Interesting If True

Interesting If True

Interesting If True - Episode 5: Brave Battle Bear

May 29, 2020

Welcome to Interesting If True, the podcast that is the equivalent of a bathroom reader. Quick interesting facts and a whole lot of BS.

I'm your host this week, Shea, and with me are (introduce each host and their blurb)

I'm Steve, and I have news. We have a new cat. His name is Evander and he’s 5. Also, his breath smells like he has a rotting corpse stuck between his teeth. Vet visit later this week.

I'm Aaron, and this week I learned that, while dogs are great, ancient-man really missed the ball on domesticating bears.

Jenn couldn’t be here today, but thanks to the power of forethought she’ll be joining us in 3… 2… 1…

Brave Battle Bear!

What’s better than pretty much everything?

Any guesses?

And Shea can’t guess because it’s cheating.


How about a munition-toting, cigar-smoking, beer-drinking, Nazi-fighting, grizzly bear?

In honor of the recently observed Memorial Day, I bring the story of an Allied soldier who more people need to have heard of, Wojtek the Bear. (Who is referred to as a brown bear, but that’s also a grizzly bear, and I prefer that title.)

In 1942 a group of Polish prisoners of war, which included both soldiers and civilians, had been liberated from a camp in Siberia. The early days of WWII were especially awful for the Poles as Nazi Germany was of course marching thru, but the Soviets were also willing to round them up to work labor camps.

“The Allies got together in 1942 and made a pact with Stalin in which they could release the Poles to join the Allies’ troops,” according to Aileen Orr, author of Wojtek the Bear: Polish War Hero. The soldiers (plus a few civilian refugees) were then sent on to Alexandria, Egypt where they would then travel to Europe to join the World War, already in progress.

Whilst in route through the Middle East, the newly liberated soldiers encountered a young boy who had discovered an orphaned bear cub in the mountains of Persia (now Iran). The boy wandered into the camp, hungry, carry the little bear in a sack, looking for food. It was April 8, 1942 and the group of un-homed, transplanted people were drawn to the little creature who had also lost his family and home (they did also feed the boy). The bear was tiny and malnourished, since his mother had been killed by a hunter and NOW HE WAS IN A SACK.

One of the civilian refugees in their midst, eighteen-year-old Irena (Inka) Bokiewicz was especially taken with the little furball and convinced Lieutenant Anatol Tarnowiecki to buy the young bear (rumored for a few cans of corned beef), who then spent the next three months in a Polish refugee camp established near Tehran. He was technically under Irena's care, but the soldiers were also happy to babysit, feeding him condensed milk from an old vodka bottle, and marmalade (Pattington!), bits of fruit and honey. But his favorite treat was quickly discovered to beer, which became his favorite drink. (We’ve found our show spirit animal!)

I had no luck finding exactly how long this journey to Alexandria was, but it’s looking like it was lengthy. By the time soldiers were on their way from the camp to join the newly formed Polish army, the little bear, who had been named Wojtek (an old Slavic name name meaning ‘Happy Warrior) was gifted to the 22nd Transport Company,