Wojtek statue earmarked for world class home in Princes Street Gardens

Wojtek the Bear Monument
Wojtek the Bear Monument

Alan Herriot’s stunning sculpture of Wojtek the bear and his human companion, soldier Peter Prendys, has now been earmarked for a world class site.

The life-and-a-quarter bronze statue will be located at the west end of the capital’s Princes Street Gardens, after a hunt for a location that took in possible venues right across the city.

And it will be mounted on Polish granite so that, according to the architects involved in designing the site, Morris & Steedman Associates, the feet of the Polish soldier that trod the deep snows of Russia, the desert sands of Persia and the slopes of Monte Cassino, will at last stand on a piece of Poland.

The location is both very public and highly resonant of Monte Cassino where Wojtek fought alongside Polish and Allied soldiers.

The site will also be planted with hawthorn and beech hedging, reminiscent of that found in the Berwickshire lanes where Wojtek was once such a familiar sight.

Hawthorn is also known as the symbol of love and beech that of friendship. Planning permission was obtained in September, 2013.

Raymond Muszynski, director of Morris & Steedman Associates, told The Berwickshire the search for a site had proved frustrating: “It was never thought that a site in Princes Street Gardens would be possible, as it has been 80 years since a major piece of figurative public art has been installed there.

“But then a piece of ground became available in the gardens, and planning permission was granted unanimously. I think the statue will now be in exactly the right place.”

Mr Muszynski is himself of Polish heritage and says he was aware of Wojtek’s story before becoming involved in the memorial project.

“I think it’s probably the most incredible tale of animal and human comradeship to emerge from the Second World War.”