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PICTURES: Poles mark day of the dead with visits to family graves

Candles burn on graves at the Powazki cemetery in Warsaw (Getty Images)

Poles marked All Saints’ Day on Wednesday with prayers and visits to cemeteries, lovingly adorning the graves of loved ones and national heroes with candles and flowers.

The November 1 holiday is a key holiday in the mostly Catholic country, a solemn day for remembering the dead and spending time with family that ranks in spiritual significance only after Christmas and Easter.

A merchant sells regional cheese outside the Brodno Cemetery in Warsaw (Getty Images)

Polish President Andrzej Duda placed flowers at the Krakow graves of former President Lech Kaczynski and first lady Maria Kaczynska, who together died in a plane crash in 2010.

A hallowed feeling envelops the cemeteries, particularly at dusk, where thousands of candles flicker in small jars as large numbers of people file through.

Sylwia Gadomska, a 21-year-old hairdresser, visited the Czerniakowski cemetery in a southern Warsaw neighbourhood after dark, explaining that she considered the day very important.

“This is a day to spend with loved ones and with those who have died, those who are now unfortunately missing in our lives,” Gadomska said.

A couple pray in front of a grave at the Powazki military cemetery in Warsaw (Getty Images)

She could not visit her own family cemetery in a distant Polish village, but still felt the need to visit a cemetery to experience the special atmosphere and at least pay homage to unknown soldiers.

Polish media on Wednesday also celebrated prominent people who have died over the past year, including actor Roger Moore and Polish-American diplomat Zbigniew Brzezinski.

A mime artist entertains visitors inside the Brodno Cemetery in Warsaw (Getty Images)
An elderly man prays next to a candle on a grave at the Powazki cemetery in Warsaw (Getty Images)
A Polish woman visits her relatives’ graves at a cemetery in Warsaw (Getty Images)