It’S been a whirlwind few months for Aileen Orr following the release of her book dedicated to famous soldier bear Wojtek.
She’s been interviewed for TV and radio and been in discussions with film companies about putting the story on the big screen.
But next week she is taking the tale of Wojek to his home nation by being guest of honour at an event in the British Embassy in Poland.
Like people in this part of the world (home to Wojtek during the Second World War) who’ve bought Aileen’s book or watched the recent BBC documentary about the bear, the Polish hold Wojtek close to their hearts, none more so than President Buzek who Aileen met whilst attending an event at the European Parliament in November.
“He told me he was absolutely enthralled by the story,” Aileen said.
“He confessed that it even made him cry. Our meeting was meant to last 10 minutes but he was so interested and enthusiastic that it lasted a lot longer.”
Aileen, from Sunwick Farm, Hutton, received her invite to the Embassy function last week and she admitted it still hadn’t quite sunk in.
“To say I was shocked would be a major understatement! Everything that has happened since I launched the booked is staggering.
“The people of Poland have a great affinity for Wojtek and I feel a sense of responsibility going out there to talk to them about my book.
We’ve recently sold the rights for the book to be published in Poland and as well as the event at the Embassy I’ve also got a number of press calls while I’m out there.
“Fortunately I know the protocol for that type of thing from my time in the Scottish Parliament. However, it’s one thing maneuvering ministers in front of cameres, it’s very different when it’s actually you!”
As well as taking copies of her book with her to Warsaw, Aileen will also be showing one of the maquettes crafted in preparation for memorial staues of Wojek planned for Scotland and Poland.
“Wojtek is a part of both Scottish and Polish history,” she continued. All the interest his story has generated isn’t just something for me and my fellow Wojtek Memorial Trustees (Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Major General Euan Loudon and Krystyna Szumelukowa) to latch onto, it’s for the whole of Berwickshire. People all over the world want to learn more about the place he called home.”