THE Ambassador of Poland to Ireland has expressed his “sincere gratitude” to the people of Ennis for the “support, compassion and generosity” shown to Marek Skiba, the 51-year-old man who was found dead on Christmas Day and was buried this week.
The funeral of Polish native Mr Skiba, who had experienced homelessness, took place in Ennis Cathedral on Monday, just days after local campaigner for the homeless Josie O’Brien made an appeal for help with the funeral expenses.
Ennis undertaker Cyril Cusack stepped in to offer his services for free, with comedian Brendan O’Carroll later promising to cover the costs.
As well as Mr Skiba’s friends, many local people who did not know him but were touched by his story attended the funeral. Musicians and singers offered to perform for free and flowers were donated for the service. Clare County Council provided a burial plot for the deceased.
Ryszard Sarkowicz, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Poland to Ireland, in a letter to The Clare Champion, stated, “I particularly wish to thank all the individuals and institutions who offered help and contribution towards the burial costs of the deceased – my special thanks go to Josie O’Brien, Cyril Cusack, Brendan O’Carroll and Clare County Council. I also wish to express my gratitude to the hundreds of members of the local community who attended his funeral. The wonderful people of Ennis stepped in as his family at this difficult time.”
At Monday’s service, writer and film maker Alan Cooke spoke on behalf of Mr Skiba’s friends and described the deceased as “a sensitive soul who travelled to Ireland to find a better life, to escape the sorrow, to breathe new air into his soul”.
Celebrating Mr Skiba’s life at the mass, Fr Ger Fitzgerald said he was a “surprising man” and one who had borne many crosses in his life. He expressed his appreciation to Bernie, the woman who befriended Mr Skiba and helped him find accommodation, describing her as “like a mother to Marek”.
He also paid tribute to “everyone who looked after Marek, especially the people who provided him with a home” and Mr Cusack, for “his extraordinary offer of generosity”.
“My memory of Marek is of someone who was a great laugh,” Fr Fitzgerald continued, before revealing that Mr Skiba had taught him some Polish. The mass concluded with Fr Fitzgerald saying, “Marek spoczywa w pokoju, Marek rest in peace, until we meet again”.
Musicians Eoin O’Neill, Michael ‘Blackie’ O’Connell and Siobhan Peoples were among those who performed at the funeral with singers Noirin Lynch, Siobhan O’Brien, a niece of Brendan Bowyer and her aunts Olive and Ann.
Speaking to The Clare Champion after the service, Josie O’Brien said, “It was absolutely beautiful. People have been fantastic in helping to organise this and I am so happy for Marek that he got a decent burial. The undertaker was absolutely fantastic and it was very good of him to offer to do the funeral and fair play to Brendan O’Carroll.
“So many musicians and singers got involved. All of it was done on Facebook and Clare County Council was fantastic in providing the plot. It was just so great to see so many people coming together to give Marek a decent burial”.
Mr Skiba was buried in Drumcliff Cemetery, with Ms O’Brien saying that she and a team of volunteers will look after the graveside in a similar way that they care for the grave of Josef Pavelka, who was a friend of Mr Skiba.
The funeral service was held after Ms O’Brien called RTÉ’s Liveline where she explained that Mr Skiba was found dead in his apartment on Christmas Day but his remains had yet to be buried. He lived in Ennis for seven or eight years, with Ms O’Brien getting to know him through the Christmas dinners that she helps to organise for the homeless.
She said that while Mr Skiba’s family had been notified, funeral arrangements had yet to be made because nobody could pay.
Clare County Council contacted the show, saying it would “do its utmost for him to be properly buried”. Cusack’s undertakers then contacted the show, with Mr Cusack saying he was new to the business locally. “I just think it would be a good gesture on my part to help out,” he said.
Joe Duffy later told listeners that Brendan O’Carroll had been in touch with the show offering to pay for the funeral and burial.