First Polish Wojtek statue to be unveiled in twin town

The derelict army camp at Winfield where Wojtek the bear was mascot to the 22nd Company of the Artillery Supply Command, 2nd Polish Corps.
The derelict army camp at Winfield where Wojtek the bear was mascot to the 22nd Company of the Artillery Supply Command, 2nd Polish Corps.

A delegation from the Duns/Zagan Twinning Association will be present in Zagan when a statue of Wojtek the Bear is unveiled next month.

It will be the first statue of the bear in Poland and it depicts him upright, carrying the shell, as he famously did at the Battle of Monte Cassino.

At the same time the former school of textiles is being re-named for General Anders. He was the heroic general, who was released from a Russian prison in 1941, gathered together the Poles, who had been freed from Stalin’s captivity in Siberia, forming them into the 2nd Polish Corps which then made its way down from Central Asia, through Iran and Iraq, Palestine and Egypt eventually up into Italy where they were the ones who captured Monte Cassino.

Zagan already has a school named after General Maczek so now with one called after General Anders; the town encapsulates the two strands of Poland’s history in the last war when Germany invaded on September 1, 1939 and Russia on September 17, 1939.

So now both General Maczek and General Anders are fittingly remembered in Zagan.

In Duns there is the plaque put up in gratitude by General Maczek’s soldiers her,e and there is the memorial in Duns Park to his 127 men who were killed; and then there is the memory of Wojtek the Bear who came to Winfield Camp in Berwickshire at the end of the war with a group of General Anders’ men.

Last October a group from Duns’ twin town of Zagan who have become deeply involved in the story of Wojtek and have made him the symbol and the inspiration for the General Anders School were invited by the twinning association to come and follow in the bear’s footsteps and hear the authentic voices of some who knew him. Kay Karolewski was their guide at Winfield Camp where Wojtek lived.

Fine old soldier that he was, Kay stayed at his post until he could pass o the true message to his compatriots – he was taken to hospital the very next day and died a few weeks later. Their guide at Edinburgh Zoo where Wojtek lived out his life until 1963 was Karen Gladyn Gryff, daughter of a Polish soldier who used to take her as a little girl to see the bear. Karen Gladyn Gryff is joining the delegation who are travelling to Zagan on June 6.