Life in Poland

What’s up with Wawel anyway?

The late President Lech Kaczynski and his wife Maria Kaczynska were laid to rest in a crypt in the cathedral at Wawel Castle in Kraków, Poland.

So what’s all the fuss with Wawel?

If you are Polish for sure you’ve been on at least one class trip to Wawel and you may have one or several class photos from Wawel in your “school days” photo album (I couldn’t find Misiu’s, but it does exist). I’ve been to Wawel countless times. Every person who has visited me has been on the obligatory Auschwitz-Kraków-Wieliczka tour. My favorite part of the Wawel museum exhibits would have to be the suits of armor. I am fascinated at how small they actually are. In the room with the suits of armor, there are also drums which just call out to me to strike them. As I was preparing to do just that on one visit, the lady guarding the room informed me it would be better if I didn’t. So I didn’t.

For an American girl from a country without castles, Wawel is quite impressive. Positioned on a hill along the Vistula River, the complex includes a courtyard, cathedral and even a dragon 😉

The fuss about Kaczynski and Kraków started a couple of months ago (before his death) when the city of Kraków was planning to give Kaczynski honorary citizenship. Short version- Some Krakowians (or Cracowians) protested and Kaczynski said that if they didn’t want him, he wouldn’t accept the honorary citizenship.

No one can say for sure whose idea it first was to inter the late President and First Lady at Wawel. It was reported it was at the request of the family. Then it was said Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz initiated the idea. Still others claimed that the President’s identical twin, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, requested the burial at Wawel. No matter whose idea it was, it couldn’t have happened without the support of the family and the Catholic Church combined.

So, who is buried at Wawel?

Mostly members of the Polish Royal family and some notable others such as Tadeusz Kosciuszko, Jozef Pilsudski, Adam Mickiewicz, and General Wladyslaw Sikorski.

Some who have expressed their disagreement to the President’s burial at Wawel say that the family liken themselves to royals which they were not. Others say it is inappropriate. I’m on the fence. I mean, Kaczynski did die as the president in service to his country. On the other hand, he was a very controversial president without the kinds of achievements we would expect from a person interred in such a place of honor. Also, the immediate burial at Wawel was questioned. Many of those buried at Wawel were not interred there until months, if not years, after their deaths. Of course, preparation of their burial place may have had something to do with the delay, not politics or paying of respects in another location. Some in the media have suggested creating a gravesite for all presidents, even at Wawel in a separate location or in Warsaw. I think that is a good idea, but would the family agree to moved their loved ones. I’m not so sure.

PS I would like to express thanks to all my American friends who have expressed sympathy over the recent tragedy.

PS2 To answer some questions of those same friends (who don’t read or know about my blog anyhow):

Answer 1: Katyn is a “where” not a “who”.

Answer 2: The volcano is not located in Poland, but thank you for your concern.

Answer 3: No, the volcanic ash does not prevent us from going outside.

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  • Reply
    April 19, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    Chris, jesteś absolutnie świetnie poinformowana i piszesz z ogromną dozą rozsądku. lubiłam Cię czytać jak tylko odkryłam bloga, ale po dwóch ostatnich notkach lubię jeszcze bardziej – i bardzo szanuję. i podziwiam (a sama żyję w obcym kraju, więc dokładnie wiem co podziwiam) 🙂

  • Reply
    April 19, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    Chris, you should check your info before you say U.S. is a country without castles ;) can buy almost anything these days.

  • Reply
    Szymon Sokół
    April 19, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    A word on spelling: it is either \”Kraków\” (native) or \”Cracow\” (anglicized), but \”Kracow\” is a form I have never seen before.

  • Reply
    April 19, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    ds-Thanks so much. I'm blushingecthx- I stand corrected on the castles. Wouldn't it be nice???Błotosmętek- I'm of course aware of both forms Cracow and Kraków. Krakow is a form that I often use out of laziness. I also spotted it this weekend several times on CNN International. Maybe someone who works there is as lazy as me?

  • Reply
    April 19, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    @blotosmetek, r u trying to be smarter than chris is? well good luck!!! @chris, girl u know more than i do when it comes to current political concerns;) good for u:) i dont like the idea of THEM being buried at wawel but to show any respect to anybody i wouldnt go on streets and i wouldnt protest against it as some people did. ps maaaaannnnn, your friends or your friends questions reminded me of one situation when i was in the us. the librarian asked me whether poland is still under partition;) well i wont comment it;) xoxomichaszyj

  • Reply
    April 20, 2010 at 12:39 am

    I love the PS paragraph 😉

  • Reply
    April 20, 2010 at 5:47 am

    michaszj- When someone asks me a strange question about Poland (or America) I always have a really clever comeback…about 3 days later. Actually, I try to be nice because I have an acquaintance from Uganda and I asked him all kinds of stupid questions about Africa.hjuston- it's one of my favorites too 🙂

  • Reply
    April 20, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    Yeah, the North Americans and their geography… A few days ago one of my well-read, educated Canadian friends asked me whether Kyrgyzstan was close to Poland:) It's not like he's never been to Europe or something… I just sent him two maps of Europe and Asia and told him that the distance between Warsaw and the Kyrgyz capital is roughly twice the distance from Toronto to Vancouver…As for Krakow – I think the poster was pointing out it was either Krakow or Cracow, but you should stick to your Cs or Ks consequently, otherwise it just looks weird.

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    April 20, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    Ok, Ok, I'll change it, thus ending my reign of laziness.I also get this a lot, \”Poland is like which state?\” and \”If it's summer in the US, what season is it in Poland?\”

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    April 20, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    Ok, I just figured out that I mixed K and C. I was referring to Krakow (double K) version on CNN. Sorry, I'm losing it.

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    April 20, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    That is very insightful. Congrats for being as impartial as possible. I guess us Polish are bound to have an extreme opinion :/ Me and a few friends of mine figured out that if we're far from any extremes on that matter we'd better shut up. I have my doubts, but I guess shouting them out at times like this just isn't right.I like the PS, too. I get silly questions about Poland all the time – you'd think people living on the same continent would know more, wouldn't you?

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