Poland commemorates Smolensk anniversary

08:25, April 11, 2011      

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A photo of Poland's late President Lech Kaczynski and his wife Maria, who were killed in a plane crash a year ago, are seen among the flowers outside the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Poland, April 10, 2011. On April 10, 2010, a Polish government Tupolev-154M with then President Lech Kaczynski, his wife and a large delegation of VIPs crashed near a military airfield in Smolensk of Russia, killing all on board.(Xinhua/Gao Fan)

Warsaw's Powazki Military Cemetery was the main site of Sunday's official ceremonies marking the first anniversary of the 2010 air disaster in Smolensk, Russia, which killed Poland's former president, his wife and numerous VIPs.

On April 10, 2010, a Polish government Tupolev-154M with then President Lech Kaczynski, his wife and a large delegation of VIPs crashed near a military airfield in Smolensk killing all on board. The delegation was underway to the Russian locality Katyn for anniversary ceremonies of 1940 mass executions of 22,000 Polish POWs by the Soviets in the nearby Katyn Forest.

Sunday's ceremonies began with a 7:00 a.m. special mass in the military part of Warsaw's Okecie Airport, attended only by families of the disaster victims. The choice of the site has a symbolic meaning as it was from there that the disaster plane took off.

The official commemorations started at 8:41 a.m. (the time of the crash) with a wreath-laying ceremony before a plaque to the accident victims in the Polish Army's field cathedral. Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski, lower and upper parliamentary house speakers Grzegorz Schetyna and Bogdan Borusewicz, and Prime Minister Donald Tusk attended the ceremony.

The main celebrations were held at 10:30 a.m. at a memorial to the Smolensk catastrophe in the Powazki Military Cemetery. The ceremonies will close with a 7:00 p.m. concert in the National Opera.

On the eve of the anniversary (Saturday), some of the victims' families accompanied Polish First Lady Anna Komorowska for commemorations in Smolensk. Following ceremonies on the accident site the participants travelled for commemorations to Katyn.


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