How Wojtek, a bear, became a soldier.(The true story of the soldier - bear of the 2nd Polish Corps)
This comic was created within the eTwinning project conducted by the Complex of Textile-Trade Schools, in Zagan, Poland under the supervision of Wioletta Sosnowska and in ITCG Luigi Paolini in Imola, in Italy under the supervision of Angela Riccomi.
How Wojtek, a bear, became a soldier. (The true story of the soldier - bear of the 2nd Polish Corps.) Heartfelt thanks to Professor Wojciech Narbski, the last surviving member of the 22nd Artillery Supply Company, 2nd Polish Corps living in Poland, who witnessed the story of Wojtek. Because of his support, guidance, photographs and many other documents, this comic has priceless historical value - based on the authentic memories of such an important witness to history. Heartfelt thanks to Professor Wojciech Narbski, the last surviving member of the 22nd Artillery Supply Company, 2nd Polish Corps living in Poland, who witnessed the story of Wojtek. Because of his support, guidance, photographs and many other documents, this comic has priceless historical value - based on the authentic memories of such an important witness to history.The extraordinary story of Wojtek, a bear that travelled with the 2nd Polish Corps during the war, from Iraq through Egypt to the Italian campaign and then on to Scotland has been published in many different languages, primarily Polish and English. The first one, written by Wieslaw A. Lasocki, an officer with the 2nd Polish Corps, was published in 1968-1971, in the English language in cooperation with Geoffrey Morgan. Several years later Janusz Przymanowski also wrote about him. However, because most of the 2nd Corps soldiers who did not return to Poland, strongly objected to sending Wojtek to a zoological garden in the freedom-deprived country, the authorities in the People's Republic of Poland did not allow publication of these books in Poland. That is why this amazing bear has only received renewed attention in the last twenty years. In addition to numerous press articles, in 2007, "Wojtek from Anders' Army," a novel by Maryna Miklaszewska, was published, and in 2009, a children's book, "A Grandpa and A Cub," by Lukasz Wierzbicki, received awards for popularizing the story among youth. Another recommended book is the bilingual story by Scottish teacher Garry Paulin, "Voytek, the Soldier Bear". Although the bibliography of Wojtek's story is quite full, there have been some doubts about his initial life among Polish soldiers when their Army was being formed in the Middle East. However, thanks to the famous documentary filmmaker, Maria Dluewska, who made the television film "A Beer for A Bear", the person who first cared for Wojtek in Iran before he joined the 22nd Artillery Supply Company, was found. My appreciation goes to the authors of this comic which has resulted from the wonderful cooperation between Polish and Italian teachers and students. They decided to choose this original demonstrative literary genre to present the story of Wojtek and base it on corroborated documents and reports of credible witnesses of the events. Because of this, this beautifully illustrated comic for the first time shows the true and full life story of our hero - Wojtek the bear - soldier of the 2nd Polish Corps. Also it is an illustrative presentation of the praiseworthy combat route of our Corps from the triumphant battle of Monte Cassino, through the capture of the logistically significant Ancon harbour and shows our contribution to breaking the strongly fortified Goth's Line as well as to the severe battles in the Emilian Apennine and the placing of the Polish flags on top of the highest tower of the oldest university in Europe, Bologna. It also reminds us of the Polish-Italian brotherhood of arms during the battles in Italy, distant, yet so close to us. The idea of publishing the book in four European languages is also worth emphasizing. As one of the few surviving soldiers of the 2nd Polish Corps and as vice-chairman of the Franceso Nullo Polish-Italian Friendship Society, I would like to thank you with all my heart, dear Polish and Italian authors of this book. Wojciech Narbski All rights reserved. This comic may not be published without permission of the authors. The Polish army, formed in the Soviet Union, was evacuated across the Caspian Sea to the Middle East to fight the Germans with the Allies, and with the army thousands of civilians were also transported there. Among them there was a young Polish woman named Irena. It is here, in Iran, near the city of Hamadan where Wojtek's story begins - Wojtek - the bear who became a Polish soldier. I'm so tired, finally I can lie down. iran 1942 Finally a layover! I'll help you down, Miss. Would you like to play with us? I can't. Look! He's asleep, I don't want to wake him up. He's so cute! What's wrong Irena? Lieutenant Floryczkowski, have you seen that bear? I would give anything to have him... That poor girl suffered so much during exile to Siberia. Fine, I'll buy her this bear! - He's so sweet. I knew from the beginning that you would be mine. I don't have any shoes, but I have a bear! 8.04.1942 Super! We've got money and canned food! Why are they sleeping? I want to play... The camp for civilians evacuated from the USSR near Teheran What's going on? That bear is not letting us sleep! Well, what's the matter with you girls? Have you never seen a teddy bear? Well, this one is real, and he's so cute, isn't he? Oh no! Enough is enough! No Irena, stop