The decision to lay the Kaczynscy to rest in the Wawel has created a minor uproar in Poland. The Wawel is the castle compound overlooking the Kraków Old Town and the Vistula. It's the traditional burying place for Poland's Kings and national heroes. Pilsudski, Kosciuszko, and Mickiewicz lie in the Wawel's crypt. The Poles lobbied the Vatican for John Paul II's heart to be entombed in the Wawel, but were unsuccessful. So, one could understand why the Poles hold this place rather sacred, and have serious reserves to who is buried there. Many Poles say that Kaczynski (whose approval rating hovered around twenty percent when he died) may have been important to Poland, but not that important.
On Facebook, there has been an explosion of anti-burial-in-Wawel groups. I see that many have turned from mourning to anger and indignation. After all, does PiS think that Kaczynski was as important to Poland than Poland's nobility? Well, actually, Kaczynski probably deserves to be buried there more than some of the shitty kings do (the ones whose crummy reigns and ineptitude allowed Poland to shrink from the largest, most powerful state in Europe to a non-existent entity.) I'm not saying Kaczynski was a hero, saint, martyr, or anything, I'm just saying that they should probably be uprooting some sarcophagi before staging protests over whether or not he should be laid down there. To be perfectly frank, I honestly don't care that much (but then again, I'm not Polish, so my opinion on this matter is moot. (The bold text is on purpose, to emphasize.)) But I do understand the huge split in opinion and the feelings-running-high; it's a controversial move.
While this whole debate is raging on, the Kaczynscy are lying in state at the Presidential Palace. They are expected to be joined by Ryszard Kaczorowski, the last President of Poland in Exile. The Kaczynscy (plural of Kaczynski/a) will be buried on Sunday with many world leaders in attendance. I stated in an earlier post that I wouldn't have expected Obama to come, but apparently he will.
Yesterday, I sauntered over there, hoping to get in line and pay my respects. There was a small crowd in front of the castle (which has two huge screens running a live feed of the coffins.) The President's death has led to a deluge of nuns in public (there were always a lot in Warsaw, but I have noticed an increase of late.) They're everywhere! Mostly they walk around in small groups, but now, it seems, entire convents are hitting the streets in roving gangs.
I was searching to get in line, sifting through the crowd to find how I could gain entrance to the palace. It turns out that visitors are lumped into groups, which are let in one at a time to view to coffins.
The forest of candles and crowd in front of the palace.
I began searching how to get into one of these groups, and started walking down Krakowskie Przedmiescie. As I walked, I was confronted with how enormous the line really was. There was a point where the segmented groups of visitors became one unbroken queue to enter the palace. At first I estimated I'd have to wait an hour in line; when I neared Plac Zamkowy (about a quarter of a mile away) I stretched that up to three hours; when I reached Plac Zamkowy, I figured on five-plus hours at least. By then, the line started snaking around and doubling in on itself (several times) and I couldn't even see where the end was. It was so confusing, with lines going in every sort of direction. I don't even think some of the lines were even connected into the main one, but rather were just lines of people going nowhere (how they started, is anyone's guess. It seems that a long line at the ice cream place might have been mistaken for the line to get into the palace and so being started filling behind it.) I decided to trash my plans to see the President and his wife lie in state. As I walked back down Krakowski Przedmiescie, a light rain fell. As mushrooms are apt to do in the fertile loam of the forest, thousands of umbrellas blossomed almost in unison.
The line in goes all the way down the street.
Umbrellas in the sprinkling.
This 'crowd' of people, is actually one huge, twisted, curvy line.
A group near the front of the line awaits entry.
Along with the recently flooding of nuns to Warsaw's streets, an uptick in handkerchief-wearing scouts has also happened. The Presidential Palace is teeming with adorable youths wearing a variety of uniforms. Their uniforms range from the tradition 'Boy Scout' to the naval blues to some that look rather militaristic. The scouts light and place candles, remove the ones that are burned out, direct traffic and help control the crow, hand out water, or just stand guard. Their volunteerism has allowed the city of Warsaw to save thousands of zlotys by not having to pay overtime for extra police officers or hiring security guards.
A scout directs the foot traffic on Krakowskie Przedmiescie. We must respect her authoratay!
Scouts take cover.