The Wojtek Memorial Trust is delighted to announce that, thanks to the generosity of Lothian Buses, Wojtek “the Soldier Bear” returns to Edinburgh today.
At 2pm on 11th November 2014, Armistice Day and Polish Independence Day, a striking new addition to the Lothian Buses fleet was unveiled in Festival Square, Edinburgh – a bus celebrating Wojtek, and the men and women who lived and fought with him “for their freedom and ours”.
The bus promotes the work of the Wojtek Memorial Trust, which is currently raising funds to build a statue to commemorate Wojtek, and the men and women who lived and fought alongside him, in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh, and to celebrate the historic and current links between Poland and Scotland.
The bus, No. 889 based at the Marine Depot in Edinburgh, has been donated to the Trust for a 12-month period by Lothian Buses, and will run on a variety of routes in Edinburgh during the year. The donation has a commercial value of approximately £150,000.
Lothian Buses have an international work force. Over the last 10 years Lothian Buses have had a steady recruitment of Polish people coming to Edinburgh to start new lives with their families. Lothian Buses currently employ around 100 Polish employees, some who have been with the company for a decade, including Lukasz Bieda, who will be driving the Wojtek bus on the day. Lukasz is also the originator and project manager of the Wojtek bus project.
Ann Faulds, Chair Lothian Buses, said:
“We are delighted to be supporting the Wojtek Memorial Trust. The story of Wojtek the Bear is close the hearts of many our Polish employees and the wider Polish Edinburgh community in Edinburgh. The bus looks fantastic, is sure to be very popular with our passengers and I’m confident that it will play a big part in further raising the profile of the ongoing fundraising drive.”
Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop added:
“Wojtek the Soldier ear symbolises the strong relationship between Scotland and Poland and our historic links. The Scottish Government recognises the huge contribution Polish immigrants make to Scottish life – from the Poles who fought alongside us, and alongside Wojtek, in World War Two, to more recent arrivals.
“I want young Scots, including those from Polish families, to know the story of Wojtek the Soldier Bear, and I’m delighted that this bus will bring the story alive to many people across Edinburgh.”
Simon Thompson, Chair of the Wojtek Memorial Trust, commented:
On behalf of the Wojtek Memorial Trust, I would like to thank Lothian Buses for this very generous gesture of support, which will bring Wojtek and his story to greater prominence amongst Edinburgh residents and visitors alike. This striking new Wojtek bus will turn heads wherever it goes, and will, I am sure, encourage those who see it to support our campaign to build Wojtek’s permanent memorial in Edinburgh.
As well as thanking all at Lothian Buses, particular thanks must go to Mateusz Jarza, the graphic designer, and Lukasz Bieda, the originator of the Wojtek bus project, for their vision and dedication in making this happen.