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After being released from Soviet prison camps, exiled Polish soldiers reunited under General Władysław Anders and were informally dubbed ‘Anders Army’. This army, after evacuating the Soviet Union, travelled to the Middle East to join Allied forces. While in Iran, the Anders’ Army added an unlikely member to their ranks who played an important role in the company as he helped to boost morale, carry ammunition, and perform guard duties. Though this soldier may appear to be rather typical, he was far from it. He was, after all, a Syrian brown bear.
In this episode, our hosts John and Nitzan will discuss the unbelievable story of Wojtek the bear and his legendary role in the 22nd Company of Anders’ Army. How did the army find this bear and why did they keep it, even incorporate it? How did Wojtek contribute to the military efforts? And what became of him after the war was over?
[02:10] A brief introduction to events in Poland during the Second World War
[05:35] How Wojtek was introduced to the Anders’ Army
[08:35] How Wojtek was incorporated into the army
[11:14] How could a bear be tamed and trained as a soldier?
[14:27] How did the soldiers manage to feed an animal as large as Wojtek?
[15:58] How Wojtek helped his company at the Battle of Monte Cassino
[17:57] What happened to Wojtek and his company following the battle
[22:35] Wojtek’s impact on Polish soldiers and his legacy
Wojciech Narębski / emeritus professor of the Polish Academy of Sciences and ex-soldier of the Anders' Army, who kindly allowed us to interview him and told the story of the unit Wojtek served in.
Tadeusz Kaleta / professor at the Warsaw University of Life Sciences, who kindly explained how bears behave in their natural habitat.
Songs & sound clips
On My Way to New Orleans / Performed by Arthur Collins and Byron G. Harlan; Issue Number: Edison Blue Amberol: 2650, Edison Record: 3744; Release year: 1915
Jazz Baby / Performed by Marion Harris; Released under Victor Records; Release year: 1919
WWII Chronicle / Film Bulletin; Produced by Signal Corps Photographic Center; Issue no 48
Air Raid Siren Sound Effect / A RNaudioproductions original recording // Audio 2005
Writing on Paper with Pen Sound Effect / A SoundEffectsFactory original recording
SFTEW Team: Wojciech Oleksiak, Adam Zulawski, John Beauchamp, Nitzan Reisner, Michael Keller & Barbara Rogala