The remains of three Polish presidents in exile will be returned from the UK to Poland

Date: 06-11-2022 Hour: 13:30

Event place: Newark-on-Trent

On 12 November, Warsaw’s Temple of Divine Providence will host the funeral and re-burial of three of Poland’s former presidents in exile. According to the Foundation “Aid to Poles in the East”, their remains are to be returned to Poland on 6 November 2022.

On Monday, 26 September, a special press conference took place in Warsaw’s Royal Castle in this context. Various political figures, including Government Plenipotentiary for Polish Diaspora and Poles Abroad Jan Dziedziczak and Deputy President of the Institute of National Remembrance Karol Polejowski, discussed the project of launching an educational program in parallel to this undertaking.

Other initiatives were also evoked during the press conference, including the project of ​​creating a Memorial Room and a Mausoleum of Polish presidents in exile under the supervision of the Institute of National Remembrance. 

During the 50-year period from 1939 to 1989, six Polish presidents in exile were in office in London and Paris. The first one was Władysław Raczkiewicz, who took office shortly after the fourth partition of Poland by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union on 30 September 1939. 

Raczkiewicz was replaced in 1947 by August Zaleski, who held the office for the longest time, namely 25 years. Stanisław Ostrowski was next and served as president in exile for most of the 1970s (1972-1979). The latter was followed by Edward Raczyński (1979-1986) and Kazimierz Sabbat (1986-1989).  

Poland’s last president in exile was Ryszard Kaczorowski, who served for roughly one and a half a year as Poland broke free from Communist rule in 1989-1990. He was already buried in the Temple of Divine Providence. Kaczorowski died tragically near Smolensk on 10 April 2010, along with the then-incumbent President Lech Kaczyński, his wife, and 93 other high-ranked Poles. 

Newark Cemetery. Photo: British Poles

Władysław Raczkiewicz, August Zaleski and Stanisław Ostrowski were buried in the UK at the Polish Aviators’ Cemetery in Newark. Theirbodies were exhumed on 3 November.

Speaking about the initiative, Polish Ambassador to the UK, Piotr Wilczek, said: “Władysław Raczkiewicz, August Zaleski and Stanisław Ostrowski were remarkable figures in Poland’s resistance movement. Together with their governments and the émigré community, they were the key to keeping alive the Polish spirit, activity and identity during some of the darkest years in Polish history. They fought so hard for Poland’s independence, yet none lived to see the country become a free nation in 1989. To see them return home after so many years will be deeply moving.”

The Memorial Mass for them, ahead of the repatriation of their remains to Poland, will take place at Saint Mary Magdalene Memorial Church in Newark-on-Trent NW24 1JS on 6 November at 1.30pm. Due to safety regulations, participation in the Holy Mass will be limited to people who have received an invitation. However, all those who would like to pay tribute to the Presidents will be able to do so in front of the church immediately after the end of the Holy Mass.

The burial will be preceded by funeral ceremonies on 12 November featuring the highest state representatives of Poland. The presidents will rest in the Polish capital’s Temple of Divine Providence (Świątynia Opatrzności Bożej), which houses the remains of some of the greatest Poles in history and is a national and religious symbol for Poland. 

Cover photo: Wikipedia / Public domain

Author: Sébastien Meuwissen

Photo: British Poles


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