April 10th 2010
Maria Kaczynska who died alongside her husband
The pleasure of meeting Maria for the first time
A firm friend and fellow supporter of the Shafallah Centre
Maria Kaczynska was a tremendous asset to her husband throughout his Presidency and their loss has left a void at the heart of a nation.
Like so many other people across Europe and around the world I was shocked and saddened to hear the tragic news of the death of the Polish President Lech Kaczynski and his whole delegation,on a flight to Russia to pay tribute to those who had lost their own lives in the Katyn massacre.
Most poignant for me personally was the realisation that his wife Maria, so often by his side, had been aboard the plane as well.
I first met her when she accompanied her husband on a state visit to the UK in 2006, and I remember well her smiling face and her tremendous warmth from the moment they arrived.
Maria was an intelligent and caring woman, and we became friends - a friendship that lasted beyond Downing Street, as I saw her regularly after that in Qatar at the Shafallah Center for Children with special needs, where I've co-hosted an annual international conference on special needs since 2006. Maria was one of the most loyal supporters of the Conference and attended every year from 2007. We were both committed to trying to help Sheikah Mozah of Qatar draw attention to the positive achievements of disabled children, and as part of this effort, Maria and I also attended the Autism Speaks summit at the UN in 2008.
Maria was a tremendous asset to her husband throughout his Presidency and their loss will be felt far and wide. Most deeply of course by their daughter Marta, and two granddaughters, but they leave a void at the heart of a nation as well.