The late Wojtek the Soldier Bear, an honorary private in General Anders' army during WW II, will lead a campaign to popularize little-known facts about Polish wartime history.
Richard Lucas, a British businessman who has lived in Krakow, southern Poland, for 20 years, first had the idea of trying to get a statue of Wojtek in the city. The Fundacja Ludzie Innowacyjność Działań is involved with the statue's legalities, such as fund-raising and communication with city authorities.
Soon after his idea of a monument to the bear, Lucas realised that a statue was only a part of what could be a much bigger picture: Wojtek the Soldier Bear fought alongside General Anders, and was "often seen as a hero among the Poles abroad [...] the bear certainly wasn't well known [in Poland]," Lucas says, commenting on the lack of awareness of the bear’s heroic exploits in Poland.
Wojtek the Bear would be able to represent, and be a symbol of, the uncovering of little known facts about Poland’s war-time history, thinks Richard Lucas. A whole host of other stories can be linked to Wojtek: from the plight of Polish orphans from Siberia and their journey to New Zealand; to the journey of Polish soldiers through the Middle East and the victorious battle of Monte Cassino in Italy.
The initiative is also aimed at teaching Poland's history to schoolchildren in the country and also around the world, especially in countries through which Wojtek travelled, including Syria, Palestine, and Italy.
Wojtek was found by members of the 22nd Artillery Company of the Polish Second Corps in British Persia, in what is now Iran. After the Second World War, he lived in Edinburgh Zoo, Scotland where his corps was stationed after the war. A statue of Wojtek the Soldier Bear is being planned to be built in the Scottish capital. (jb/pg)
Wojtek’s facebook page