A monument commemorating Wojtek the Bear, who accompanied Polish soldiers of the 22nd Artillery Supply Company of the Polish II Corps during WWII, was unveiled in the town of Cassino, Italy, at the foot of the monastery located on Monte Cassino hill.
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The ceremony of unveiling the monument inaugurated the observances of the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Monte Cassino, which took place in May 1944.
The statue of bear standing of his rear legs is located at Piazza XV Febrarrio at the bottom of the historic hill Monte Cassino. It was sculpted of marble, is 1.5m high and weighs around 250kg. The initiator of building the statue was Carlo Maria D'Alessandro, the former Mayor of Cassino.
The ceremony of unveiling the monument was attended by local authorities, senator Anna Maria Anders who is also the Minister for International Dialogue in the Chancellery of the Polish Prime Minister and daughter of General Władysław Anders, representatives of the Polish Embassy, as well as Italian and Polish scouts and citizens of Cassino.
Polish soldiers of the 22nd Artillery Supply Company of the Polish II Corps bought a young Syrian brown bear at the railway station in Hamadan, Iran, where Polish troops lead by General Władysław Anders, along with many civilians, arrived after being released from the gulags and exile in the Soviet Union.
The bear marched the whole route with General Anders army: from Iran to Italy, through Iraq, Syria, Palestine and Egypt.
Soldiers treated Wojtek very well, soon he was officially accepted as a member of the unit and given the rank of private. Sometime later he was promoted to corporal.
After WWII, the 22nd Artillery Supply Company of the Polish II Corps was transported to Glasgow, Scotland and stationed in Winfield Park. Corporal Wojtek became an attraction for the whole camp and local citizens. After the demobilization of Polish troops, the bear was placed in Edinburgh’s zoo where he stayed until his death in 1963.