Poland buries the remains of historic democratic leaders

Poland brought back from England and ceremonially re-interred the remains of three exiled presidents whose service in 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 presided over religious ceremonies at the Temple of God’s Providence in Warsaw on Saturday.

The remains of the three former émigré presidents – Władysław Raczkiewicz, August Zaleski and Stanisław Ostrowski – were brought from Newark British Cemetery where they had been laid to rest among Polish pilots of the British Royal Air Force who died in the 1940 Battle of Britain. The 1939-1979 émigré leaders were buried in the Mausoleum of the Temple of Emigrant Presidents.

Poland’s right-wing government has worked to bolster national pride and restore the memory of historical figures who had been banned during 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 Poland’s political representation during the war, when the country was under occupation by Nazi Germany. But following the 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 opponents of the government in the country.

In 1990, after Poland abandoned communist rule and embarked on the democratic path, the regalia and powers of pre-war democracy were transferred to Warsaw. Then-Exiled President Ryszard Kaczorowski presented the badge to democratically elected President Lech Walesa.

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