Soldier Bear

Wojtek (1942–1963), was a Syrian brown bear cub adopted by soldiers of the 22nd Artillery Supply Company of the Polish II Corps. During the Battle of Monte Cassino, Wojtek helped move ammunition. The name Wojtek is Slavic and has two meanings: ‘he who enjoys war’ or ‘smiling warrior.’

The bear was fed with fruits, marmalade, honey and syrup, and was often rewarded with beer, which became his favourite drink. He also enjoyed eating cigarettes. As one of the officially enlisted ‘soldiers’ of the company, he lived with the other men in their tents or in a transportable wooden crate. After the war, Wojtek was given to the Edinburgh Zoo. There he spent the rest of his days, often visited by journalists and former Polish soldiers, some of whom would toss him cigarettes. Wojtek died in December of 1963, at the age of 22.

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