Prayers, protests at Polish general's funeral

|
Photo - Protesters, holding photos of victims of the communist regime shout slogans against the late Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski in front of the military cathedral during a Catholic Mass for Jaruzelski, in Warsaw, Poland, Friday, May 30, 2014. Jaruzelski, who died last week, imposed martial law on Poland in 1981 in an attempt to crush Lech Walesa's Solidarity movement but eight years later he allowed the peaceful dismantling of the Soviet-backed system. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)
Protesters, holding photos of victims of the communist regime shout slogans against the late Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski in front of the military cathedral during a Catholic Mass for Jaruzelski, in Warsaw, Poland, Friday, May 30, 2014. Jaruzelski, who died last week, imposed martial law on Poland in 1981 in an attempt to crush Lech Walesa's Solidarity movement but eight years later he allowed the peaceful dismantling of the Soviet-backed system. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)
News,World,Poland

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Former opponents and supporters of Poland's last communist leader, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, laid him to rest with honors Friday, while noisy protesters underscored the nation's ambivalence about the man who imposed military rule in 1981.

Former Presidents Lech Walesa and Bronislaw Komorowski attended the Catholic funeral Mass for Jaruzelski in a Warsaw military cathedral.

In a poignant moment, Walesa approached the grieving family and shook hands with Jaruzelski's widow, daughter and grandson.

Komorowski, in brief remarks, said Jaruzelski "carried the burden of responsibility for the most difficult and probably the most dramatic decision in Poland's history after World War II."

He praised Jaruzelski for allowing a peaceful political transition "that brought fruit in the form of our freedom and independence."

As Jaruzelski's family and friends later processed to an army cemetery with his ashes, protesters shouted "murderer" and "traitor." Some held up photos of people killed by the communist regime.

With protesters' whistles competing with a military band, Jaruzelski's ashes were lowered into a shallow grave. Former President Aleksander Kwasniewski delivered a brief eulogy.

The family's request for a religious ceremony was unexpected. Jaruzelski was a devoted supporter of Soviet-backed communism, an atheist ideology foisted on his largely Catholic homeland.

But at the end he sought solace in the faith of his childhood. Shortly before he died Sunday at age 90, after a long battle with cancer and a stroke, Jaruzelski called for a priest to administer last rites, made his confession and took communion.

The presence of Walesa and Komorowski in the church — but not at the burial — reflected the degree of reconciliation achieved between former communists and those who peacefully overthrew communism.

Jaruzelski imposed martial law in 1981 in an attempt to crush Walesa's Solidarity freedom movement. About 100 people died in the crackdown; Walesa and Komorowski were among tens of thousands of activists who were imprisoned.

Eight years later, Jaruzelski allowed the peaceful dismantling of the Soviet-backed system and served briefly as the first president of the new democracy.

Jaruzelski maintained that he imposed martial law to spare Poland from a Soviet invasion. The protesters outside testified that not all have forgiven.

"A murderer is awaiting his sentence," said one banner.

View article comments Leave a comment

More from washingtonexaminer.com