A neglected hero claws his way back into the limelight

A film about an extraordinary story from wartime Poland is both uplifting and a grim reminder of recent history.

In early 1986 I bought a flimsy paperback in a dusty émigré club in west London. “Wojtek spod Monte Cassino: Opowiesc o niezwyklym niedzwiedziu” (“Wojtek from Monte Cassino: the tale of an unusual bear”) seemed to be aimed at children, which suited me fine (I was learning Polish in the vague belief that it might somehow help topple communism).

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