Life for Poland and for Polonia
We bid farewell to the Last Polish President-in-Exile Ryszard Kaczorowski on 19 April 2010. He was among the Polish elite who lost their lives in the crash of the presidential plane. Like all the other passengers he was a member of the delegation of the President of the Republic of Poland Lech Kaczynski going to the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Katyn Massacre. ‘He had a special right to go there because he was sentenced to death 70 years ago by NKWD and miraculously saved. That’s why he dedicated his life to the service of God, Homeland and neighbour’, Cardinal Jozef Glemp, Senior Primate of Poland, said in the Archcathedral of St John in Warsaw.
Scout and soldier
It was a moving funeral ceremony, with the participation of cardinals and bishops, Parliament and Senate Speakers, MPs, clergy of various denominations, scouts. The Mass was presided over by Archbishop Jozef Kowalczyk, the President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference. In his forward he said that Warsaw was seeing off ‘a great son of our Homeland, a great Pole whose life was Poland and he was always at her disposal’ to the Pantheon of Great Poles at the Temple of Divine Providence.
The last Polish President-in-Exile, as Archbishop Michalik mentioned, was a man-symbol, scout and prisoner of Siberia, a hero of the battle of Monte Cassino. Archbishop Michalik called President Kaczorowski ‘ a man of great political culture who trying to avoid all occasions to divisions, suspicions, passed the insignia of the Presidents of the Republic of Poland, his predecessors in exile, to President Lech Walesa.’
Similarly, in his homily Cardinal Jozef Glemp stressed that the life of President Kaczorowski was very long and ‘penetrated by many ideas, difficulties and victories’ but also with ‘faith and deed.’ In the opinion of Cardinal Glemp the life of Ryszard Kaczorowski was so rich that ‘it can embrace three generations’: the generation before World War II, the generation during the occupation and the period of the Polish People’s Republic and the generation ‘that was granted the grace to rise to normality of our whole Homeland.’
He also reminded us of the scouting ideals, adherence to family, love of nature and active service to God and neighbour that were so close to our last President-in-Exile.
The immigration in London
According to Cardinal Glemp the fundamental text, which illustrated best the ideals that accompanied the life and patriotic attitude of Ryszard Komorowski, are the first words of the Polish anthem, ‘Poland Is Not Yet Lost.’ Those words were dear to him, especially during his immigrant’s life in London. He gathered people of faith and love of the Homeland. Hence his activities in various immigrants’ organisations and building scouting in exile. He was the Chief Scout and then President of the Polish Scouting Association-in-Exile for over 30 years – from 1955 to 1988. In 1986 he was Minister for Home Affairs in the government-in-exile and after the sudden death of Kazimierz Sabbat in 1989 he became the Polish President-in-Exile. A year later he passed the post and presidential insignia – insignia of the Order of the White Eagle and the Order of Rebirth of Poland – to Lech Walesa.
His mission did not end after he had passed the insignia to Poland. President Ryszard Kaczorowski, living in London, still personified the majesty of the Second Polish Republic. He participated in all important state and religious ceremonies, took patronage of the Polish immigrants’ activities, which was much appreciated form the very beginning: he was appointed to the National Council, the Coordination Council of Polish Community of the Free World, Council of the Aid for Poland Fund, Council of the Polish Educational Society and Council of the Polish Institute of Catholic Action. With time the activities embraced political aspect. In 2004 Elizabeth II appointed him to the Order of St Michel and St George for his merits for the Polish community in United Kingdom.
He was laid to rest in the Temple of Divine Providence
After the ceremony in the Archcathedral the coffin with the body of Ryszard Kaczorowski was carried in a funeral procession along the streets of Warsaw to the Divine Providence Church in Wilanow. Archbishop Kazimierz Nycz of Warsaw said the liturgical prayers over the coffin of late President Kaczorowski. He mentioned that on Friday, the day before his death, President Kaczorowski went to the Divine Providence Church to say ‘Be on alert’ to his colleague-scout Fr Zdzislaw Peszkowski who was laid to rest there. On this occasion he said, ‘This is a beautiful place. One must deserve it.’ He did not know that he would be laid to rest here soon.
Receiving the highest military honours he was laid to rest in the Pantheon of Great Poles in the Divine Providence Sanctuary. Those who came to pay tribute to President Kaczorowski included a group of highlanders with their own band. Before his body was placed in the sarcophagus they had played the President a papal tune.
President Ryszard Kaczorowski had two souvenirs that he wanted to take to his grave: a piece of rock from Monte Cassino and handful of soil from under the oaks in the park at Zwierzyniec in Bialystok – the city where he was born in 1919. Several dozen years ago he took the scout’s vows at those oaks, next to the monument to 3rd May Constitution.
Guideposts for Poland and Polonia
When in 2004 the Senate of the Republic of Poland established 2nd May as the Day of Poles and Polish Communities Abroad President Ryszard Kaczorowski regarded this legislative initiative as a reference to the most beautiful chapters of our national history.
On 10 April 2010 he flew with the flower of the Polish elite to Katyn and gave his life there. ‘This death gives him back to the Homeland… may the example of this great beautiful life for God, Homeland and neighbour, which scout Ryszard Kaczorowski, who became Poland’s President and friend, presented, be an encouragement for us to live according to the truths for which it is worth making great sacrifices’, finished his homily Cardinal Jozef Glemp, Senior Primate of Poland, in the Archcathedral of St John.
The Book of Condolences put in the Belvedere Palace include the words, ‘Mr President, Great Pole, may the words «God, Honour, Homeland» be always in our hearts and deeds as they were in yours’; ‘Farewell, Great Pole, noble Patriot, may the idea you were faithful to and its values – God, patriotism and truths – become guideposts for our Homeland.’