WARSAW – Emperor Akihito traced the history of exchanges between Japan and Poland during a Tuesday night speech he gave at a dinner hosted by Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski.
The Emperor, who arrived in Warsaw earlier in the day with Empress Michiko, referred to the Rev. Maksymilian Maria Kolbe from Poland, who engaged in missionary work in Nagasaki between 1931 and 1935.
After returning to Poland, Kolbe was executed in the Nazis’ Auschwitz extermination camp.
“A tragedy like that should never be repeated,” the Emperor said in reference to Auschwitz at the dinner held at the presidential office, attended by about 90 people.
The Emperor called the Rev. Kolbe a figure who “cannot be forgotten” in the history of exchanges between the two countries.
The Emperor touched on Poland’s history and accomplishments and said the country overcame “various difficulties with the aim of freedom and independence.”
At the start of the dinner, the president said that even though the two countries are geographically far apart, their relationship is not distant.
The Imperial Couple arrived in the Eastern European republic on the second leg of a two-week European tour after wrapping up a visit to the Czech Republic.
Before meeting Kwasniewski at the presidential office, the Emperor and Empress reviewed a Polish honor guard in an official welcoming ceremony held in front of the presidential palace.
As customary for foreign dignitaries, the Emperor and Empress visited the tomb of the unknown soldier in Warsaw and placed a wreath before it.
The Emperor and Empress, making their first visit to Poland, are scheduled to make a day trip to Krakow, the ancient capital in southern Poland. They also plan to meet with former Polish President Lech Walesa and Polish filmmaker Andrzej Wajda.
The Imperial Couple will travel on to Austria on Friday, continuing a four-nation trip that also includes Hungary. They are slated to return to Japan on July 20.