Poland Bids Farewell to First Couple

Estimated 150K throng streets of Krakow to say goodbye
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 18, 2010 9:39 AM CDT
Poland Bids Farewell to First Couple
People walk in front of a shop window showing the picture of late Polish President Lech Kaczynski in downtown Krakow, Poland, Sunday, April 18, 2010.   (AP Photo/Bela Szandelszky)

An elaborate state funeral for Poland's President Lech Kaczynski and his wife, Maria, began today bereft of many world leaders whose travel plans were paralyzed by the plume of volcanic ash that has covered Europe. The couple's bodies were flown from Warsaw to Krakow early today for the tradition-laden ceremony and burial in the nearby Wawel Cathedral, the final resting place for Poland's kings, poets and statesmen.

The volcanic ash did not deter everyone. The leaders of Baltic and Balkan states came by car; Russian President Dmitry Medvedev flew from Moscow. Police estimated the number of mourners in and around Krakow at nearly 150,000. Despite the dearth of global dignitaries, no one said the funeral should be postponed. "This event is for our president," said one mourner. The funeral Mass was held at St. Mary's Basilica, where the Kaczynskis' daughter, Marta, and the president's twin brother, Jaroslaw, sat in the front row as Mozart's Requiem played. The first couple will be laid to rest together in a honey-hued sarcophagus made from Turkish alabaster in a crypt that will be open to mourners. (More Lech Kaczynski stories.)

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