Anna Walentynowicz's grave is fenced off prior to the exhumation: photo - PAP/Adam Warzawa
Walentynowicz is the fourth victim of the April 2010 Smolensk air disaster to be exhumed, and as in the previous cases, the action has been taken owing to doubts concerning the accuracy of the Russian autopsies made immediately after the crash.
The Military District Prosecutor's Office in Warsaw ordered the exhumation and the subsequent autopsy.
Although the former activist's family filed a request for the procedure – suggesting that the body laid to rest in Gdansk might not have been that of Walentynowicz - the prosecutor's office insists that the decision was taken independently.
“The prosecutor's decision to conduct the exhumation was not taken as a result of this request, but after the analysis of evidence by the prosecutor,” said spokesman for the office in Warsaw Zbigniew Rzepa, in an interview with the Polish Press Agency.
He said the exhumation was the only way to clarify “the doubts that have risen.”
A number of former Solidarity activists gathered outside the “Srebryszko”cemetery in Gdansk this morning.
“It's not about checking up on the exhumation, but about saying a prayer for a close friend who is being disturbed after death,” said Krzysztof Wyszkowski.
Following the exhumation, Walentynowicz's remains are due to be transported to the Department of Forensic Medicine in Bydgoszcz, where the second autopsy will be carried out.
Some 96 Poles died in the April 2010 Smolensk air disaster, including President Lech Kaczynski and First Lady Maria Kaczynska.
The previous three victims to be exhumed included two MPs from Kaczynski's former party (Law and Justice), Przemyslaw Gosiewski and Zbigniew Wassermann. Also exhumed was Janusz Kurtyka, the former head of the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), the state body charged with investigating crimes against Polish citizens.
Poland's current prime minister, Donald Tusk, commented during the last exhumation that imperfections in the Russian autopsies were not surprising given the stark realities of the crash.
“You know all too well what state the bodies were in after the crash,” he told journalists at a press conference in March.
“I should not comment on the determination of some families to exhume bodies, even if I do not understand this determination,” he said, calling the entire affair “a very delicate matter.”
Anna Walentynowicz was one if the iconic figures of the Solidarity Movement. It was her firing from the former Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk – on account of her participation in an illegal trade union – that prompted the now legendary strike led by Lech Walesa in August 1980. (nh)