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Sunday, 4 June, 2000, 09:35 GMT 10:35 UK
Poland reburies wartime leader
Mikolajczyk's coffin
Mikolajczyk's coffin arrives in Warsaw on Friday

By Ray Furlong

One of the heroes of Poland's anti-Communist movement is being reburied in the south-western town of Poznan, half a century after he fled Communist rule.

Stanislaw Mikolajczyk was the leader of the Polish wartime government-in-exile and briefly returned to the country after the Communist takeover, but spent the rest of his life in the United States.

The return of his remains was made possible by a special act of parliament which served to rehabilitate his name.

The coffins containing the bodies of Mikolajczyk and his wife Cecylia were unloaded at Warsaw airport on Friday morning - a return from exile 34 years after his death in Washington.

Role in communist Poland

Mikolajczyk, who headed the London-based government-in-exile after the death of Wladyslaw Sikorski in 1943, was the only senior Polish politician who dared return to communist-controlled Poland in 1945.

Compromise for high reasons is not a surrender

Polish PM Jerzy Buzek
He revived the Peasant Party, the only political force in Poland not controlled by the communists, and reluctantly became deputy prime minister and agriculture minister.

But he fled from Poland again in 1947 after the Communist authorities denounced him as a spy.

Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek paid tribute to him at a service in Warsaw's Gothic Cathedral on Saturday.

Mikolajczyk's participation in the communist-controlled government showed that a "compromise for high reasons is not a surrender", Mr Buzek said - an apparent reference to feuding party leaders in his government coalition.

The rape of Poland

Mikolajczyk is still a controversial figure, and his return has prompted lively discussion in the Polish media.

Critics say his support for the ill-fated Warsaw uprising of 1944 showed bad judgement, and that his post-war return to Poland gave legitimacy to the Communist government that subsequently turned against him.

He was the only prominent emigré leader to return during the Stalinist era, but was seen by many as a hope that Poland would not be dominated by the Soviet Union.

Mikolajczyk can now rest in peace, in the democratic country that has emerged over the last 10 years, consigning his classic 1948 book, The Rape of Poland, safely to the history shelves.

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