joking, you can't keep that bear in here! Wojtek caused many problems so Irena could not keep him. Fortunately, Irena and the other girls came up with the great idea to give him to General Boruta - Spiechowicz, and the General was very pleased with his gift ... General I know that you will love this teddy bear. What did you do?! You have broken the general's phone; because of you I will have many problems! All the eggs are for me, yumm! Gnam-Gnam!....Slurp slurp... Gnam-Gnam!....Slurp slurp... HIM? What's he doing in here? This way major. This is the kitchen. Oh no, disaster! Oh my God! Wojtek, you thief! Because Wojtek was causing a lot of problems, it was determined, that the camp in Tehran wasn't such a good place for a bear and they decided to take him to Palestine, where the Polish Army was already stationed. Wojtek ended up in the 22nd Artillery Supply Company in August 1942. Lieutenant Floryczkowski, transport this bear safely to Palestine. His place is with the soldiers! Unfortunately, my little one you cannot stay with us, you will go to Palestine. Military camp Gedera - Palestine. I can't believe it! That's a little bear! I'll name you Wojtek... Look Piotr! It will be our mascot! What's that? Is that a little animal? Do you think that he will stay with us? How to feed him, he is so small... A cognac bottle will probably be good ... Drink little one, you have to be strong. Wojtek drank milk just like a baby, lying peacefully in the arms of his new guardian. Little Wojtek was very active and he loved to play with other animals. He made friends with a Dalmatian, the British liaison officer's dog with whom he would play all day long. Every day brought something new... Wojtek loved to take baths. There is nothing like a cold shower... It's so hot, I'm going to freshen up. O Allah! A bear wants to eat me! Wojtek, we are fed up with your antics! Gosh! I just wanted to take a shower... Phew, luckily they didn't notice anything! What's that noise? ding ding A thief! The shower was just an excuse to steal the weapons! Once again Wojtek proved to be an extraordinary bear. While the troops were stationed in Iraq in the Quizil Ribat and near Kirkuk camps, several attempts to steal weapons, tents or other equipment were recorded. Wojtek always stood on guard, and saw to it that nothing would be taken from the camp. Palestine 13.09.1943 Oh, a little bear, I'll have a friend! A second bear named Michal arrived in the company. I guess he doesn't like me... Unfortunately, Michal didn't like Wojtek, and he was aggressive towards him, that's why the commander decided to place Michal in the Tel- Aviv Zoo. In return, the zoo director gave a monkey to the company, she was named Kasia. 24.09.1943 hmmm, maybe she will be friendlier towards me. Once again, Wojtek had no luck. Kasia was mischievous towards the bear, she pulled his ears, or mimicked him. Wojtek did not like her and whenever he saw her, he would cover his eyes with his paws. Although they did not like each other, Kasia and Wojtek stayed together in the company until the end. What a mischievous monkey! In the company there were two Wojteks: a big Wojtek, and a small Wojtek... (Narbski) Wojtek accompanied the Polish soldiers from Iran through Iraq, Palestine and Egypt straight to Italy.Meanwhile, it was necessary to move the 2nd Polish Corps to Italy. The soldiers could not imagine this journey without Wojtek and wondered what to do to make it possible for the bear to come on board, after all, shipping animals by boat was forbidden. Finally, they found a solution: they must bring Wojtek into the army! Here is your military service booklet. From now on, you're a soldier, Wojtek! Hang in there Wojtek! Wojtek travelled, along with the soldiers, from Egypt to Italy on board the ship, Stefan Batory. Wojtek was very fond of playing with soldiers. Every day he waited for someone to play with. Boxing and wrestling were his favourite sports. Wojtek loved to wrestle! Come on, show us that you are a real bear! I like this bear, we'll see ... Maybe this time he'll manage to win? Go on Wojtek!!! No way, Wojtek always wins .... Well little one, do you want to try? The soldiers wanted to teach Wojtek to smoke, but instead of smoking cigarettes, he ate them. Brrr, what a strange feeling! What's in this bottle? Well, I'll try... Oh, I feel dizzy, this probably isn't the milk that I drank from the bottle when I was little... We're Liberating Italy! Yes! We did it! I think they are gone... But first of all we had to capture Monte Cassino. After four months of unsuccessful attempts to capture the Benedictine monastery hills, on 18 May, at 9.50, Polish soldiers under General Anders, had the honor to place the Polish flag on the ruins of the Monte Cassino monastery. The victory was paid for with the blood of Polish soldiers, but the road to Rome was finally opened. 