Former PM Olszewski laid to rest

Former Polish Prime Minister Jan Olszewski, who died on February 7, was laid to rest on Saturday at Warsaw's Powązki Military Cemetery among other eminent Poles.

Assisted by the army and police honorary guard, Olszewski’s funeral has been arranged as a state ceremony. The two-day period of national mourning had been decreed by President Andrzej Duda, with national flags remaining lowered at half-mast until Saturday 7 pm.

Earlier, a memorial service for the former PM was held at St. John’s Cathedral in Warsaw followed by tributes by veteran insurgents and underground anti-communist activists at the Warsaw Uprising monument. As a teenager, Olszewski took part in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising against Poland’s Nazi German occupiers.

Escorted by a cavalry honor guard, the coffin was then transported to the cemetery for the final funeral ceremony.

Participating in the memorial services were the late PM’s family, Poland’s President Andrzej Duda, the First Lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda, PM Mateusz Morawiecki, former Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz, Olszewski’s longtime friend, as well as other current and former top political officials.

President Andrzej Duda said during Saturday's funeral mass that Jan Olszewski was not only a witness, but also a creator of the history of the Republic of Poland.

"Looking at those 100 years of Poland reborn after 1918, he was certainly one of the most important figures in the country's history, the president stressed.

Andrzej Duda described Jan Olszewski as "a truly non-Communist prime minister of a truly non-Communist government," adding that "a free, sovereign and independent Poland" was his aspiration and essence of his life.

"Certainly, along with President Lech Kaczyński, it is Prime Minister Jan Olszewski who is one of those people whose vision of Poland we are implementing today, trying to make it the way they saw it - a great, proud Poland, but above all, a Poland of solidarity, this interhuman solidarity," the president said.

PM Mateusz Morawiecki said during the memorial service at Warsaw Cathedral that Olszewski testified with his life that full independence is possible and that it is worth fighting for it.

“He (Olszewski – PAP) belonged to the line of Polish intelligentsia defined by caring for the common good, the head of the Polish government pointed out.

"He was faithful to this tradition to the very end. He was and is a great son of Poland's history, but he is also a son of Europe, he believed in Europe," Morawiecki emphasised.

As the PM added, Jan Olszewski was one of the first "in the dark times of communism" to propose that Poland should be a member of the EEC". "Later, he strived for it, he fought for it when he became prime minister," Morawiecki pointed out.

Former Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz, Olszewski’s longtime friend, said that there would be no economic and political successes in Poland without the achievements of Jan Olszewski's government.

"The government you headed worked for only six months, it began with the recognition of Ukrainian and Belarusian independence, and ended with the liquidation of Russian (military - PAP) bases, the start of the 'lustration' (process of vetting public figures for involvement with the pre-1989 communist authorities - PAP), and the presentation of a budget which guaranteed sustainable economic growth," Macierewicz said.

Jan Olszewski headed the Polish government in 1991-1992. In the communist era, notably in the 1960s and 1970s, he was a defence attorney in political trials of oppositionists. In the 1980s, when the nationwide Solidarity movement emerged in defiance of the communist authorities, Olszewski became an advisor to what was the first independent trade union in the Soviet bloc and its leader Lech Wałęsa.

When communism collapsed in 1989, Olszewski became a political leader and later an advisor to late President Lech Kaczyński. He was awarded the Order of the White Eagle, Poland's top distinction, in 2009.