Poles honor late president on holy day

AP News
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Posted: Nov 01, 2010 2:08 PM
Poles honor late president on holy day

Thousands of Polish mourners lit candles as they filed past a new monument at a military cemetery in the capital, paying tribute on Monday to the late president and 95 others killed in a plane crash this year.

The monument _ two granite slabs jutting from the ground like airplane wings at Warsaw's Powazki cemetery _ became a key focal point this year on All Saint's Day, the Nov. 1 holiday when normal life in Poland comes to a standstill as people pay honor to departed ancestors and national heroes.

The holiday falls a day after Americans celebrate Halloween and has its roots in the same traditions. But the Polish holiday has retained a reflective and hallowed tone and is one of Poland's defining holy days.

This year it was marked by added somberness because of the April 10 plane crash in Russia that killed President Lech Kaczynski, his wife and dozens of prominent Poles.

Thousands of candles burned at the simple and symbolic new monument in Warsaw, hewed from a light granite stone. Ribbons in the colors of the national flag _ white and red _ were draped across it ahead of its formal unveiling on Nov. 10, seven months after the crash.

Nearby, the individual graves of several of the victims were covered in fresh flowers and ringed by candles flickering inside colored glass jars. A woman cried at the grave of Natalia Januszko, a stewardess on board the fatal flight, pulling a tissue from her purse and dabbing her eyes repeatedly.

Television stations and online portals also paid tribute to the victims with slideshows of the 96 who died and other looks back at their lives. TVN24 television aired footage of mourners at the sarcophagus of Kaczynski and his wife at the Wawel Cathedral in Krakow.

Although All Saints' Day is a Roman Catholic holiday, many people also strolled through Warsaw's Jewish cemetery to honor a community that made up a third of Warsaw's population until the Holocaust.

Dozens of burning candles paid honor to Marek Edelman, a leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943 against Nazi German rule who died last year.