Journalist flabbergasted after US president Joe Biden joins him at grave of fallen Polish hero
A journalist laying flowers at the grave of a Polish hero had the surprise of his life when US President Joe Biden stopped his motorcade to get out and speak to him.
RMF FM radio correspondent Paweł Żuchowski had been at the Arlington National Cemetery with his son Wiktor to lay flowers at the grave of a Polish-born soldier of the US Marine Corp who died in Afghanistan in 2008.
But as they paid their Memorial Day respects they were stunned to see the President and First Lady walking towards them.
Biden had been at the cemetery to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier when he spotted Żuchowski and his son standing beside a grave.
Sharing a video of the presidential couple walking towards them amid a sea of white gravestones, Żuchowski later told PAP: “There were a lot of people there. The secret service told me not to move.
“Suddenly I saw that the presidential limousine stopped and Joe Biden and Jill, his wife, were walking towards us. They asked whose grave we were visiting."
The journalist's son then told them about Dawid Pietrek, who died aged 24 when his vehicle drove over an IED.
The conversation lasted several minutes and ended with a series of commemorative photographs. “My son has a souvenir for life,” Żuchowski tweeted later.
He added: “Mr. President, Madam First Lady, thank you for letting us share Dawid’s story with you and to reinforce why the #Polish #American bonds remain so strong, especially on days like today.
“We will cherish this memory for the rest of our lives. And as famous Polish says: FOR YOUR FREEDOM AND OURS.”
The fallen soldier Pietrek had travelled to the USA from Poland three years before he died. He had a green card and wanted to stay there permanently.
He decided to join the Marines as military service could help him get American citizenship. In 2011, he received US citizenship posthumously.
He had no relatives in America, but his mother decided to bury her son in Arlington. The Polish national anthem was performed at his funeral.
Żuchowski said: “The most important thing out of this whole story is that people in Poland, but also the Polish community, now know that by visiting Arlington National Cemetery they can pay tribute to a young Pole who died in Afghanistan.
“Perhaps next year there will be flowers and a flag not just from us.”
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