Poles gather in Dublin to mourn


A silence born of grief and shock gripped the several hundred mourners crammed into St Audoen’s church yesterday at the start of a mass to mark the deaths of Polish president Lech Kaczynski and scores of other dignitaries in the weekend plane crash.

Some mourners wore black ribbons, others shed tears as they assembled at the Polish chaplaincy in Ireland to share the pain felt from their country’s worst tragedy since world war two.

As the bell rang to announce the mass Dublin’s Polish community parted to allow their chaplain Father Jaroslaw Maszkiewicz to pass to the altar. As he walked they began whispering the solemn hymn Mary, Queen of Poland, seeking comfort in the church and each other in their hour of need.

“This is a very sad moment in the history of our country. People are treating the loss as a personal tragedy,” said Father Maszkiewicz in a homily broadcast outside the church to those who couldn’t get to squeeze inside the building.

He thanked President Mary McAleese, who gave a reading during the mass, and Pat Carey, Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs and the Irish-Polish Society for attending.

“I feel the Irish community is standing with us and this is reflected by the presence of your president at the mass,” he said.

Sean Lyons, a co-founder of the Irish-Polish community, said it was important that many ordinary Irish people turned up.

“There are so many links now in a united EU, many people are married to Poles- I married forty years ago to a Polish lady- and there are so many young Polish people living in Ireland,” said Mr Lyons.

When the mass finished many of the mourners stayed on to chat with their friends and colleagues about the plane crash.

Agnieszka Hajduga, who has been living in Ireland for about three years, was told in a phone call yesterday about the tragedy.

“I couldn’t believe it. I rang my family back in Poland, who are all really upset. In a way I think its worse for Polish people living here because we are far away from out own country. We feel we are not there to share the pain,” she said.

“It was important to be here at the mass today,” she said.

Wojciech Kasnicki, who is currently unemployed but previously worked as a printer in Dublin, said there was deep sadness among the Polish community at the death of the president.

“He was a controversial president. But in an event like this politics don’t matter. There were so many important people on the plane,” he said.

Adam Brozynski, who works as a translator, said president Kaczynski was a charismatic but divisive figure in Poland. “He wasn’t very popular with young people because he was always talking about history and had a very strong position on foreign policy, particularly Russia,” he said.

Mr Brozynski said the crash was even more shocking because it happened in Russia on the way to mark the 70th anniversary of the massacre of Polish officers by Soviet forces.

“There will be rumours about what happened. But I don’t think these are justified,” he said.