Ignace Jan Paderewski's remains will be returned to Poland by June 28, 1992, more than half a century after the famed pianist died during a wartime exile in the United States, officials said Thursday.
Paderewski died June 29, 1941. His casket has lain ever since in Arlington National Cemetery, near the Tomb of the Unknowns.
Paderewski's body could not be returned to Poland at the time because his homeland was under Nazi occupation. But President Franklin D. Roosevelt vowed that his remains would go back "when Poland is free."
World War II was followed by decades of Communist rule in Poland. In 1963, President John F. Kennedy reaffirmed Roosevelt's pledge that the musician and statesman would have a final resting place in a free Poland.
Following elections in Poland last year, the United States proposed to return Paderewski's remains on June 29 of this year, the 50th anniversary of his death.
But Polish President Lech Walesa, visiting Washington in March, said this date would come in the middle of an election campaign and there would not be "enough dignity in that period" to properly honor the Polish hero. He asked that the return be put off to next year.
"While he (Walesa) had been elected president, the parliament had not been elected, and there was still a lot of the old bureaucracy," said Edward L. Rowny, a former U.S. arms control official of Polish descent who has played a key role in the arrangements.
Rowny said a ceremony will be held at the temporary tomb in Arlington on June 29, inaugurating a yearlong commemoration of Paderewski, culminating in the return of his remains to Poland on June 28 of next year.
Richard Uniwersal, counselor of the Polish Embassy in Washington, confirmed that the June 28 date had been agreed upon but said there had since been some discussion of moving it up to Nov. 11, the anniversary of Polish independence at the end of World War I.
Parliamentary elections are expected to have been completed by then, Uniwersal said.