Soldier bear Wojtek is immortalised on city bus

Wojtek Bus''Here are the images from Mateusz Jarza.''The technical and design teams at Lothian Buses have been fully consulted and they are very impressed with the art work. ''Lukasz Bieda has managed the project throughout and they have both given of their very best on behalf of the Wojtek Memorial Trust in a wholly voluntary capacity.
Wojtek Bus''Here are the images from Mateusz Jarza.''The technical and design teams at Lothian Buses have been fully consulted and they are very impressed with the art work. ''Lukasz Bieda has managed the project throughout and they have both given of their very best on behalf of the Wojtek Memorial Trust in a wholly voluntary capacity.
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The giant bear who found lasting fame for his wartime bravery alongside Polish soldiers has now been immortalised on an Edinburgh bus.

Many Berwickshire News readers will already be familiar with the story of the Syrian brown bear, christened Wojtek by the Polish soldiers who adopted him as a cub on their route through the Middle East during the Second World War.

Wojtek became a legend at the Battle of Monte Cassino in Italy, when, under fire from German forces, he carried heavy ammunition boxes for the Polish gunners.

After the war, Wojtek and his displaced Polish comrades were based at Sunwick Farm in Berwickshire, at that time the site of the Winfield Camp for Displaced Persons.

And it was here that the soldiers and Wojtek spent their days, waiting to find out their fate as the victorious allied powers carved up Europe.

The 500lb bear lived out his final years in Edinburgh Zoo and his life is the subject of a book by local author, Aileen Orr, who lives at Sunwick Farm, and which is now being turned into a Hollywood movie.

Wojtek is also being immortalised in a larger-than-life size £300,000 bronze statue due to be unveiled in the Scottish capital’s Princes Street Gardens, in late 2015.

And for the next year, residents and visitors in Edinburgh will be treated to the sight of Wojtek adorning the back of a very unique city bus.

The colourful graphic depicts Wojtek carrying a shell and was specially created by Polish artist Mateusz Jarza, to promote the memorial statue project.

“The story helps different generations of Polish immigrants work together, and helps Scottish people to know more about Polish culture and people,” said Mr Jarza.

The Wojtek Memorial Trust, of which Mrs Orr is the founding trustee, has already raised two-thirds of the £300,000 target needed to complete the installation.

This will see the statue of Wojtek and the soldier who looked after him, Peter Prendys - created by sculptor Alan Herriot - erected on a plinth of Polish granite.

A £20,000 grant from the Scottish Government has helped push the project forwards, but more donations are still needed.

“I think younger people will probably like the artwork on the bus more than older folk, - but hopefully it will further spark the interest of youngsters and children in the project and the story of Wojtek,” Aileen told The Berwickshire this week.

At last week’s unveiling of the bus, which contains displays and information telling the story of Wojtek and will tour Edinburgh for the next year, trust chair Simon Thompson, said the vehicle will “turn heads wherever it goes” and, hopefully, encourage more people to support the Wojtek statue appeal.

Ann Faulds, chair of Lothian Buses, added: “The story of Wojtek the Bear is close the hearts of many of our Polish employees and the wider Polish Edinburgh community.”