Elaborate state funeral for Poland`s first couple

Last Updated: Sunday, April 18, 2010 - 21:29

Krakow: An elaborate state
funeral for Poland`s President Lech Kaczynski and his wife,
Maria, began Sunday bereft of many world leaders whose travel
plans were paralysed 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, including Gen Wladyslaw Sikorski,
the exiled World War II leader who perished in a mysterious
plane crash off Gibraltar in 1943.

President Barack Obama, French President Nicolas
Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were among the
leaders who cancelled at the last minute because of the
expanding volcanic ash cloud, dangerous to airplane engines,
that has enveloped Europe and closed nearly all of the
continent`s airports since late Thursday.

"All the French people will be, in their thoughts,
with the Polish people" today, Sarkozy said in a letter sent
to acting president Bronislaw Komorowski expressing his regret
for being unable to attend.

The volcanic ash did not deter everyone.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev flew by plane from
Moscow for the funeral.

His presence was further sign of the warming ties
between the two countries, which had been strained for
centuries, and recently because of communism and the 1940
Katyn massacre.

Others, including the leaders of Baltic and Balkan
states, came by car for the stately event.

Despite the dearth of global dignitaries, no one said
the funeral should be postponed.

PTI



First Published: Sunday, April 18, 2010 - 21:29

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