WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Mourners on Friday bid a second farewell to Anna Walentynowicz, a legendary figure with Poland's Solidarity movement whose body was mistakenly buried in the wrong grave after her death in a 2010 plane crash.
The repeat funeral Mass for Walentynowicz in her hometown of Gdansk took place after her body was exhumed last week and DNA tests confirmed that it had been switched with another female victim of the crash in Russia that claimed 96 lives, including that of Poland's president.
A welder, crane operator and single mother, Walentynowicz was a fierce opponent of the communist regime. She was fired in 1980 from a Gdansk shipyard job as punishment for her political activism, which sparked workers' strikes that led to the formation of the Solidarity freedom movement under Lech Walesa. Today she remains a national symbol of the ultimately successful anti-communist fight, though a feud with Walesa resulted in her being overshadowed by him.
Speaking over her coffin, draped in the white-and-red national flag, mourners said they were bidding farewell to the "Mother of Solidarity" who consistently fought for workers' rights.
"We are bidding farewell to one of the greatest figures of our time, a person who played a significant role in Poland's history," said opposition leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, twin brother of President Lech Kaczynski who was also killed in the crash.
"Even her death, her second burial is as unusual as she was unusual," he said.
The mix-up of Walentynowicz's body with another person has revived both deep divisions within Polish society and distrust of historic foe Russia.
A few people with the words "It was an assassination" written on Poland's national flag entered the church during the funeral Mass but were asked by Walentynowicz's grandson not to disturb the ceremony.
Russian experts who conducted postmortems of the victims made several errors in their reports, sparking the outrage of many of the victims' relatives. Russian authorities have said that any mistakes result from the fragmented nature of the bodies after the crash. Three exhumations carried out earlier this year confirmed the identities of the bodies.
Poland's chief prosecutor Andrzej Seremet has said that the mix-up in Walentynowicz's case occurred because the families had wrongly identified the bodies. Both families staunchly deny that.
Prime Minister Donald Tusk said he apologized for any mistakes that Polish officials might have made in the effort to help identify and bring the bodies back to Poland, following the nation's greatest disaster since World War II.
Groups linked to opposition leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski claim the crash was an assassination by the Russians, and the flawed Russian reports have added to the suspicions and distrust. They also say Tusk has not been firm enough with the Russians in demanding a greater role for Poland's investigators.
However, most Poles firmly reject the conspiracy theories and believe an official government report that says the crash was caused by human error and fog.
The plane crash occurred April 10, 2010, as the presidential delegation was about to land in Smolensk, Russia. The group was to honor Polish victims of mass murders by Stalin's secret security during World War II.
At least four more exhumations are expected this year over doubts concerning the identifications carried out in Moscow after the crash.