Yesterday morning, Poles around the word watched the funeral of President Lech Kaczynski and his wife Maria. The event was simply breathtaking and Poles should be proud. There was over 1000 years of history and culture on display for the world to see. The funeral Mass was held in Krakow’s St. Mary’s Basilica and was followed by a procession that took the coffins to a crypt under the historic Wawel Cathedral. It would not be a stretch to say that this was one of the most spectacular events ever captured on film.
The day before was beautiful too. In Warsaw, thousands watched as the coffins were driven through the city. They took a route frequented by the late president. Amidst the magic hour glow, the procession was marked with thousands of spectators, hundreds of religious figures, soldiers on horseback and countless scouts all saluting as the coffin drove by. It all seemed straight out of a storybook.
Poles outside of the country share an often intangible bond with their motherland. Sometimes it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why that is. After all, not everyone with Polish roots was born there or has immediate relatives there, yet they feel compelled to identify themselves as Polish. Perhaps, it’s because of events like this. Drama unites people and Poland has seen its share of ups and downs. Whether the atrocities of WWII, the struggles of the Solidarity movement, the fall of Communism, the election of Pope John Paul II, his attempted assassination and subsequent death, and of course, Katyn. Poles are united by drama and the Smolensk plane crash as well as the death of the country’s President provided another dramatic chapter in the story of a nation that thrives on it. Watching from abroad one could feel the nationalistic pull of this shared tragedy. It’s probably fair to say that as Poles abroad watched their nation mourn the thought “I wish I could be there,” crossed their minds.