A Blog devoted to progressive politics, environmental issues, LGBT issues, social justice, workers' rights, womens' rights, and, most importantly, Cats.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Animal Stories: Voytek The Hero

Photo of Voytek the Bear from the Imperial War Museum

Auntie Beeb has a story up today about Voytek, a bear who fought in WWII.

Voytek, who was found wandering in the hills of Iran by Polish soldiers in 1943, was adopted by them, first as a mascot. When they were deployed to Europe, the only way to take the bear with them was to "enlist" him. So they gave him a name, rank, and serial number, and he, in turn, helped them to carry ammunition at the Battle of Monte Cassino.

After the war, Voytek was taken to the Edinburgh Zoo, where he lived out his last days until his death in 1963.

Mr Karolewski, who served with Voytek, went to see him on a couple of occasions and found he still responded to the Polish language.

"And as soon as I mentioned his name he would sit on his backside and shake his head wanting a cigarette.

One of Voytek's fans, Garry Paulin, is now writing a new book about the bear, while another, Aileen Orr, is campaigning to have a memorial created at Holyrood to the bear she says was part of both the community and the area's history.

We at Casa de Los Gatos are unabashed pacifists, but can't help feeling that Voytek was probably better off being adopted by people who cared for him rather than being abandoned in the hills of Iran where, due to his friendly nature, he might well have been bearnapped and forced to perform circus tricks for his keep. What a remarkable story!

And in an aside, we hope to hear someday that all War Museums have been renamed Peace Museums.

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