'Wprost' - I couldn’t help crying…

What are your associations with Maria Kaczynska's name?

An extraordinary women, ideal spouse, mother and exemplary first lady. A lady who lived in harmony, was a born optimist and fought for freedom and who died in the most terrible circumstances you can imagine.

How did you find out about the air catastrophe in Smolensk and the tragic death of Poland's First Lady Maria Kaczynska? What were you doing right then and what was your first reaction?

A friend of mine from Brussels who was listening to the TV called me straightaway. I was at home and my youngest son and mother visiting from Holland were with me. When I heard the unbelievable news and repeated it aloud, she immediately understood that I needed to be alone and took the youngest to the garden to play. I was wondering if my husband knew already because he was on his way to the United States of America. I went down and lit candles at the icons' corner and then I started to call to friends and colleagues who had known them, some knew already, some not and I could not help crying when I told them this disrupting news.

In one of her interviews Maria Kaczynska spoke about your friendship. How often did you meet while fulfilling your duties? Can you recall any special meeting with Poland's First Lady?

We had a very good contact right from the start when I first met her about 4-5 years ago in Vilnius, together with other first ladies. She was so particularly kind and attentive and interested in many issues at the same time. We met in Warszawa several times, in Tbilisi, even in New York where our husbands went to the General Assembly as Heads of State and in other European cities. I always took special presents for her from Georgia and together with my assistant we were always trying to find new original Georgian presents because we had met so often that we had already given her all of them: enamel jewelry, felt and silk scarfs, Georgian music cd's, Georgian dolls, local products, photo books on Georgia etcetera.

A very heart-warming memory is the one of a visit to Warszawa about a year ago when Maria invited me to a charity concert arranged by the Artur Rubinstein Foundation under her patronage where the Georgian pianist Alexander Korsantia was performing and proceeds of which were meant for Georgian children displaced by the war with Russia in August 2008. After the concert she invited my colleagues and me to the palace and we had the nicest dinner with the pianist and his spouse. Among my colleagues were singers and we all sang polyphonic Georgian songs to her, she was enchanted and it sounded so nice in the high hall with the couple where she had received us!

The other very warm and at the same time last memory was the Chopin Festival beginning of March, just a month ago, when we went together to the best concerts imaginable (Barenboim, Kissin, Ohlsson and other famous Chopin performers) and she invited us again to the palace for a reception and a dinner. Her right hand, Izabela Tomaczewska who also died in the crash, was among us. On March 1, Lech and Maria came to the opening of the renewed and very modern museum of Fryderyk Chopin. I remember it was raining a little, they introduced us to the Italian architect and proudly showed all the modern and interactive novelties in the museum. Maria was particularly excited about the Kids' Corner where children could sit comfortably in niches near colorful computer screens and get to know Chopins life and music in a very playful way.

Besides loving music, what else did you have in common with Maria Kaczynska?

Yes, she even came twice to my newly created 24 hours classical music radio station and love for music really was our strongest bond. She was also extremely fond of ballet and we met our famous ballet dancers together. We were both interested in women and children's issues in the social and health care sphere. Were together in pediatric clinics both in Poland and Georgia, I came to her conference on ‘Women combining family and professional life' where five other first ladies of European countries had joined.

Do you have any memorable gift from Maria Kaczynska - a diplomatic or personal gift? Any cards?

Yes, as she knew I was so committed to Women and Children's issues she brought me a beautiful tea set designed by Stanislav Wyspiansky and depicting a mother breastfeeding her child in beautiful colors. It was always my favorite tea set to take out of the cupboard but now I will cherish it even more and remember and talk about Maria when I use it together with the guests I receive at home.


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