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10 Apr, 2010 14:55

Poland mourning death of president

Poland will be in mourning for the next seven days after the plane crash that killed President Lech Kaczynsky and 95 people from the country’s political and military elite.

On Sunday afternoon thousands gathered in central Warsaw to observe two minutes of silence in honor of the victims.

Warsaw has become a somber scene of sorrow, with Poles coming to lay flowers and light candles.

In a televised address, acting President of Poland Bronislaw Komorowski said the nation “remains united” in the face of the tragedy:

There is no division into left or right, different view points don’t matter. We are together in the face of tragedy, in the face of the deaths of many people. We're united in pain with the families of the victims and in the care of the future of our orphaned motherland.”

The coffin carrying the body of Lech Kaczynsky has been flown back to Poland. It arrived at a Warsaw military airport where it was met by Poland’s top political leaders, including the late president’s twin brother, Yaroslav Kaczynsky, who accompanied the remains of the late president to the Presidential Palace.

In the meantime, those who gathered outside the Palace stood in silence, prayed, reflected and exchanged opinions on what is to come next.

I cannot remember this kind of catastrophe in the whole history of aviation, not just Polish, but worldwide,” Grzegorz Holdanowicz, editor-in-chief of Raport defense magazine, told RT.

Tadeusz Iwinski, from the EU Affairs Committee of Polish Parliament, says it has been a long time since Poland united as a nation.

The last time I remember such a situation was five years ago at the moment of the death of the Polish Pope, John Paul II. Before that, it was around 20 years ago during the transformation, 1989-1990. So I do hope that facing very important political events in Poland…we can unite ourselves,” Iwinski said.

There is a very gloomy symbolism behind the crash, says Fyodor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of “Russia in global affairs” magazine.

“The place where it happened – the Katyn – and how the Polish president and people from his delegation were killed, this reminds Polish people of tragedies of Second World War, not only Katyn but also death of then-time leader Sikorski who died in a plane crush in Great Britain in 1943. And this has a very bad psychological impact. But Russian authorities really did everything to show sympathy and support to both Polish government and Polish people. Prime Minister Putin and President Medvedev seem to be deeply touched by that and they expressed words which I don’t here from them too often.”

Meanwhile, amidst worldwide mourning people have flocked to the embassy of Poland in the center of Moscow to lay flowers and exchange condolences.

“Poland will manage”

Piotr Maciej Kaczynski, a Research Fellow from the Centre for European Studies based in Brussels, says despite the shock Poland will work its way through this tragedy.

“In the short period, this is a massive shock to everybody and the system as well, but in the longer period not much will change. After a period of shock, stability will return, with one major change –the Poles will elect their president not in the fall but in spring, every five years now. The country operates as a country even though so many leading political figures have perished,” he said.

Andrey Kortunov, political analyst from the New Eurasia Foundation, agrees that Poland will move on from this tragedy.

“Poland is an institutionalized democracy, it has already gone through a couple of cycles of changes of power. I think they will manage. It will be dramatic, difficult and there might be some bumps on the road, but I don’t think we will see a full-fledged constitutional or political crisis there,” Kortunov said.