Poland divided over General Jaruzelski’s burial
May 28, 2014
General Wojciech Jaruzelski during celebrations of the 15th anniversary of Round Table talks
The decision to bury General Wojciech Jaruzelski, Poland's last communist leader who died Sunday at the age of 91, in Warsaw's Powazki cemetery sparked some of controversy in the country.
Gen. Jaruzelski proclaimed martial law in Poland on Dec. 13, 1981 in an attempt to crush the nationwide Solidarity freedom movement.
Thousands of political opponents were imprisoned and as many as 100 people lost their lives over an 18-month period.
Jaruzelski was put on trial for his role in the crackdown but escaped prosecution due to ill health. He was suffering from cancer.
Jaruzelski said his decision to impose martial law had prevented Moscow from sending in tanks to Poland, as it had earlier in Hungary and Czechoslovakia.
General’s supporters said he should be buried with full military honors in the Lane of Honor at Powazki cemetery befitting a former president while his opponents said he does not deserve to be buried at such a prestigious place because “he was a traitor who had blood on his hands”.
Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski decided on Tuesday that Gen. Jaruzelski’s funeral to be held on Friday will be a state funeral.
It will begin with a Holy Mass attended by the Polish president.
However, there will not be a day of national mourning.
Leszek Miller, a leader of Poland’s left-wing party Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) and a former Communist Party colleague of Gen Jaruzelski wrote to President Komorowski requesting a national day of mourning. But the president refused, saying Jaruzelski was too divisive a figure.
“A day of national mourning would be inappropriate, due to the fact that it should be express the sentiments of the entire nation” Joanna Trzaska-Wieczorek Presidential spokeswoman said.
Jaruzelski was prime minister of communist Poland from 1981 to 1985 and head of state from 1985 to 1990.