Plunged into mourning by their president’s brutal death, Poles gathered in their thousands in Warsaw, well into the night.
Mourners laid a carpet of flowers and candles near the presidential palace.
The plane crash that killed Lech Kaczynski, his wife Maria and much of the ruling elite has been described as Poland’s biggest post-war tragedy. Some believe it will fundamentally change the nation.
“It will definitely be a different country, possibly richer in experience, possibly paying more attention to what is important” said mourner Dawid Kowalski. “I would like people to take something from this experience, people, not just politicians.”
With tragic irony, the delegation was flying to Russia to mark the 70th anniversary of the massacre of Polish officers by Soviet forces.
“I am shocked, still,” a young woman told reporters. “I really don’t know what to think about it. I mean, it is such a big loss and it came to suddenly.”
“It is so terrible that the most important Polish people, the Polish elite, just died,” another woman added.
The ageing Tupolev plane crashed near Smolensk in western Russia, close to where the wartime massacre took place.
As well as the presidential couple, military chiefs and the central bank governor are among the 97 dead.
A week of national mourning has been declared. Poles will observe two minutes of silence at noon today.