Tag: Anne Kaczanowski

Highlights

The Light of the Candle

Following the August 1939 Hitler-Stalin Pact and the joint German-Soviet invasion of Poland in September 1939, which started World War II, the Soviets began the first mass deportation of Poles on February 10, 1940 from the occupied eastern part of Poland. Whole families were arrested, usually early in the morning, and sent in overcrowded cattle train wagons to forced labor camps in the depths of Siberia and in other parts of the Soviet Union. Many elderly and infants died during the transport–bodies of some of the children tossed by guards into the snow; others left behind at various stops during the journey lasting many days with little food or water. Many more prisoners would die later in the Gulag camps, work settlements and collective farms from slave labor, harsh weather conditions, starvation, and lack of medial treatment.

There was almost a complete media silence in the West about the deportations. Western journalists either did not know or were afraid or unwilling to report on what was happening to millions of Stalin’s prisoners. In addition to Polish citizens, the Soviets also imprisoned and deported Russians, Ukrainians, Belorussians, Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians, Tatars, Jews and members of many other ethnic and religious groups. Even after the war, the story of the deportees was rarely told. Many of those who had survived the Gulag camps, became homeless refugees in the West.

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Highlights

A poem about Wojtek the Soldier Bear

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Wojtek can you hear me?

By Anne Kaczanowski


Wojtek can you hear me?  
Wojtek do you still remember me?  
Wojtek czy pamietasz? Wojtek czy jeszcze pamietasz mnie?  
The penetrating sound of friends transcend the pages of time  
And the bear turns his ear as the bell of the universe chimes  
He remembers as though it was yesterday as he looks back  
He was a little brown bear tightly held by a child in a sack  
The waves of the Caspian brought to Persia many broken souls  
A cascade of hopeful, starving and helpless deported Poles  
They were housed in civilian camps with clothes and a meal  
And Persia allowed them many gifts just to help them heal  
One day a Polish soldier appeared with a young girl he can’t forget  
He traded the boy a handful of coins and bought the girl a pet  
She took her gift into a civilian camp but quickly saw her error  
This was not the place to raise this mischievous, little bear  
After three months he was given to a group of Polish army men  
With blessings that he could become their mascot in a pen
 
The young soldiers accepted their gift with excitement of a boy  
They fed and hugged the little bear and filled his heart with joy  
They nursed him from a vodka bottle filled with sweet milk  
And cuddled him in their sleeping bags like a tiny piece of silk  
They taught him how to play and showered him with love  
And he believed that he had been given a family from above  
He was no different than the soldiers who took him in  
They had both been abandoned in a world full of sin  
The soldiers had suffered a lot and the bear gave them hope  
And together they were bound like a tightly twisted rope  
They taught him how to smoke and how to drink their beer  
And when he wrestled them to the ground, everyone would cheer  
The rays of the Middle East sun would become a soldier’s wrath  
But a hole was dug in sand with water so the bear could have a bath  
He was a smiling little warrior and from the wild easy to tame  
And so the soldiers decided that Wojtek should be his name.  
They taught him to speak Polish and showed him that they cared  
And recognized him as a Polish spirit wrapped in the body of a bear.  
Wojtek never thought of himself as anything other than a man  
He lived his life in unison under a highly orchestrated plan  
They battled the Mediterranean but their greatest challenge lay ahead  
But Wojtek was refused the ship to Italy and their hearts filled with dread  
Someone said he was a bear and only soldiers could be on the ship  
So they enlisted him as a Private so he could make the trip  
So now he had a number, was a soldier in every sense of the word  
And nobody in the 22nd Transport thought this was absurd  
He continued to boost the morale of soldiers fighting to death  
And became legend for many who had taken their last breath  
He watched the ammunition being carried by exhausted men  
It was just as easy for him to do the same job as a team of ten  
So he proudly carried the boxes to show his soldiers that he could  
And they cheered and bestowed their pride as every soldier should  
The battle had been fought for so long on this shattered, bloody hill  
But this time it would take more than just courage and skill  
The thirst for freedom was carried in every soldier’s boot  
And Wojtek did everything but pick up a gun and shoot  
He was a story to many who heard about the things he had done  
He enlightened and uplifted the soldier’s spirits with Polish fun  
The battle raged and the smoke of thunderous canons filled the air  
And alongside the Polish soldiers fought this majestic bear  
He become the mascot of the regiment that he served so well  
And their emblem became Wojtek carrying the bloody shell  
And when the war was over the soldiers had to rebuild their lives  
But where do you put a bear that was strong enough to survive?  
They took him to Scotland where many soldiers had decided to go to  
And finally realized that Wojtek’s best home would be Edinburgh Zoo  
Wojtek had come on a long journey and for a time been free  
Walking on the grounds with soldiers and enjoying the shade of a tree.  
It broke every soldier’s heart to leave their brother behind the cage  
He was one of them, but now the reality of life was on a new stage  
So the Polish soldiers who stayed, visited him every chance they had  
And shared a cigarette as they talked of good times and bad  
The dimensions of time take Wojtek back to where he is today  
But if you speak Polish ……he can hear what you say  
Wojtek czy pamietasz ? Wojtek czy pamietasz mnie?  
Wojtek do you remember ? Wojtek do you still remember me?  
And Wojtek turns his head and looks the soldier square in the eye  
And tears stream down the cheeks of both in a silent, bonded cry  
Tak braciszku pamiętam, tak braciszku jeszcze cię pamiętam  
Yes my brother I remember. Yes my brother I still remember you.  
Wojtek we will all remember you.  
We will never forget you.    

hania kaczanowska 2015

 
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