Poland Mourns President, 95 Others

Correction April 12, 2010

Early audio versions of this story inaccurately identified the crash site as being in eastern Russia. The crash site is in western Russia.

Poland has begun a week of mourning following the plane crash in western Russia that killed its president. All 96 people onboard died in the accident, which occurred as the pilot attempted to land in heavy fog. Host Liane Hansen updates reaction to Saturday's plane crash.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

Across Poland, mourners have been gathering to mark the loss of the country's president. President Lech Kaczynski and dozens of other government leaders were traveling to Russia when their plane went down yesterday. In all, 97 people were on board; none survived.

They were planning to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre, where 20,000 Polish military officers were killed by Soviet forces during World War II. Members of the Polish community around the world have also been reacting to the tragedy.

Here in the U.S., Chicago is home to the largest Polish community outside of Warsaw. Tadeusz Czajkowski is the president of the Alliance of Polish Clubs, based in Chicago. He says the tragedy has deeply affected Poles around the world.

Mr. TADEUSZ CZAJKOWSKI (President, Alliance of Polish Clubs): It's tremendous, tremendous grief, tremendous sorrow. We have, as a Polish community, lost again for the second time - this time, 70 years later - a lot of our top officials, a lot of our top generals. We lost quite a few generals on that plane as well as people whose parents or grandparents are buried in Katyn. So again, it is a great loss.

HANSEN: It wasn't just political and military figures who lost their lives. A Polish artist was also on board the plane. Wojciech Seweryn was a Chicago-based sculptor who had designed a memorial to the Katyn massacre in suburban Chicago. He was one of the 97 people on the plane headed to the site of the Katyn massacre, where his father was killed 70 years ago.

(Soundbite of music)

HANSEN: You're listening to NPR News.

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