By Mail On Sunday Reporter
Last updated at 1:52 AM on 18th April 2010
Around 100,000 mourners lined the streets of Warsaw yesterday to pay tribute to Polish President Lech Kaczynski, who was killed in a plane crash.
Holding Polish flags tied with black ribbons, the crowd held a two-minute silence before emergency sirens and church bells rang out in the capital’s Pilsudski Square.
President Kaczynski, his wife Maria and 94 senior political and military officials perished when their plane crashed in thick fog near Smolensk, Russia, a week yesterday.
In mourning: Around 100,000 thousand people attended a national memorial service in Pilsudski Square in Warsaw, Poland, for the late Polish President Lech Kaczynski
Orphaned: Kaczynski and his wife Maria's daughter Marta, with her husband Marcin Dubieniecki
'They all had their dreams and hopes for the future of their homeland,’ said Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who was a political rival of Kaczynski’s. ‘This is the most we can do for them. We are here to remember them. We will not forget them.’
Kaczynski’s twin brother Jaroslaw, a former prime minister who now heads Poland’s main opposition party, sat at the front of the mourners with other family members, including the President’s daughter Marta, 29.
Sorrow: A Polish mourner reacts during the commemoration ceremony for President Kaczynski and other plane crash victims at the Pilsudski square in Warsaw
Message from the heart: students hold a banner during the memorial at the Pilsudski square in Warsaw
Former president Lech Walesa and acting president Bronislaw Komorowski also attended.
A photo of Kaczynski and his wife Maria lies between flowers
The memorial, which included a three-gun salute and a Catholic requiem mass, will be followed by today’s burial of President Kaczynski and his wife in the crypt of Wawel Cathedral in Krakow.US president Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had to pull out of attending the funeral because the volcanic ash cloud closed Polish airports.
In a statement issued hours before he was due to fly from Washington, Mr Obama said: 'I spoke with acting President (Bronislaw) Komorowski and told him that I regret that I will not be able to make it to Poland due to the volcanic ash that is disrupting air travel over Europe.
'Michelle and I continue to have the Polish people in our thoughts and prayers and will support them in any way I can as they recover from this terrible tragedy.
'President Kaczynski was a patriot and close friend and ally of the United States, as were those who died alongside him, and the American people will never forget the lives they led.'
Army officers carry the coffin of Kaczynski outside the Presidential Palace in Warsaw
Silence: Polish mourners gather in front of a stage, complete with huge white cross and a wall of portrait of the victims; Kaczynski and his wife Maria were outlined in red
A spokeswoman for Mrs Merkel said: 'She telephoned the Polish foreign minister and expressed her deep regret for not being able to attend the funeral.'
Merkel has already spent more than 36 hours trying to get back to Berlin from San Francisco after a volcanic ash cloud disrupted her return from the US.
She set off by road from Rome on Saturday after first being diverted to Portugal on her flight out of the US.
National grief: A man breaks down during the service, while a woman's grief shows