Funeral in Warsaw of Col. Ryszard Kukliński

Saturday, June 19, 2004

The Funeral Mass was at the Military Cathedral, celebrated by Bishop Slawoj Leszek Głódź, the head chaplain of the Armed Forces. An honor guard of the Polish Army was present, and a military band played. The church as packed to overflowing, and the square in front was full of people. The urns with the ashes of Kuklinski and his older son Waldemar were brought from the Cathedral’s chapel, where they had laid in honor since their arrival from the United States (see photos), and placed in front of the altar.

The Bishop gave a wonderful sermon (read it here - Polish only), full of political overtones, which was often interrupted by applause. He called Kuklinski “One of the fathers of Polish freedom.”

The reading was by Jan Parys, former Defence Minister. Prayers of the faithful were read by two soldiers and by me, as representative of American Polonia.

On the way to the cemetery, people in the streets threw flowers in front of the vehicles carrying the urns and the family.

At the cemetery, there was a large company of soldiers and a military band. The grave is in a prime location in the hero’s section of the Powązki Military Cemetery, but in keeping with Poland’s tragic history, that section has graves of both the victims of Communism and their executioners – the soldiers of the Warsaw Uprising of 1994, and Communist leaders like Bierut, Gomulka and Gierek.

The speakers were:

  • Lech Kaczynski, Mayor of Warsaw
  • US Ambassador to Poland Christopher Hill
  • Jan Olszewski, former Prime Minister
  • The Commander of the Polish Home Army Association, a veterans group of anti-German and anti-Soviet Resistance fighters in and after WW2.
  • Janusz Śniadek, head of Solidarity
  • Jozef Szaniawski, representative of the family
  • Col. Radaj, Ryszard’s friend and co-worker

Lech Kaczynski said: Some military people told me, that if Kuklinski is a hero, then they are traitors. I answered them: you are wrong. Over the centuries, Poles have served with distinction in many other armies: Prussian, Austrian, Russian, British. That does not make them traitors. So you are not traitors, but Ryszard Kuklinski is a hero!

The family’s thank-you was begun by Joanna Kuklinska, the Colonel’s widow, then finished by her niece, who also read one of Ryszard’s favorite poems, by Zbigniew Herbert.

A procession of soldiers layed many wreaths from inidividuals and organizations, including one from the Washington Metropolitan Division of the Polish American Congress. The honor guard fired a salvo and a bugler played as the remains were interred.

Other prominent personages at the funeral:

  • Richard T. Davies, former US Ambassador to Poland
  • Jerzy Kozminski, former Polish Ambassador to the US
  • Jerzy Buzek, former Prime Minister
  • Maciej Płażyński, former Speaker of the Parliament
  • Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, former Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Jan Parys, former Defence Minister
  • Marian Krzaklewski, former head of Solidarity and leader of the Parliamentary majority, 1997-2002.
  • Leon Kieres, head of the Institute of National Remembrance.

There was no one from the current government or Defence Ministry, and no military people other than those on duty with the honor guard and band. The Bishop mentioned a representation of the General Staff, but they were not presented and were not in evidence.

-Thaddeus Mirecki

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