A BOOK of condolences has been opened in Shannon following the death of Polish President Lech Kaczynski.
President Kaczynski, his wife and a number of officials died after a plane crash near Smolensk Airport in Western Russia on Saturday.
Father Tom Ryan said that the tragedy was marked locally by Polish people living in Shannon last weekend.
“Photos of the president were put up and a book of condolences opened at Ss John and Paul Church. People gathered there on Saturday evening with mass being said by the Polish chaplain and prayers were offered afterwards in the Pope John and Paul jubilee garden afterwards. The Polish and Irish flags were both flying at half mast.”
Wojciech Wisniewski is a Polish native and ran for election to Shannon Town Council in 2007. He said that there was an air of gloom surrounding his fellow countrymen and women.
“If you meet people they are not smiling, they are really sad. They are all talking about the death and saying that they would rather be in Poland, not abroad.”
He said that the area where President Kaczynski had died special significance for the people of Poland as it was the site of a massacre of more than 20,000 of the countries people in 1940.
President Kaczynski was involved in the pro-democracy movement in Poland before the fall of communism, and Mr Wisniewski said that people were admiring of his contribution to winning independence from Russia.
“Like in Ireland, some people have one view and others a different one. Some agreed with him and some didn’t, but he fought for our freedom, so we could have a country that is in Europe not run by Russia.”
Mayor of Shannon Sean McLoughlin signed the book of condolences and he said the local Polish community had been very saddened by the tragedy.
“I spoke to a good handful of the Polish community and they were very shocked and saddened. It was a very big shock to them and he was obviously well liked in Poland. As mayor I felt it was important to sign the book of condolences and to show the Polish people that Shannon is in solidarity with them. We have a very good Polish community here and they’re very nice people.”
It is estimated that there are more than 400 Polish people living in the Shannon area.