Wojtek the Soldier Bear: A Hero of World War II

Wojtek, affectionately known as the „Soldier Bear,” has a unique and heartwarming story that intertwines with the history of Poland during World War II. Born in Iran, Wojtek was a Syrian brown bear cub when he was adopted by soldiers of the Polish II Corps in 1942. His journey with the Polish army began when a young shepherd traded him to the soldiers in exchange for a Swiss Army knife, canned beef, and chocolate.

As a member of the 22nd Artillery Supply Company, Wojtek quickly became more than just a mascot. He was deeply integrated into the life of the soldiers, accompanying them through the Middle East and onto the battlefields of Europe, including the Italian Campaign and the significant Battle of Monte Cassino in 1944. Remarkably, Wojtek helped carry ammunition during the battle, showcasing not only his strength but also his dedication to his unit.

His bond with the soldiers was evident in every aspect of his life. He was fed condensed milk from a vodka bottle and enjoyed treats like cigarettes and beer, which he received from the soldiers. Wojtek even learned to salute, wave, and march alongside them. As he grew, his love for activities like wrestling and showering became well-known, and he developed a strong affinity for riding in military trucks.

After the war, Wojtek moved to Scotland with his unit, where he continued to be a popular figure, both among the local civilians and the media. Eventually, he was given to the Edinburgh Zoo, where he lived until his death in 1963. Wojtek’s story captured the hearts of many, and his memory is honored through various memorials, including statues and plaques in places like Edinburgh, Kraków, and London.

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