WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland has brought back from England and ceremoniously re-buried the remains of three presidents-in-exile whose service during World War II and the Cold War preserved the nation’s democratic traditions while the country was under oppression.
Polish President Andrzej Duda and the prime minister on Saturday presided over the religious ceremonies at the Temple of God’s Providence in Warsaw.
The remains of the three former emigree presidents — Władysław Raczkiewicz, August Zaleski and Stanisław Ostrowski — were brought from Britain’s Newark cemetery where they had rested among Polish pilots of the British Royal Air Force who had fallen in the 1940 Battle of Britain. The emigree leaders of 1939-1979 were buried at the Temple’s Mausoleum of emigree presidents.
Poland’s right-wing government has worked to strengthen national pride and to restore the memory of historic figures who had been banned under decades of communist rule. This policy has been applauded by older generations but is also used as a tool by nationalist groups.
The London-based government-in-exile was the political representation for Poland during the war, when the country was under occupation by Nazi Germany. But as a result of post-war agreements, the international community recognized only the Soviet-appointed government in Warsaw.
The government-in-exile continued to be the authority for Poles who chose not to return to communist-controlled Poland and for government opponents in the country.
In 1990, after Poland shed communist rule and embarked on a democratic path, the insignia and the powers of pre-war democracy were transferred to Warsaw. The president-in-exile at the time, Ryszard Kaczorowski, handed the insignia over to democratically-elected President Lech Walesa.