History, cinema, and books are replete with stories of animals displaying exemplary courage and loyalty. The tale of Private Wojtek, the soldier bear, is no different. In fact, it is nothing short of awe-inspiring, more so because it’s a true story.
The legend of Wojtek begins in 1942, when he was found in Iran by a local boy and traded for a few tins of food to soldiers of the Polish Army stationed nearby. The soldiers cared for the Syrian brown bear cub and fed him milk from empty vodka bottles, fruits, honey and marmalade. Over time though, he began imitating his caretakers, consuming beer and cigarettes. Of course, he ended up mostly chewing the cigarettes instead of smoking them. Soon, the endearing bear became an unofficial mascot of all the Polish units stationed in the area. He moved with the company to various countries.