Memorial to Polish soldier bear unveiled in Italy
PR dla Zagranicy
A memorial to Wojtek, Poland’s WWII-era “soldier bear,” has been unveiled in central Italy, close to where Polish soldiers played a decisive role in an Allied victory during the war.
The memorial plaque reads: “In memory of Wojtek the Bear, the soldiers’ friend who served faithfully in Gen. Władysław Anders’ Corps from 1942 to 1947.”
The unveiling ceremony on Wednesday came three days before the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Monte Cassino.
Polish President Andrzej Duda and his Italian counterpart Sergio Mattarella were due to take part in the main anniversary celebrations on Saturday.
The history of Wojtek the Bear started in April 1942. The bear was discovered in Iran by a group of Polish POWs who were being transported from Siberia through the Middle East to Egypt, from where they were shipped to Europe.
Wojtek quickly became a favourite with soldiers. He was the official mascot of the 22nd Artillery Company, and like his comrades in arms, he was partial to a bottle of beer and the occasional cigarette, which he ate.
After he was demobilised, the bear was given a home in the Edinburgh zoo in Scotland, where he died in 1963.