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Polish Montrealers mourn the loss of their President

Hundreds packed this east end church to mourn the Polish president.
Hundreds packed this east end church to mourn the Polish president.
Associated Press

It was a sombre day at church for thousands of Polish Montrealers.

Many barely able to hold back tears packed churches throughout the island of Montreal to mourn the death of their President, his wife and high ranking members of the Polish government.

At Our Lady of Czestochowa church in Montreal's east end, the pews were overflowing.

" Shock, i don't think it really registered until evening time," said one mourner " I was watching the news and hearing comments, seeing how people were reacting."

"We lost a great person he  was very good for our country." said another.

Polish President Lech Kaczynski, his wife Maria, several top military officials and the head of Poland's national bank Saturday were  among 97 people who were killed Saturday when the presidential plane came down in heavy fog in western Russia.

They were en route to commemorate the 1940 Katyn Massacre when thousands of Polish military officers were executed by the Soviet secret police.

The bodies were discovered in a forest near the Russian village of Katyn.

The Soviet Union had  maintained the murders were the work of Nazi Germany for 50 years  until 1990.

Poland's consul general in Montreal, Tadeusz Zylinski, was having an especially difficult time with the deaths. He was not only mourning the loss for his country but he also knew many of the victims , including the President. 

" He was a very warm personality, very open. He liked to speak with people. He liked to hear people."

The flag at the Polish consulate in Montreal is now at half mast. A makeshift memorial has been set up for those wishing to pay their respects and sign a book of condolences.

The consulate will hold a memorial service in the coming days.

Anyone wishing to sign a  commemorative registry that will be presented to the Polish embassy on behalf of the Polish Community of Montreal can go to the following locations  between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m.:

--Centre funéraire Côte-des-Neiges, 4525 Côte-des-Neiges Road
--Collins Clarke MacGillivray White, 222 Highway 20, (Pointe Claire)
--Collins Clarke MacGillivray White, 5610 Sherbrooke Street West (NDG)

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