Saturday, 28 November 2015

Wojtek the Bear in the heart of Edinburgh

As soon as I'd broken fast at the Scottish Restaurant (they don't do Sausage McMuffin Deluxe in the UK, the one with tomato in place of the egg), I set off to Edinburgh's Princes Street Gardens to see the newly-unveiled statue commemorating the legendary Wojtek the Bear. I first heard about the soldier-bear, who fought alongside the Polish II Corps in the Middle East and Italy, in Saturday Polish school (can't remember if it was Pani Wolańska's class or Pani Skąpska's). Did we read about Wojtek in Razem Młodzi Przyjaciele? The story is a lovely one - the orphaned bear cub who is taken along with General Anders' army out of Persia, where he was found, via Monte Cassino (during the battle, Wojtek carried crates of shells for the artillery) to Edinburgh zoo, where he died in 1963.

A symbol of Polish-Scottish relations, Wojtek the warrior bear has now been immortalised in one of the most prestigious parts of Edinburgh; in the shadow of the castle, in the park that separates the Royal Mile from the New Town.

Below: the statue - the bear and a Polish soldier, the castle looming over the Gardens. The orange netting protects newly planted grass (presumably after the official unveiling on 7 November, witnessed by crowds and media from Poland and Scotland, despite the rain).


Front view of the statue, behind it a frieze depicting Wojtek being found as a cub, his adventures with the soldiers, his role as artillery shell carrier at Monte Cassino, through to his post-war years as an attraction at Edinburgh Zoo.


Below: the plaque - short and simple, in both languages. Za Waszą Wolność i Naszą.


Princes Street Gardens has just become an obligatory point for all Poles (and friends of Poland) to come and visit when in the Scottish capital. I felt deep pride at seeing the long-awaited statue in such a highly visible place, and would like to express my profound gratitude to those who came up with the idea, funded it and realised it.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Polish soldiers taught him to smoke cigarettes and drink booze, thus gaining acceptance.

Zieniek

Anonymous said...

The Polish soldiers taught him to smoke cigarettes and drink booze, thus gaining acceptance.

Ring a bell?

Zieniek

AndrzejK said...

A much better subject for a memorial than the endless statues of Lech Kaczyński which will no doubt blight Polish towns.