- (Photo: AP Images / Alik Keplicz)
- (Photo: AP Images / Czarek Sokolowski)
Warsaw’s Pilsudski Square was filled with thousands of mourners on Saturday as Poland remembered victims of last week's plane crash, which killed President Lech Kaczynski, his wife and 94 dignitaries.
Church bells rang out across the Polish capital at 8:56 a.m. local time to mark the time the plane came down as it attempted to land in thick fog at Smolensk, in Russia.
Last Saturday, the delegation had been on its way to a memorial service that was due to take place in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the massacre of thousands of Polish officers at Katyn by Soviet secret police in 1940.
Mourners holding flags, crosses, and pictures of the late president gathered in the square ahead of a public memorial service to be held later in the day. The service will be preceded by a two-minute silence at noon and the reading out of the names of all 96 victims.
Speaking at the service will be acting President Bronislaw Komorowski and Prime Minister Donald Tusk.
A funeral mass for the first couple will be held at St. John’s Cathedral in Warsaw at 6 p.m.
The state funerals of the president and his wife are due to take place on Sunday, although the ash cloud over Europe from a volcano eruption in Iceland has forced a number of country representatives to cancel their attendance. They include delegations from Japan, New Zealand and India.
U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev are still expected to attend the funeral.
A number of religious leaders were killed in the plane crash, including Bishop T. Ploski, Archbishop M. Chodakowski and Mgr. Bronislav Gostomski, parish priest of the Church of St. Andrew Bobola in Shepherd’s Bush, London.
A wreath-laying ceremony will take place at the Polish Armed Forces Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. The memorial was visited last year by Ryszard Kaczorrowski, Poland’s president in exile during the Communist regime’s reign and a victim of the plane crash.