Just a damn cool story: Voytek the Bear

Posted: January 28, 2008 in News

This blog often gets caught down in the seemingly perpetual Atheist/Theist/Rationalism/Faith circus but sometimes I just want to go off on a tangent and show off a story or event that is just plain awesome. This is one of those entries.

Originally I stumbled upon the story through this article on the ABC News site and I thought ‘No, this is too cool not to be true’. However, some research showed no reason for it not to be true so…

Scottish campaigners are calling for a memorial to a bear which joined Polish troops on the front line during World War II and later died in Edinburgh, media reported.

Voytek, a 113-kilogram, 1.8-metre brown bear, was adopted by the Poles after they found it in Iran in 1943.

They gave the animal beer and cigarettes, trained it to carry mortar shells and even enlisted it as a soldier so that it could keep travelling with them.

The bear saw action at the battle of Monte Cassino in Italy, where it was credited with bringing up supplies of food and ammunition under heavy bombardment.

At the end of the war, the troops were billeted to southern Scotland and Voytek went along too, before being sent to Edinburgh Zoo when they were demobilised.

The animal remained at the zoo until its death in 1963.

Now a teacher from southern Scotland, Garry Paulin, has written a book about the bear and a campaign has started to have Voytek’s life commemorated in a statue.

Campaigner Aileen Orr said she first heard about the bear as a child from her grandfather, a Scottish soldier.

“The story is totally amazing and it would be good if we could have some memorial in Scotland, perhaps at Holyrood (the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh), to celebrate the bear’s life,” she told the Scotsman newspaper.

Polish veteran Augustyn Karolewski, who still lives in Scotland, added: “He was like a big dog – no-one was scared of him.

“He liked a cigarette, he liked a bottle of beer – he drank a bottle of beer like any man.”

Further reading:

Eyeteeth.Blogspot.com

About.com

BBC.co.uk

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