West Princes Street Gardens is home to many memorials of various sizes, styles, causes, and generations. However, arguably none are more popular than the Gardens’ most recent addition, Wotjek the Soldier Bear, made possible by the Wojtek Memorial Trust.
Wojtek was rescued as a cub in 1943 by Polish soldiers in the Middle East who trained him to help carry munitions, as well as smoke and drink beer. Much more than a mascot, he quite literally became a part of the ranks when he was enlisted by the Polish army, a necessary process in order for him to be deployed with them to Europe.
So, how did this brown bear end up in Scotland? Well, after the war was over he was stationed with his fellow soldiers in the Borders and then, when the troops returned to Poland, he was transferred to Edinburgh Zoo where he remained until his death in 1963.
The next time you are in West Princes Street Gardens, pay Wojtek a visit and read more not only about him, but also the heroic Polish veterans he served with during one of history’s darkest times.
There are many ways you can support the Ross Development Trust’s undertaking to improve and reimagine Edinburgh’s much-loved West Princes Street Gardens; from donating to volunteering and from fundraising to sponsoring – find out how.