not cute

When we depict wildlife, we cannot help burdening them with our stories and feelings.  Animals are often sentimentalised or romanticised as cute or noble.  I view animals through the prism of evolution, which encapsulates both drama and majesty.

Nonetheless, sometimes animals can carry a very human narrative when the scale of events is otherwise too vast to comprehend.  Wojtek the bear was first a mascot then a serving soldier with the Polish 22nd Transport Company.  His story, at least for some years, was one of comradeship: play wrestling, drinking beer, eating lighted cigarettes and ultimately working, human fashion, alongside the men.

The human story is of a country torn asunder by invasion and many thousands taken prisoner to the gulags.  Freed when their captors were themselves invaded and became their allies, Polish units made their way to Iran (where they acquired a bear cub) then through the Middle East and eventually to the liberation of Italy during 1944.

Sources:

http://wojtek-soldierbear.weebly.com/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=slA3i3P85N0