Need a pick-me-up? We’ve got you covered. To break up the monotony of stressful news updates, we’re here with an article about one of our favorite things: Wojtek the soldier bear.
A Mischievous Bear
We posted an article last August introducing Wojtek, but there is so much more to know about him. For one, Wojtek wasn’t always the picture of innocence. Raised by young soldiers, he quickly took on the attitude of a devious, fun-loving teenage boy. When his fellow Poles moved to an Allied camp in Iraq, Wojtek got up to some trouble. As the story goes, he stole a clothesline filled with ladies’ underwear – all belonging to female personnel! We aren’t sure what happened to the clothing after that, but we have to admit that a bear wandering an Allied camp in women’s underwear would be a hilarious sight!
During the Christmas Eve feast of 1942, Wojtek was the first to arrive. And being that he was first, he took it upon himself to start eating. By the time the soldiers got there, there was hardly anything left for them. Bears have big appetites, and he was probably nearing 200 pounds by then. So, can you really blame him?
Another bit of mischief Wojtek regularly caused was turning on showers and using them to cool down whenever he got too hot.
Earning His Keep
One night, Wojtek meandered to the bathing tent in hopes of a shower. Instead, he came upon a British invader who had snuck in with aims of stealing ammunition. As anyone seeing a bear in the middle of the night would do, the British soldier screamed at the top of his lungs and attracted Poles to his location. After he was arrested, Wojtek was congratulated with a couple of bottles of beer and unlimited shower time… exactly the reward he deserved!
Bear On the Big Screen
In 2011, a documentary was released about Wojtek’s experience with the Poles called Wojtek: The Bear That Went to War. There’s something new in the works, too – an animated short created by Iain Gardner and produced by Ian Harvey! The film will be called A Bear Named Wojtek and will use hand-drawn animation. It will be about thirty minutes long, and the story was written by Polish writer Wojciech Lepianka. The team is still working on a broadcaster to invest in the film, but I’m sure they won’t have trouble once people hear the inspiring story of the bear who fought alongside Polish soldiers.
A Loyal Companion
Some of the soldiers closest to Wojtek compared him not only to a fellow soldier, but a brother. After the war was over, Wojtek couldn’t go back to Poland, so he found a forever home at the Edinburgh Zoo. Though he died in 1963 when he was in his early 20s, his old soldier friends came to visit frequently, and Wojtek never forgot them. When he heard them speak the Polish language, he would stand on his hind legs to wave and salute.
Wojtek has been gone for a long time, but his memory lives on. And I’d like to think that if he had gotten to see the movies made about him, he would have been proud. Proud, and tempted to steal everyone’s popcorn.