Finding common ground in tragedy

The leaders of Poland and Russia attending the state funeral of Polish President Lech Kaczynski said yesterday  his death in a plane crash in Russia must serve as a catalyst for reconciliation between the Slavic nations.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev braved the closure of Europe’s air space caused by a volcanic ash cloud to attend the funeral in Krakow — a gesture of solidarity that reinforced Polish hopes for improved ties with their communist-era master.

After a solemn mass, two gun carriages bore the coffins of Kaczynski and his wife Maria, draped in the red-and-white national flag, through winding streets to their final resting place in Wawel cathedral high above Poland’s ancient capital.

Tens of thousands of Poles chanted “Lech Kaczynski, we thank you” and waved flags and banners of the 1980s anti-communist Solidarity movement which the combative nationalist and devout Roman Catholic once helped to build.