Wojtek the Soldier Bear Monument Unveiled In Krakow

A statue of Wojtek the Soldier Bear was unveiled in Krakow’s Jordan Park on Sunday at the climax of a five-year campaign to commemorate this unusual Polish hero and the World War II army of General Władysław Anders.

A Syrian brown bear adopted as a mascot by Polish troops in Iran, Wojtek accompanied Anders’ forces throughout the Middle East theatre and during the invasion of Italy. Loved by his human comrades in arms, he carried ammunition and enjoyed bottles of beer and occasional cigarettes, which he ate.

The unveiling took place on the 70th anniversary of the conclusion of the Battle of Monte Cassino, at which Polish soldiers fought with distinction and where Wojtek’s unit, the 22nd Artillery Supply Company, saw action.

In a speech delivered in English and Polish, local businessman and one of the project’s instigators, Richard Lucas, said that the Wojtek story was an excellent way of introducing people to the an important part of Poland’s history.

wojtek_2Richard Lucas and the Wojtek statue (Photo: David McGirr)

“Children love bears. Through the attractive symbol of Wojtek, children and everyone can learn about Polish history, not just here but around the world,” said Lucas.

Lucas also made the point that the statue project had been funded entirely by private donations, large and small, and that many people had devoted their time to ensuring its success.

The project raised about 50,000 zł for the design, construction and installation of the statue, which is cast in bronze and stands 2.3 metres tall, at numerous fund-raising events and thanks to substantial donations from Lucas himself and local businessman, Andrzej Targosz.

The Wojtek statue joins the busts of dozens of illustrious Polish figures, both military and cultural, also commemorated in Jordan Park, including General Anders.

wojtek_1

(Photo: David McGirr)

8 thoughts on “Wojtek the Soldier Bear Monument Unveiled In Krakow

  • Avatar
    May 20, 2014 at 12:25 am
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    Great story. I have been following it for the past few weeks on Facebook, but prior to this, I had never heard of Wojtek.

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  • Avatar
    May 20, 2014 at 11:58 am
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    Great initiative. It would be even greater if the artist wouldn’t go unnamed, but this can be fixed I guess :)

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  • Avatar
    May 20, 2014 at 1:32 pm
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    the artist is Wojciech Batko who studied at Krakow’s Fine Art Academy
    thanks for pointing it out, cheers Richard

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  • Avatar
    May 20, 2014 at 11:08 pm
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    I wish that a feature film could be made about Wojtek; already watched the fantastic BBC documentary made about him. The statue looks great! :0) Does anyone know if the one in Edinburgh has been erected yet?

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  • Avatar
    May 29, 2014 at 6:17 pm
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    Wojtek’s story is quite fascinating. After Monte Cassino, Polish soldiers were deployed to Castel di Sangro, the town of my Italian ancestors. While there one of Wojtek’s keepers married a member of my family. The wedding was very festive and was held at the home of my Grandmother/Great-Grandfather. One of my cousins still remembers the event, including singing Polish songs throughout the evening. Perhaps this started a family trend, as I am Italian-American and have a Polish-born wife. Tony & Jolanta.

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