Wojtek features in Dutch exhibition

Wojtek used to enjoy wrestling with his army pals
Wojtek used to enjoy wrestling with his army pals

Wojtek the soldier bear who came to Berwickshire with Polish soldiers during World War II continues to be lauded across Europe, an exhibition in the Netherlands the latest to pay homage to him.

In a new temporary exhibition ‘The Poles. Liberators in Exile’ open until May 31, in the National Liberation Museum 1944-1945 in Groesbeek, the Netherlands, shows, among others ,the story of this extraordinary brown bear

A bear carrying an artillery shell became the official emblem of the 22nd Artillery Supply Company in honour of Wojtek

A bear carrying an artillery shell became the official emblem of the 22nd Artillery Supply Company in honour of Wojtek

The exhibition tells the moving story of occupation, exile, battle, bitter disappointment and the rebuilding of a new life far from home.

The Polish story of WW2 is one of the most tragic and also least exposed stories of the war.

The motto of the Polish troops was ‘For your and our freedom’, but when Europe celebrated her freedom at the end of WW11, Poland was not liberated but became a satellite state of the Soviet Union.

On show in the exhibition are unique masterpieces and images from Dutch and Polish museums: the General Maczek Museum in Breda (the Netherlands), the National WW2 Museum in Gdańsk (Poland), the Polish Army Museum in Warsaw (Poland), the Eyewitness Museum Beek (the Netherlands) and the Centre for Mathematics & Computer Science Amsterdam (the Netherlands).

Wojtek the bear

Wojtek the bear

Photographs are alternated with personal stories like that of Wojtek the bear, the mascot of one of the Polish units in Italy

Polish soldiers of the 22nd Artillery Supply Company adopted Wojtek, an orphaned 10 week-old bear cub from the Elbours Mountains in Iran, as their mascot and when the unit was shipped to Naples in 1944 the authorities refused to take wild animals on board so the Polish soldiers drafted Wojtek into the Polish Army as a private with his own paybook, rank and serial number. 

In recognition of Wojtek’s popularity, a depiction of a bear carrying an artillery shell became the official emblem of the 22nd Artillery Supply Company and his wartime adventures continue to be told.