say, guest, and make an argument against what I post, go ahead. But it seems to me your comments don’t amount to anything other than trolling.

  48. Is being conservative catholic some form of a crime or what? I didn’t know that.

    As for your wondering: they are somewhere in between, but definitely not opposed to PO at all. Dziwisz supported PO many times and is said to have very good relations with them; Glemp once said that the PO-PiS coalition would be the best option for Poland. Small wonder, considering the fact that both parties are – let me enlighten you – pretty much alike. PO, despite that whole modern PR staffage, is also pretty conservative.
    (If any doubts:

    Real differences between PiS and PO are as follows:

    Civic Platform declares support (but actually does very little) for liberal free-market policies, while PiS takes the more social-oriented stand (sounds kinda “leftward”, you should like it)

    secundo (the most important one):
    Civic Platform at some point abandoned plans for firm dealing with communist past while PiS didn’t, causing rage of the Warsaw elite and, consequently, influential media.

    And that’s the main difference, not some alleged xenophobia, homofobia and other anti-this or anti-that phobias of PiS, made up or fueled by mass media.

  49. No, being a “conservative” Catholic is not a crime, Domingo. But my point was and is that it’s important to recognize that not all Catholics are “conservative” across all issues and not all Catholics march in lockstep. That said, there are clearly some “conservative” Catholics who would be overjoyed to see Catholics they consider “liberal” excommunicated and burning in hell.

    Thanks for your comments on Dziwisz and Glemp’s political commentaries and positioning, however. I didn’t know much about where they stood, and you indeed provided some enlightenment on the subject.

    I didn’t ask about the difference between the two parties and didn’t recieve much enlightenment from your commentary with which I am generally in agreement insofar as your analysis goes. But if you go further with it there are certain differrnces between the two parties that, as you recognize, don’t fit nicely into conservative-liberal dichotomous ideological presumptions.

    And for my two zloty, I’d say while Poland’s communist history must be dealt with, it has to be done carefully, not recklessly. There is room for discernful mercy and understanding in the quest for justice. I think PiS has been too extreme and reckless while PO is nowhere.

    But regarding your concluding commentary, I have to outright disagree. I don’t think the homophobia and xenophobia of PiS leaders has simply been drummed up by the mass media. These are real problems with PiS (or strengths if that’s the way you see it, I suppose).

  50. “has to be done carefully, not recklessly” – it HAS to be done, nevertheless. Is it the bad choice about HOW it must be done so important, that led to widespread custom of abusing our own president?

    “don’t think the homophobia and xenophobia of PiS leaders has simply been drummed up by the mass media. These are real problems with PiS” – then provide us with some examples, facts (apart from that unfortunate gay parade ban of course).
    Sure, if you look hard, you’ll find a homophobe in PiS (Artur Górski for instance, although his mental health is arguable), but I assure you, in PO or other party as well – that’s how democracy works. I somehow cannot see any xenophobe or homophobe among any of PiS key officials.

  51. You needn’t apologize for your English, Domingo, which is no doubt much better than my Polish.

    In a democracy, public officials get criticized and mocked all the time. Is this civil? Is it fair? To a certain extent, I’d say it is. But I am turned off by shrill attacks. The problem is how are lines to be drawn and enforced? That’s a lot trickier if you want to maintain freedom of speech. It seems to me that PiS officials have proven to be far too thin skinned, though. And they’ve dished out as well as given; maybe even dished out worse.

    The gay pride parade permit incident is evidence enough re. documentation of homophobia. Is there a “Log Cabin” equivalent (as in the US) of gay PiS members/supporters? Somehow, I think not but I’m ready to be proven mistaken.

    We’ll see how xenophobic inclinations manifest themselves in the next couple of months, won’t we? I hope it doesn’t get out of control.

  52. If one example is enough for you, you eihter lack other arguments or are far too thin skinned as well.

    http://www.pardon.pl/artykul/9233/posel_pis_geje_w_pis_jesli_sa_to_dobrze_o_nas_swiadczy – Robert Biedron, Poland most prominent LGBT activist accuses PiS of hypocrisy saying: “it’s no secret there are many gay people among PiS key members.” Tadeusz Cymański, well-known PiS deputy, responds: “there are many talented, wise and hard-working people among homosexuals, we have to admit it. When it comes to PiS, we managed to keep these things private. It is a right of every political party to have homosexuals.

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article668844.ece – L. Kaczyński view on homosexualism. Somewhat outdated, indeed, but not a bit different (if not more tolerant) from how 90% of Poles at his age sees it.

    You didn’t give any example of PiS xenophobia, unless you think xenophobia equals though foreign policy, then you’ll find plenty.

