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Krakow to erect statue honouring WWII hero Wojtek the Bear

PR dla Zagranicy
Nick Hodge 04.04.2014 14:25
A statue of a beer-drinking bear which 'served' with Polish soldiers during WWII will be unveiled in Krakow this May to mark the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Monte Cassino.

Wojtek: image - wikipedia

“I'm delighted to confirm that the statue will be ready this May,” said British businessman Richard Lucas, who is one of the initiators of the memorial and a long-standing Krakow resident.

“Ninety percent of the funds have been raised, so we've taken the decision to start casting the statue,” he revealed.

The statue of the unlikely war hero Wojtek the Bear will be erected in Krakow's Jordan Park, which is adorned with a number of busts of national luminaries, including Wojtek's commander General Wladyslaw Anders.

The general created an army from the ranks Poles who had been deported to the Soviet Union in 1940.

He led thousands of men, women and children out of Soviet captivity to Iran, after Stalin was forced to sign an amnesty with the Polish-government-in-exile in 1941.

“The main purpose of the statue is to tell the story of the deportations and Anders' Army to the younger generation,” Lucas stressed.

Wojtek the Bear joined the army as a cub in Iran, and quickly became a favourite with soldiers.

He became 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 - though he ate the latter.

The bear was present at the Battle of Monte Cassino in Italy, and the ultimate Allied victory there on 18 May 1944 opened up the road to Rome.

After the Polish army was demobilised in 1947, Wojtek remained in Britain, along with thousands of other members of Anders' Army. He died in Edinburgh Zoo in 1963.

A statue to the 'soldier bear' is also to be erected in Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh, this May. (nh/pg)

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