Volcano Creates Terrible Trifecta for Poland

Massacre, plane crash and inability to attend funeral cause great pain for Poles

By BJ Lutz and Sharon Wright
|  Sunday, Apr 18, 2010  |  Updated 3:46 PM CDT
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Tears for Polish Plane Crash Victims


In this image made available by the Icelandic Coastguard taken Wednesday April 14, 2010, smoke and steam rises from the volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier in Iceland, which erupted for the second time in less than a month, melting ice, shooting smoke and steam into the air and forcing hundreds of people to flee rising floodwaters. Authorities evacuated 800 residents from around the glacier as rivers rose by up to 10 feet (3 meters). Emergency officials and scientists said the eruption under the ice cap was 10 to 20 times more powerful than one last month, and carried a much greater risk of widespread flooding.(AP Photo/Icelandic Coastguard, ho) **EDITORIAL USE ONLY**

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The Icelandic volcano eruptions that have choked international travel are especially frustrating for those trying to get to Poland for the funeral of that country's president.

"It's discouraing," said Frank Spula, the president of the Polish National Alliance.  "We have been on hold for several days.  Initially we were supposed to take off yesterday and the flight cancelled.  And then today our flight was cancelled."

Though not all of them were bound for Poland, nearly three dozen flights out of O'Hare International Airport were scrapped Saturday, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation.  And on Sunday, another 43 flights between O'Hare and Europe were grounded.

The Polish president, Lech Kaczynski, his wife and 94 others died in a plane crash last Saturday in western Russia as they headed to a ceremony commemorating the slaughter of thousands of Poles 70 years ago.

Spula said the pain of the massacre and the loss of the president are made worse by not being able to be at the funeral.

Included in those who can't make the funeral is President Barack Obama.

Just six hours before the president was to travel to Poland, the White House cancelled the trip, citing hazardous flying conditions posed by the ash cloud.

"Michelle and I continue to have the Polish people in our thoughts and prayers, and will support them in any way I can as they recover from this terrible tragedy," he said in a statement.

The cloud has forced huge portions of European airspace to be closed. The fear is that microscopic particles of highly abrasive
ash could endanger passengers by causing aircraft engines to fail.

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