  53. Thanks for the additional examples, Domingo.

    Not being gay, I don’t know how I can be thin skinned about the issue. I’d rather let a Robert Biedron assess how homophobic PiS is as a whole. The publically stated opinion of this and that individual does not a party make and may not coincide with how the individual actually thinks and opines in private.

    And again, I’d rather wait and see how Jaroslaw purports himself the next couple of months than dwell on the past given that a historic juncture has been reached, as folks here seem to think, in terms of improving foreign relations with Russia. ;)

  54. I watch it, I keep track of it and I’m becoming sick of it.
    I just no longer care where Mr Kaczynski and First Lady will be buried. In Krakow it’s at least afield from Warsaw. Protests won’t change anything, they won’t talk anyone into changing their decisions. Besides, all officials and heads of states are going to come to Krakow (though volcano ash might stir up some troubles).

    No matter where the president is buried, it won’t affect what Poles will think about him. These rows won’t bring any good conclusions. After the funeral the discussion if it would have been right will be pointless. Obviously no one will take away the coffins from the castle.

    And the good point is now to loosen up. I’ll never believe in any legend or martyrology about president Kaczynski, his demerits were offset be merits, over.

    @RW – the candidacy of J. Kaczynski is still up in the air. On one hand his campaign would revolve around continuing mission of his brother, on the other, such arguments would be read as capitalising on his brother’s death.
    The last figure (45.6%) is very unsettling to me. Who will those people vote for? Will sympathy to the most aggrieved party clinch a victory?

  55. I was thinking about all opponents of burial in Wawel. They want to decide who deserve to rest in Wawel, but my question is: what they did so far for Wawel or Cracow? Did they ever get involved as volounteers in something for Wawel? Everybody wants to decide, but nobody to take care of.

    It’s sad: when whole world unites with Poland, Poles are fighting against each other.
    And it’s amazing: Kaczynski was fighting for truth about Katyn and world’s concern about that truth and he got it, even if not the way he planned.

    btw Sikorski’s opponents who were kept in Scotland’s camps were unhappy of his burial in that place, the same like Pilsudzki’s opponents. We can’t make everybody happy.

  56. That 45.6% might be right to reserve its judgment till a bit later. Whatever the election date will be, there will be enough time for “altered perceptions” on the political scene. There are bound to be revelations and new perspectives on events; politicians will jostle for positions in ways that it is hard to anticipate at the moment. Here’s an item from today’s NY Times which somewhat changes the image of events as we have held them to be so far:

    Tatyana Anodina, the head of the Interstate Aviation Committee, which oversees aviation in the former Soviet Union, denied published reports that the pilot made three or four attempts to land, and said he made only one attempt. She urged the public not to trust unofficial sources on the cause of the crash.

    The article continues with an interesting little commentary on Szczypinska’s position, which is an indication of the kind of things we should brace ourselves for in the days to come:

    In Poland, meanwhile, some members of the late president’s Law and Justice party remained deeply suspicious of the Russian investigation. Jolanta Szczypinska, one of the party’s senior members, called for a nonpartisan, international commission to investigate.

    Ms. Szczypinska, who gave up her seat on the ill-fated flight just hours before it took off, said she had been informed by Polish journalists at the crash site that Russian authorities had demanded that witnesses who had been waiting to greet the dignitaries hand over their cameras, cell phones and memory cards.

    “I have flown many times on that plane and I knew the pilots, and I am convinced that it wasn’t a pilot’s mistake that led to this tragedy,” she said in an interview on Thursday. “It is disturbing the way the Russian side has been communicating, issuing statements and how they had their version of events from the beginning. It is very strange, and we expect answers.”

  57. Rob dearest,
    thanks for reminding us how heart-felt the feelings were in the UK at the death of the Princess of Wales and how everyone’s input in the commemorations, including Elton John’s, were appreciated for their sincerity.

  58. Is there a chance Obama will not be able to land in Poland? Most of the media coverage I’ve seen thus far in the US on the major TV networks was about the crash. And that’s pretty much done with. The question that I’ve been asked most by acquaintances is “Why did they put so many officials on one plane” as if it were a roundabout way of making a Polish joke.

  59. Found the answer to my question above about open in airspace in Europe:

    “Poland expanded its no-fly zone Friday to most of the country, excluding the southern cities of Krakow and Rzeszow. Anxious Polish officials worried that the ash cloud could threaten the arrival of many world leaders for Sunday’s state funeral of President Lech Kaczynski and his wife, Maria, in the southern city of Krakow.

    “Among those coming are President Barack Obama, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Officials have said a postponement of the funeral would be an absolute last resort.

