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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » December 13, 2015
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Edinburgh Statue for Soldier Bear
December 13, 2015   
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A statue of Wojtek the Bear, a mascot who accompanied the Polish armed forces in their campaigns during World War II, was unveiled Nov. 7 in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Commemorating the unique friendship between Wojtek and Polish soldiers, the statue is located in the heart of the Scottish capital, in Princes Street Gardens.

The story of Wojtek began in 1942 when an Iranian boy sold a little cub to a Polish soldier from the Second Corps of the Polish Armed Forces in the West, which at the time were stationed in Iran. The cub grew up to become a sturdy bear with some remarkably human characteristics. Wojtek responded to commands and requests in Polish, drank beer and smoked cigarettes with Polish soldiers. Strange as it may sound, he was officially registered as a private in the 22nd Artillery Supply Company and, together with the Polish Second Corps, traveled across Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Egypt and Italy. He helped Polish troops transport ammunition and deliver it to the front during the Battle of Monte Cassino in Italy.

After the war, Polish troops along with Wojtek arrived in 1946 in the Scottish city of Glasgow, from where they were sent to the Polish Resettlement Camp at Winfield in Berwickshire, southeast Scotland. When the camp was disbanded in 1947, Wojtek was handed over to Edinburgh Zoo and lived there for another 16 years, pining for his Polish friends and for his freedom. He died in 1963.

The statue in Edinburgh was designed by Raymond Muszyński and made by Alan Beattie Herriott, a well-known British sculptor. It depicts Wojtek in the company of a Polish soldier.

The project to put up the statue was initiated by the Wojtek Memorial Trust.

Leszek Wieciech
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