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Poland's WWII soldier bear statue planned for Edinburgh

PR dla Zagranicy
Nick Hodge 02.01.2013 10:19
An Edinburgh-based trust hopes to raise a statue this year of a bear that served alongside Polish soldiers during World War II.

Maquette of the monument: photo - Wojtek Memorial Trust

The realization of the long-cherished plan to commemorate 'Wojtek the Bear' would gain a timely closure this year, as 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the passing of the four-legged legend in the Scottish capital.

Aileen Orr of The Wojtek Memorial Trust hopes that the monument will be raised in the very heart of Edinburgh, in Princes' Street Gardens.

A bronze maquette of the bear has already been created, designed by sculptor Alan Herriot.

Wojtek the Bear was purchased as a cub in 1942 while the Polish Second Corps was stationed in Iran as part of the British 8th Army.

The bear became a fully-fledged member of the 22nd Artillery Supply Company, sleeping in soldiers' tents (until he was too big to do so), gobbling up cigarettes and drinking beer.

Legend holds that during the Italian campaign, he carried boxes of artillery at the hard fought Battle of Monte Cassino.

The majority of the Second Corps did not return to Poland after the war, owing to the installation of a Moscow-backed communist regime in the country.

Wojtek ultimately found a home in Edinburgh Zoo, where he died in December 1963.

“The soldiers dearly wanted to take Wojtek back to Poland,” Ms Orr told The Scotsman, adding that they dreamt of “marching with the bear from Princes Street to Leith Docks then boarding a ship and setting sail to Gdansk in Poland.”

“There, they would hold victory marches through all the cities and towns on their way to Warsaw.”

The trust hopes that the Edinburgh monument will be followed by statues in Poland and Monte Cassino itself, where there is a Polish war cemetery.

Funds are currently being raised to realise the project. (nh)

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