Poland pays tribute as body of first lady returns


Mourners pay their respects to the late Polish president and first lady at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, April 13, 2010.

The body of Poland’s first lady, Maria Kaczynska, killed with her husband in an airplane crash in Russia, returned to Warsaw on Tuesday.

Crowds turned out to watch her body being driven to the presidential palace, where the couple will lie in state.

The funeral for the couple will be Saturday in Warsaw, followed by their burial on Sunday in Krakow’s Wawel Castle.

President Barack Obama will attend the state funeral, the White House announced Tuesday in a statement. “The president will travel to Krakow to express the depth of our condolences to an important and trusted ally, and our support for the Polish people, on behalf of the American people,” the statement said.

The archbishop of Krakow said burying the late president in the historic crypt was the country’s way of honoring him.

“I think in this way the Polish nation wants to include him among the greatest and most revered men in Polish history,” Stanislaw Dziwisk said on Polish state television.

Video: Poles cry, pray over president’s death

Video: Pres. Kaczynski’s body arrives in Poland

Video: Poland mourns president

Men in uniform unloaded the flag-draped casket of Kaczynska from a military plane as a band played Poland’s national anthem. Family, friends and Polish officials paid their respects during a brief ceremony.

Kaczynska and her husband were among 96 people killed in the crash.

Under leaden skies broken by sporadic sunshine, mourners took turns bowing their heads in silence before the casket. They included Kaczynska’s daughter, Marta, and Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the twin brother of her husband, Lech Kaczynski.

Echoing a similar scene that greeted the repatriation of her husband’s body on Sunday, crowds lined the streets and threw flowers onto the hearse bearing the former first lady’s casket as it made its way through Warsaw.

“I can’t remember anything like that and in fact I have not felt anything like that since now,” he said. “It made us united, it made us patriots.”

The couple had been traveling with a Polish delegation to Russia for a commemorative service marking the 70th anniversary of the Russian massacre of Polish prisoners of war in the village of Katyn when the plane went down.

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