The death this morning of Polish president Lech Kaczynski and First Lady Kaczynska is a tragedy that will touch the heart of many Americans. President Kaczynski was a Polish patriot of the first order, whose life exemplifies the meaning of courage, sacrifice and commitment to his family, his country and the Polish people.

From his early days in the legendary Solidarity movement, President Kaczynski fought for the independence, sovereignty and self-determination of his country. And in the two decades since the fall of the Soviet Union, President Kaczynski has been at the forefront of his country’s transition from an impoverished and Soviet-dependent economy, to a bright and vibrant regional leader. Poland is now a key member of NATO and a serious player within the European Union. As Commander-in-Chief, President Kaczynski has also overseen deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan where Polish troops serve bravely alongside American and British servicemen and women in defense of liberty and freedom.

America is home to a large Polish Diaspora, who will feel President Kaczynski’s passing keenly. There were few others who worked as hard as he to maintain the Polish-American relationship, which President Kaczynski saw as integral to the future of his country. Tributes are pouring in from across the world, including a touching remembrance from The Prince of Wales who made a royal visit to Poland last month as guest of the President and First Lady. Americans will be looking to President Obama to strike an equally appropriate tone as Americans join with the world in mourning the passing of a Polish hero and patriot.