Polish community in Britain mourns death of `best politicians’, `magnificent priest’

Light candles, lay flowers, flag flies at half-mast

12th April 2010: The Polish community in Britain is mourning the death of 97 dignitaries, including the Polish president Lech Kaczynski and his wife Maria.

The crash had occurred as they were due to attend memorial events in Russia marking the massacre of thousands of Polish soldiers during the Second World War.

Among the dead was Bronislaw Gostomski, 62, the popular parish priest of St Andrew Bobola Roman Catholic Polish Church in Shepherd’s Bush, west London. He had been a priest at St Andrew Bobola for eight years; and had helped in building links with the residential neighbourhood and raising money for renovation of the building.

Emotions ran high, as the community felt they had lost one of the best politicians the country had since long time and a magnificent priest.

There are an estimated 750,000 people in Britain with a Polish connection. As the news of the death spread, candles were lit for paying tribute to the departed souls.

In fact, the community in thousands gathered at ceremonies around the country. They attended a vigil outside the Polish embassy in London. The mourners even signed books of condolence and lit dozens of small candles.

By the afternoon, the national colours of Poland dotted the pavements with the community paying respect with bouquets of carnations, tulips, roses and lilies in red and white.

The flag marked with a black ribbon flew at half-mast; and the traffic came to a standstill, as the mourners stood in silence before singing Poland’s national anthem of Poland.

The mourners, including the Polish ambassador Barbara Tuge-Erecinska, also gathered at the London church to attend mass on Saturday evening. He described it as "the biggest tragedy for Poland since the end of WWII".

The parishioners also joined a 500-strong gathering, including many scouts and guides.

Tears rolled down the cheeks, as the mourners said their prayers and paid their respects in the churchyard.

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