​​​​​​​W O J T E K

The bear that went to war


1.  Members of the 2nd Transport Company (later the 22nd Artillery Supply Company) bought the young orphaned bear cub from an Arab boy near Hamadan railway station in Iran, in exchange for tins of food, some chocolate, and a Swiss army knife.

Hamadan is not on the route from Pahlevi to Tehran. In fact, it's over 300 km SW of Tehran. The railway in Hamadan was built in 2001 so there was no station there in 1942. The soldiers and civilians were transported by trucks on difficult mountain roads from Pahlevi to Quavzin, where they stayed overnight and then continued their journey to Tehran - a 2-day trip. 

On 3 April 1942 a group of higher staff officers of the 5KDP 5th Infantry Division, commanded by General Boruta Spiechowicz, met a young Iranian boy with the baby bear in his arms. An 18-year-old civilian, Irena Bokiewicz, niece of General Bolesław Długoszowski, who was amongst the group, wanted the cute cub and Lieutenant Anatol Tarnowiecki (3DSK Polish 3rd Carpathian Rifle Division) was persuaded to buy the bear for her, in exchange for a few coins. Irena says they stopped overnight in a hut - so Quazvin was the most likely place for this to have happened. 

It was on 22 August 1942, that the bear was delivered by Lt. Florczykowski to the 2nd Transport Company (later renamed the 22nd Artillery Supply Company) in Gedera, Palestine. 

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Irena Bokiewiecz with her parents and the baby bear at the Polish civilian refugee camp near Tehran

The small unnamed bear would spend the next three months in the Polish civilian refugee camp established near Tehran, principally under Irena's care. It soon became apparent that a transit camp was no place to raise a wild, mischievous bear so Irena gave him to the army as a mascot. He spent some time at HQ in Tehran while they considered what to do with him.