    “The White House says Obama still planned to fly to Poland on Saturday for the funeral.

  60. I was thinking the same, Jamie. Just read on BBC site:

    Poland closed most of its airports on Friday, including Krakow in the south, where foreign leaders had planned to arrive for the state funeral of President Lech Kaczynski, who was killed in a plane crash last Saturday. The Kaczynski family said they wanted the funeral to go ahead as planned on Sunday.

    If people can’t get there I think we can expect to see claims of divine intervention!

  61. According to the New Poland Express re. how it came about that the president will be buried in the Wawel:

    “The air disaster last Saturday was one
    of the greatest tragedies our nation has experienced. Our president died a hero and
    deserves to rest amongst heroes,” says Cardinal
    Stanislaw Dziwisz.

    “It is not known if government officials
    were involved in the decision or not, but
    it appears that the Archbishop of Krakow (Cardinal Dziwisz) was asked directly by Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

  62. I think we’d need to see the Polish version to be sure about the interpretation.

    I don’t think anyone disagrees that the air disaster last Saturday was one of the greatest tragedies the nation has experienced.

    Some may wish to question whether that automatically makes the President a hero or whether the hero part is based on lifetime achievement and WHO EXACTLY is making this judgement on behalf of the nation?

    So there’s a possibility that Jarosław thought this whole idea up and then set about getting it rubber stamped? I suspect once the Cardinal was on board it would be a brave person to attempt to block it – under the circumstances.

    Which brings me back to my earlier point about protokol. For something like this there really needs to be an offical written, legal, process. That’s the only way to make sure these things are done fairly and sensibly and avoid the possibility of people with grand ambitions calling their mates.

    What’s done appears to be done and there aint no turning back. So all that is left is to look forward to Jamie’s post full of:
    1/ pictures of c’lebs getting lost in Krakow
    2/ pictures of CIA guys checking out Jamie’s attic
    3/ reports of how hyperinflation affected the cost of beer in Krakow this weekend

  63. Indeed – a black pall reminiscent of a funereal ribbon heading straight for Kraków. You couldn’t make it up.

  64. Somewhere on my blog there’s a link to an article from Wyborcza about this.

    I have to tell you I’m now distasted by one thing – I don’t know who came up with the idea. Dziwisz says it was family, family and PiS say it was Dziwisz.

    My conclusion is that one of the parties is departing from the truth.

  65. No, Obama will make the landing, when the Pres. orders you to fly through a volcanic ash cloud, you lay down your life, or lose your job…

  66. Yes the Polish economy is growing by leaps and bounds and has become a financial and political power house about the size and power of……….Florida, USA 35 million people with jobs. I,m certain Russia is shak,in in their boots over that 1.7 % growth last year..

  67. Now it looks like a majority of Poles oppose his internment in the Wawel as noted by the opinion polls way down in the comments. Imagine if the choice was democratic instead of Jaroslaw’s pick.

  68. Pathetic, isn’t it. Only 1.7%. But compared to who? Name me another European country that is doing nearly as well as well as Poland. Florida, like many US states, is a major economic power, and has a GDP higher than quite a few European countries. GDP per person in Florida is about 3x that of Poland but, GDP growth last year in Florida -1.6%, Poland +1.7%.
    And what’s with having anyone shaking in their boots. Russia, or any other country, is not in any danger from Polish economic growth. In fact they benefit from it, finding markets for their goods. Poland would also benefit if Russia’s GDP picked up a bit. Currently GDP per person Russia: $11,807, Poland: $13,799

  69. Here’s the latest map. Mind you, it does appear there are ways around this cloud, or under it, or through it with a volcano resistant plane….. anyway, not many cancellations yet.

  70. Russia’s GDP is slightly larger than Spain’s, a whole lot smaller than Italy’s.

    Thirty years ago, Spain was a poor country, today it’s world’s 9th largest economy (Russia is 7th, Poland 18th).

    Give Poland 20 years, and we’ll be up there with Italy and Spain.

    Russia, however, had better hold onto its hat. Demographic implosion, ethnic forest-fires on its fringes, collapsing infrastructure, mired in corruption, it will falter. The EU is Russia’s long-term hope.

  71. Let’s get something straight. Lech Kaczyski was a great president and that’s what a vast majority of Poles think. People of Poland have been manipulated by the media and now they have opened their eyes. The nation voted with the candles flowers and long queues to pay respect to the president. It doesn’t matter what the media says now as nobody of a sound mind will believe it. Also, the protest against the burial place at Wawel was an organized pathetic propaganda of Platforma Obywatelska and Donald Tusk.

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