Poland is in a week of official mourning after the loss of its president and dozens of high-ranking officials.
This weekend’s plane crash near Smolensk has devastated the upper levels of power within the Polish government.
Here at home, Polish-Canadians are mourning the dead, and trying to stay hopeful for the future.
Hundreds of HRM residents of Polish descent gathered at two special church services Sunday to mourn and honour those lost in the crash.
Ursulaz Rudz tells CTV News her home country is reeling.
“All Polish government is gone, and we don’t know what is going to happen now,” she said.
“It’s a very big loss for the whole country,” said one man, while another woman called the crash a “bad dream.”
In Warsaw, tens of thousands of Poles sang the national anthem and tossed flowers at the hearse carrying the body of President Lech Kaczynski to the presidential palace Sunday after it was returned from Russia.
The plane carrying Kaczynski’s body arrived from the Smolensk airport, where he and 95 others had been heading Saturday to honour 22,000 Polish officers slain by the Soviet secret police in 1940.
The coffin bearing Kaczynski’s remains were met first by his daughter Marta, whose mother Maria also perished in the crash. She knelt before it, her forehead resting on the coffin.
She was followed by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the former prime minister, and the president’s twin brother. He, too, knelt and pressed his head against the flag-draped coffin before rising slowly and crossing himself.
Among the dead were the national bank president, the army chief of staff, the navy chief commander, and heads of the air and land forces. At the Field Cathedral of the Polish army in Warsaw, hundreds gathered for a morning mass and left flowers and written condolences. Government spokesman Pawel Gras said the country’s armed forces and state offices were operating normally despite the devastating losses.
Michal Boni, an official in the prime minister’s office, said they remained in constant contact with the deputy head of the National Bank of Poland, Piotr Wiesiolek.
He said the bank’s Monetary Policy Council will hold a meeting Monday, as previously planned.
“We are prepared to take various decisions, but we do not see that anything dangerous could happen in the economy,” Boni said. The economy has so far managed to avoid recession.
The acting president, Parliament Speaker Bronislaw Komorowski, said he would call for early elections within 14 days, in line with the constitution. The vote must be held within another 60 days.
In Moscow, Russia’s Transport Ministry said that Russian and Polish investigators had begun to decipher flight data recorders of the aging Soviet-built Tu-154 airliner that crashed while trying to land in deep fog in Smolensk.
Russian officials had said 97 people were killed but revised the figure to 96. Poland’s Foreign Ministry also confirmed the figure.
A Russian investigator says it doesn’t appear there was anything wrong with the plane that crashed on Saturday.
The head of Russia’s top investigative body says a preliminary analysis of voice recordings finds no indication of any problem — and that the pilot was warned about the foggy conditions in Russia, but decided to land anyway.
Former president, Solidarity founder and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Lech Walesa, said it was too soon to cast blame.
“Someone must have been taking decisions on that plane. I don’t believe that the pilot took decisions single-handedly,” he told reporters. “That’s not possible. I have flown a lot and whenever there were doubts, they always came to the leaders and asked for a decision, and based on that, pilots took decisions. Sometimes the decision was against the leader’s instructions.”
The plane apparently clipped some trees just before crashing.