Friday, October 25, 2013

Wojtek The Soldier Bear

This a bit of World War II history that I ran across earlier today.  At the onset of the war, the Soviet Union was allied to Nazi Germany, and in concert therewith, invaded Poland.  In doing so, the Soviets captured Polish soldiers and shipped them off to POW camps in areas such as Siberia.  After the Germans invaded the Soviet Union, the latter's leadership had a change of heart and allowed the Poles to fight against the former.  The Polish soldiers were sent to Iran, where they organized themselves into the Polish Second Army Corps, with the intention of meeting the British in Mandatory Palestine, and then assisting them in the invasion of Italy.

While travelling through Iran, one unit of the Polish troops encountered a young boy who was carrying a small malnourished bear cub, bought the cub from the boy, nursed it back to health, and named it Wojtek.  Eventually, Wojtek (pronounced "VOY-tek") became the unit's unofficial mascot, learned how to smoke and drink beer, and stayed with the Polish army throughout the rest of the war, first in Palestine and then in Italy.  Afterwards, with Poland under Soviet occupation and on its way to becoming a satellite of the USSR, Wojtek and some of his human comrades were reassigned to Scotland, where he lived out his years in the Edinburgh Zoo.

The above is the abridged version.  Read the full story at Badass Of The Week.  The life of Wojtek is also recounted in this YouTube video:

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