Diplomats unite in grief

David Miliband signs the book of condolence as
Poland’s Ambassador Barbara Tuge-Erecinksa looks on

A constant stream of diplomats joined thousands of Poles as they filed through the flower-bedecked doors of the Polish Embassy this week to pay their respects to the late President of Poland, Lech Kaczynski, the First Lady Maria Kaczynska and 95 public figures who died tragically in a plane crash over the weekend.

Speaking on behalf of the Diplomatic Corps, the Dean, the Ambassador of Kuwait, Khaled Al Duwaisan, spoke of the “deep sorrow and immense sadness” that the community felt on hearing the shocking news.

In a message to the Polish Ambassador, he said: “We share your pain and grief following this disastrous misfortune, and convey our profound sympathy and sincere condolences to you. Our hearts go to the bereaved in their great loss and to all affected by this dreadful calamity.”

Prime Minister Gordon Brown also signed the Embassy’s book of condolence, as did Foreign Secretary David Miliband whose shares a deep connection with Poland due to his Polish parentage. Clearly moved, the Foreign Secretary took a few moments to reflect silently before saying: “Our hearts go out to one of the fellow members of the European family…Every Briton is a great friend of Poland today. We stand with you in sorrow and solidarity.”

The Embassy holds a special place in the hearts of the Polish community. Those of the older generation remember it being a place of refuge during World War II.

Over the past week, Poles from all over Britain have gathered spontaneously at the Embassy, leaving bouquets, flags and candles as a mark of respect. The Polish community was also grieving for local leaders killed in the accident, including Ryszard Kaczorowski, the country’s president in exile during the Communist years.

The London diplomatic corps mourns the loss of former Ambassador Stansislaw Komorowski, a talented diplomat who served in London until 2004.