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Controversy over Polish president's burial

Controversy over Polish president's burial
Poland's President Lech Kaczynski (L) walks with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko during a welcoming ceremony in at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw on Sept. 7, 2009. (UPI/Mykola Lazarenko/Presidential Press Service) | License Photo

KRAKOW, Poland, April 13 (UPI) -- The family of the late Polish President Lech Kaczynski has chosen Wawel Castle in Krakow for his burial site, a decision some Poles dispute.

Kaczynski and his wife Maria will be buried among Poland's most respected kings and generals at the Cathedral at Wawel Castle, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

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The couple perished along with 94 other government officials and dignitaries Saturday when their plane crashed in Russia in dense fog. They were en route to pay their respects to the 22,000 Polish prisoners of war who were executed by Stalin's secret police in the 1940 Katyn massacre.

"The president, who died a heroic death when flying to Katyn to pay homage to the martyrs, and his wife will get a dignified place for their eternal rest," Krakow's Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz said. "The final decision is that the most dignified place is Wawel, where he can rest together with those who have achieved so much for our fatherland -- kings, heroes, commanders."

But some Poles question whether Kaczynski deserves to be buried alongside such towering figures from Poland's history, including the man who gained Poland's independence in 1918 from Germany and Russia, Marshall Jozef Pilsudski

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Several dozen protesters assembled near Wawel Castle Tuesday, holding a banner that asked, "Is he really worthy of the Kings?"

"It is damaging to the memory of the late president to forcefully try to make him look like the father of the nation. … He wasn't," said Jan Hartman, professor of ethics at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, adding that the choice appeared "political."

U.S. President Barack Obama will attend Sunday's funeral "to express the depth of our condolences to an important and trusted ally and our support for the Polish people, on behalf of the American people," the White House said in a statement.

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