Wojtek the Bear

Wojtek the Bear

Wojtek was a Syrian brown bear, who was adopted as a cub by Polish soldiers in Iran. Raised on a diet of condensed milk from an empty vodka bottle, Wojtek soon progressed to beer and even cigarettes supplied by his comrades. To get him on to a transport ship he was officially ‘drafted’ as Private Wojtek with his own number in the Polish army. During the Battle of Monte Cassino he carried artillery shells whilst under fire for his comrades. The image of a bear carrying a shell became the official emblem of the 22nd Transport Company of the Polish army in recognition of his bravery and popularity. After the war Wojtek retired to Edinburgh Zoo where he lived happily, becoming particularly animated when he heard Polish spoken and when former comrades visited and threw him cigarettes.

His story, Wojtek the Bear: Polish War Hero by Aileen Orr is published by Edinburgh publisher Birlinn and a statue of the bear and a soldier is planned for the city by the Wojtek Memorial Trust.