Walesa to attend funeral mass for Poland’s last communist leader
May 30, 2014
Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski and Lech Walesa
Lech Walesa, the legendary leader of the Solidarity movement that overthrew Communist rule in Poland, said on Thursday he will attend a funeral mass for General Wojciech Jaruzelski, the country’s last Communist leader to be buried in Warsaw's Powazki cemetery today.
Under pressure from Moscow Gen. Jaruzelski imposed 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. Walesa was detained for almost a year.
"I will be at the mass," Walesa, former Polish President and 1983 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, told the TVN24 broadcaster. He will not, however, attend the burial ceremony as he “can't stand it when they put a person back into the ground."
“Jaruzelski belonged to a generation which had to survive after Poland came under Soviet domination at the end of World War Two”, Walesa said. Some of them were genuine opponents of democracy, he added, but others tried to undermine Soviet rule from within the Communist system. He said he did not know to which group Jaruzelski belonged.
Jaruzelski, who died on Sunday aged 91 will be buried without full state honors, in the military section of the Pow±zki Cemetery, among other soldiers and generals buried there.
Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski decided on Tuesday that Gen. Jaruzelski’s funeral will be a state funeral.
Presidential adviser Tomasz Nalecz said that this will be a state funeral because “it would be difficult to bury a former president in any other way but it will be as modest as a soldier's funeral can be”.
Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski and PM Donald Tusk will also attend the funeral mass. “Respect is due for the uniform and for the deceased,” Tusk said.
The decision to bury Jaruzelski in Warsaw's Powazki cemetery sparked a lot of controversy in the country. 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”.
Jaruzelski was prime minister of communist Poland from 1981 to 1985 and head of state from 1985 to 1990.