In Siberia, Polish President Honors Exiled Countrymen
IRKUTSK, Russia (AP) _ Poland’s president unveiled a plaque in this Siberian city today to commemorate ethnic Poles persecuted and exiled to the remote region by Moscow regimes over two centuries.
Later today, Aleksander Kwasniewski was to meet with descendants of ethnic Poles who were sent to Siberia in the 19th century for actions against the czarist government, which then ruled parts of Poland.
The Polish president’s Siberian trip followed a three-day state visit to Moscow, where he met with President Boris Yeltsin and other Russian leaders. Although there were few concrete agreements, both sides said the meetings set the tone for friendlier relations between the two Slavic countries.
Kwasniewski began his Irkutsk visit this morning with a glass of whiskey mixed with water from Lake Baikal, the ITAR-Tass news agency said.
He then went to the Irkutsk Catholic Church and unveiled the plaque, which read: ``Eternal Memory to the Poles who were repressed and exiled to Siberia 1768-1956. Peace to the dead. Conciliation and hope to the living. Fellow countrymen. Warsaw-Irkutsk 1996.″
Kwasniewski was to return to Poland late today.