During the solemn funeral and reburial ceremony of Polish Presidents-in-Exile Władysław Raczkiewicz (who was in office from 1939 to 1947), August Zaleski (1947-1972), and Stanisław Ostrowski (1972-1979), whose remains had been exhumed in England and transported to Poland, President Andrzej Duda has said the three statesmen “believed in that they were vessels of a free, sovereign and independent Poland.”
Following their exhumation on November 3 from the Polish war graves section of the cemetery in Newark-upon-Trent, Nottinghamshire, in central England, the bodies of the three Presidents-in-Exile arrived on Saturday afternoon at Warsaw’s Temple of Divine Providence where they were buried in the newly-created Mausoleum of the Presidents of the Republic of Poland..
Speaking among officials, including Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, the entombed, Poland’s President Andrzej Duda said that the Presidents-in-Exile “believed in that they were vessels of a free, sovereign and independent Poland and that Poland would be this way on this very land. They were not mistaken.”
President Duda said earlier in his speech that “there is one Poland” – something clearly visible today in how a whole array of symbols present at the ceremony came together to form a complete symbol of sovereign and independent Poland. He went on to say that the presidency of Poland was that kind of symbol – one “originating from royal authority tarnished by winds of history, suppressed, snatched away and yet otherwise passed on across centuries.”
Calling the Temple of Divine Providence a symbol of free, independent Poland, the President said that through the funeral the present ceremony-goers accompanied the three statesmen on their last journey to their eternal, symbolic resting place in the Mausoleum of the Presidents of the Republic of Poland. President Duda said that the Presidents-in-Exile “being embodiments of a free, sovereign and independent Poland, carried it through decades of extremely trying years.”
He also drew attention to the heroism of the Presidents, “a heroism of presidents who were bereft of their homeland, a heroism of presidents who could not return to the land of their fathers because that land was not entirely free, not entirely sovereign, not entirely independent because it was under foreign administration.”
“Today, here and now, they find themselves in their place,” President Duda said. “Today they return to their Homeland, which they were forced to leave. They return to the Homeland, which they preserved within themselves, which they carried on despite the sneers and jeers of Communists who derided them… [But the Presidents] believed in that they were vessels of a free, sovereign and independent Poland and that Poland would be this way on this very land. They were not mistaken.”
“Depositaries of memory
On Saturday afternoon, a plane carrying their bodies landed at a military airport in Warsaw.
In a speech given at a welcoming ceremony, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki described the three Presidents as “the depositaries of memory and the continuity of the Polish state, and guardians of hope.”
“In the dark times of communist captivity, they retained the insignia of the Republic of Poland,” he said. “It was also thanks to their perseverance that the Polish nation lasted for decades in communist captivity and survived until 1989 when the dawn of freedom came to us.”
Moreover, the mausoleum where the three Presidents-in-Exile were buried, will also hold the remains of Ryszard Kaczorowski, the last Polish President-in-Exile, one of the victims of the Polish presidential plane crash in Russia in April 2010. President Kaczorowski is entombed in the Pantheon of Great Poles at the Temple of Divine Providence.
The remaining Polish presidents-in-exile, Edward Raczyński (1979-1986) and Kazimierz Sabbat (1986-1989) will have symbolic tombs in the mausoleum. President Raczyński, who passed away in 1993, is buried in Rogalin, his family’s former estate in western Poland, while President Sabbat, who died in 1989, rests in London.
The project to return the remains came under the patronage of President Andrzej Duda and started in 2018 on the centenary of Poland regaining its independence as the Polish government’s ‘Mission: Free Poland’ campaign.
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