The death of President Lech Kaczynski and many of Poland's luminaries in an air crash replete with historic symbolism has united Poles as never before.
Or it did for several days, at least.
The announcement that the late president and first lady will be interred in the crypt of Wawel Cathedral in Krakow -- a place reserved for Polish kings and national heroes -- has provoked an uproar.
Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz said the decision to bury the couple at Wawel was reached after talks with family members, including the president's twin brother, politician Jaroslaw Kaczynski.
But many leading intellectuals and historians say it should have been up to the nation to decide. The late Kaczynski, they say, who was a divisive figure, doesn't belong among Poland's pantheon of heroes despite the tragic circumstances of his death in Smolensk.
On Tuesday night, Reuters reported
that about 500 people staged a street protest in Krakow against the decision. Some waved banners that read "Not Krakow, not Wawel."
By Wednesday, a "No to Kaczynskis' burial at Wawel
" group on Facebook had attracted nearly 35,000 fans and another called "I want to be buried at Wawel too!
" had more than 6,600 fans.
The author of the the movie "Katyn
," famed Polish film director Andrzej Wajda, issued an appeal
titled "Give Up On This Idea!" in which he called the late president a "good, modest man" but said the move to bury him in alongside Poland's greatest heroes was wrong and could cause the deepest divisions in Polish society since the end of communism in 1989.
Foreign leaders preparing to attend the funeral on April 18, including U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, can only hope Poles have reached agreement by the time of the Kaczynskis' burial.
-- Jeremy Bransten