1944 That's so tiring! Oh, it is so heavy! Wojtek, thanks for your help! From that time, the image of Wojtek carrying an artillery shell, became the insignia of the 22nd Artillery Supply Company. Monte Cassino This will be difficult, very difficult. The Germans are defending themselves viciously along the Gustav Line. 18.05.1944 It was difficult, but we did it! Victory! Wojtek, get out, I'm the driver in here! The 22nd Artillery Supply Company, of which Wojtek was a member, supplied missile and heavy artillery regiments. Wojtek loved to ride in military vehicles, sometimes it was difficult to drag him out .. None of the soldiers who drove vehicles with Wojtek was killed. On the contrary, it is said that those who refused to take him into the cab, were killed shortly afterwards ... In the summer of 1944, the 2nd Polish Corps began its Adriatic campaign and the liberation of the port of Ancona was its biggest independent success. At this time, the Italian Liberation Corps cooperated with the 2nd Corps, and the guerrilla group of Maiello of Abruzzo, fought under Polish command until Bologna. It was a wonderful brotherhood of arms. ANCONA Who would have thought that our Corps would liberate this great port by themselves! Wojtek, look, what a beautiful view of the sea! The sea! I can finally take a bath! The Adriatic campaign period was a wonderful time for Wojtek because he could bathe in the sea as much as he wanted. As soon as he saw the water, he would immediately jump into it. One day, on an Italian beach, beautiful girls were sunbathing and swimming in the sea. Suddenly... Ohhh!!! Help!!! A Bear!!! Oh my God, he will eat us! Don't be afraid, that bear is tame! Oh no, what a pity! Swim, swim, Wojtek will catch you anyway! Let's see who is faster! Yes! I caught up with him. Wojtek, let me go because you'll drown me! Breathe captain! Oh no! I didn't want to hurt him... Look! There is no sight of the captain nor of Wojtek! Wojtek loved to chase seagulls. When lying on the sand he pretended to be asleep letting them tease him, but not for long... You shouldn't have bothered me... In the autumn of 1944, the soldiers of the 2nd Corps, in cooperation with the Italian partisans fought tough battles in the Apennines, freeing Mussolini's hometown, Predappio and contributing to the liberation of Forli and Fanz. The liberation of Imola In April 1945, units of the 2nd Corps, operating along Via Emilia with the support of the Italian Friuli division as well as the partisans, were liberating many cities and towns like Imola. I can see the walls of the Imola castle. The Germans must be close... Good luck! To your freedom and ours! IMOLA 14.04.1945 Long live the Poles! Thank you! Walk quietly, the Germans are close, they can hear us. Towards Bologna! A little longer and all of Italy will be liberated! Bologna 21.04.1945 After the liberation of Imola and Castel San Pietro, on 21 April 1945, the soldiers of the 2nd Polish Corps were the first to enter Bologna, and were greeted by crowds of people cheering in their honour. The Polish troops liberated the city, along with other Allied troops, and it was practically the end of the Italian campaign. Many soldiers chose not to return to Poland, because the communist regime was already in place. Some of them stayed in Italy, others went to Scotland, Wojtek went with them... Thank you Poles! Long live the Poles! 1946 Oh, Wojtek, I am also very tired. I'm exhausted too, is it still far? After arriving in Scotland, the soldiers were quartered in Winfield Park, but in 1947 the British command dissolved the Polish Armed Forces in Great Britain and it was necessary to decide what to do with Wojtek ... The only home where Wojtek could stay, was the ZOO in Edinburgh. The parting day was the worst day in Wojtek and his guardian's life. 1947 Good morning. Follow me. Do not worry, we will provide him with the best conditions. I will miss you my little one, but I'll visit you. I can't live without him... Don't worry, he is going to be fine here. Where am I? Where are my friends? Why have they abandoned me? ? ? Mommy, look, it's a bear, why is he crying? Wojtek, we can't live without you! What are you doing?! It's dangerous! My Wojtek, oh my little bear! Wojtek was a true Pole, he understood the Polish language and even Polish music! Look, he's dancing to the rhythm of a Chopin Mazurka! That's a genuine artist! One day, a group of sailors was visiting the zoo. One of them said something that made Wojtek very angry. What's with you? ... That wasn't funny! No one ever found out what annoyed Wojtek so much. This is the way, Wojtek's days passed: among visitors, among old and new friends. The Edinburgh zoo had never had such a great number of visitors as there were during the time of Wojtek's stay. But one day... In bear heaven. Where is the bear? 15.11.1963 We will miss him so much! Wojtek will always remain in our hearts and our memory. Anna Kret, a student of the Complex of Textile-Trade Schools, in Zagan, is the artist of the drawings in this comic. She was born on 9th August 1992, she loves to draw, and is also interested in Japanese culture and enjoys reading. Wojtek was not only a rare animal, he was a soldier, a comrade, a friend. Thanks to his presence the tough time of war became more tolerable, he kept a smile on the soldiers' faces, and their longing for their homeland and their families was not as painful. The unusual story of Wojtek helps us understand those days, it keeps us from forgetting the heroism of the soldiers who fought alongside of Wojtek for "your freedom and ours". This comic was created within the eTwinning project conducted by the Complex of Textile-Trade Schools, in Zagan, Poland under the supervision of Wioletta Sosnowska and in ITCG Luigi Paolini in Imola, in Italy under the supervision of Angela Riccomi. This story has become the symbol of our friendship, an intergenerational bridge and a joint point in the history of our countries. Translation into English: Kacper Obinski under the supervision of Malgorzata Grzekowiak. English language consultation: Malgorzata Marjanska-Fish and Paul Fish All rights reserved. This comic may not be published without permission of the authors.