Protests over plan to bury President in Polish pantheon

Poles angered by funeral arrangements for divisive and controversial leader

Angry crowds in Poland have protested over plans to bury President Lech Kaczynski and his wife in Wawel Cathedral in Krakow, which is normally reserved for poets and kings. The couple were among scores of senior national figures who were killed in an air crash in Russia on Saturday.

Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets of Krakow, and thousands have joined an internet campaign protesting against the plan. The burial site was chosen by the late President's family and endorsed by the Polish Catholic Church.

Brandishing placards that asked: "Is Kazcynski a King?" the protesters marched around the cathedral chanting "Krakow says no!" Thousands of people also visited a Facebook page entitled "No to Kaczynski at the Wawel".

Wawel's crypt contains the bodies of Tadeusz Kosciusco, the father of Polish independence, several Polish kings and romantic poets, and a sarcophagus containing the body of Marshal Pilsudski, the country's heroic inter-war leader whose forces defeated an invading Soviet army in 1920.

Hanna Hebanowska, a 71-year-old retired university lecturer, and one of the protesters, told The Independent yesterday: "All my friends and I are very annoyed at this decision. The Wawel is for kings and Kaczynski is not a king. He was a very controversial president and to bury him there is entirely inappropriate."

During his tenure the conservative President Kaczynski was heavily criticised for attacking gay rights and trying to organise what was perceived as a witch hunt to denounce suspected Communist collaborators. He was also condemned for his abrasive attitude towards Germany and Russia. The mounting opposition to the planned Wawel burial raised the possibility that Sunday's solemn state funeral that will be attended by heads of state from the world over, including President Obama, could be marred by angry protests.

However the Polish government yesterday ruled out the possibility of changing the burial site for the late President and his wife, Maria Kaczynska. "The decision was taken by the family and this has to be respected," said Bronislaw Komorowski, the acting President.

He said that a date for fresh presidential elections would be announced immediately after the funeral.

The late President's twin brother Jaroslaw, a former conservative prime minister, is rumoured to want to step into his brother's shoes for the election that is now expected in June. There was speculation that Jaroslaw, who is renowned for being even more right wing than his brother, had decided on the burial site in an attempt to boost his family's standing in the run-up to the election.

Poland's main liberal daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborca condemned the decision as "hasty and misguided" in a front-page editorial yesterday. But Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, Poland's Archbishop, defended the funeral arrangements. "I trust that society will accept this decision with understanding," he said. "During such occasions we should unite. Divisions serve no one."

On the third day of a week of mourning, thousands again waited for up to eight hours outside Warsaw's presidential palace, to pay their respects to the bodies of the late first couple lying in state under huge Polish flags.

A further 30 bodies recovered from the crash site were flown back to Warsaw yesterday.

Wawel Cathedral: Who's buried there?

* Tadeusz Kosciusko led an uprising against Russia and Prussia in 1794.

* Marshal Jozef Pilsudski secured independence at the end of the First World War.

* Considered by some to be the greatest Slavic poet, Adam Mickiewicz often wrote about Poland's oppression.

* General Wladyslaw Sikorski fled when the Nazis invaded and led opposition as Prime Minister in exile.

Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Sport
sportVan Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Life and Style
Martha Stewart wrote an opinion column for Time magazine this week titled “Why I Love My Drone”
lifeLifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot... to take photos of her farm
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
filmReview: Sometimes the immersive experience was so good it blurred the line between fiction and reality
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices