Within moments of news that Polish President Lech Kacynski and other high-ranking officials were killed in a plane crash, the grief and despair could be felt in the D.C. area. People began to gather at the front gate of the Embassy pf the Republic of Poland at 2640 16th St. N.W. By midday Saturday, the Embassy opened a book of condolences for those who came to record their words of sorrow.
A week of mourning has been declared in Poland.
"President Kacynski represented the generation of freedom," said Robert Kupiecki, Polish ambassador to the United States. "The freedom connected permanently with the legacy of solidarity movement."
The plane crashed early Saturday morning while trying to land in Western Russia. There are reports that the pilot had been warned that the fog was too thick to land.
The president and the rest of the Polish delegation were on their way to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the massacre of 20,000 Polish officers by Soviet forces during World War II.
It’s been decades, but time has not healed the pain of that loss. And now it will forever be associated with another.
"We lost most of our intelligentsia in that event way back during the wartime," said Katarina Jasinska. "And now we lost our leaders going to that place, that event. So it’s just very ironic."
The Polish embassy invites anyone who wants to pay their respects to sign the book of condolences. The embassy will be open from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, and Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.