Tags: EU | Poland | Plane | Crash

Tears As Body of Poland's First Lady Returns Home

Tuesday, 13 Apr 2010 07:01 AM

The body of Poland's first lady was flown home from Russia to an emotional welcome Tuesday, and Parliament had a special observance in memory of the president and lawmakers killed in the plane crash.

Maria Kaczynska's body, in a wooden casket draped with Poland's white-and-red flag, arrived in a military CASA plane shortly after 10:30 a.m. at Warsaw's Okecie airport. It was met by Kaczynska's only child, Marta, and Jaroslaw Kaczynski, her brother-in-law who was also the twin of the late president.

Kaczynska's body was ferried to the Presidential Palace in the back of a Mercedes-Benz hearse, just like her husband's was a day ago. Despite Tuesday's being a work day, thousands of Warsaw residents lined the route, gently lobbing bouquets of tulips and roses on top of the black vehicle.

"I'm here because it's such a tragedy for Poland," said Maja Jelenicka, 63. "I'm in despair. I feel as if I've lost a close relative. Maria Kaczynska was a wonderful woman, kind, with a heart of gold and a real first lady."

The bodies of the first couple are to lie in state in closed coffins in the Columned Hall of the Presidential Palace, where the president appointed and dismissed governments.

The body of Ryszard Kaczorowski, the last president of Poland's government-in-exile in London, will be brought back on Wednesday, and his coffin also probably will be put on public display, Senate Speaker Bogdan Borusewicz said.

Kaczorowski's family has asked that his coffin be placed in the smaller presidential palace of Belweder, about 2 miles from the main palace.

A state funeral is likely for Saturday, though Borusewicz, the top lawmaker in the Polish senate, said Sunday also is an option.

Investigators have suggested that human error may have been to blame in Saturday's crash, which killed the Polish president and 95 others. The Soviet-made plane didn't have any technical problems, theys said Monday.

The Tu-154 went down while trying to land in dense fog at Smolensk in western Russia. All aboard were killed, including President Lech Kaczynski and dozens of Polish political, military and religious leaders.

They had been traveling in the Polish government-owned plane to attend a memorial in the nearby Katyn forest for thousands of Polish military officers executed 70 years ago by Josef Stalin's secret police.

So far, 87 bodies have been recovered and 40 of them identified, Polish Prosecutor General Andrzej Seremet said.


Associated Press Writer Marta Kucharska contributed to this report.

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