• That Was Genius Team

Episode 63 - The Farting Poodle Chamber Orchestra (Pets Week)

Tom's Notes; Voytek the Bear


I’ve been very buzzfeedy this week. Usually I try to delve into some unknown historical nook, or discuss a historically important topic. I don’t usually go for things like

Top ten presidents who liked being shat on, or…

15 serial killers who liked egg and cress sandwiches, or…

5 unbelievable stories of kings who tried to hide their baldness


However, it is a feel-good and fun story, and it’s very much on topic.

Although I almost talked about a north American exploration expedition when I found out about that one of the explorers had a pet St Bernard that accompanied him

However, I found the journals of the 2 explorers, searched for the dog, and it was mentioned once in 2 years of journals, so probably stretching the topic a bit!

I also choose this topic because I ran out of time a bit, largely because we have a bit announcement don’t we Sam!

Yes, we’re about the hit the big time!

We’re launching our smashtastic, stonk-wonking, ear-burping new website with Patreon account.

Yes, that’s right, you now have the opportunity to pay us a very small sum of money each month to join the Order of the Bathroom!

Either as a Companion of the Bog Brush, a Knight of the Flannels, or as a Commander of the Bubble Bath (the highest honour of all).

You get various levels of access to all episodes, bonus content (including silly episode cartoons), merchandise and your own medal (not real, we can’t afford this yet)

Once you’ve done this, you can swagger around like Cosimo de’Medici, satisfied in the knowledge that in 500 years time, there’ll be a children television cartoon with 2 mutant turtles called Tom and Sam.

In case you didn’t get that joke, the Medici family were famous patrons of the Renaissance art in Florence.


Listener feedback

Sam Rachel is a nurse at the front line in the battle against Covid, she loves the show and thinks we should do nurses. Let’s do this one next week and I’m also going to go outside now and applaud your suggestion Sam.

Incidentally, Sam signed off her complimentary message in a slightly ambiguous way when I first read her message, I thought she was specifically saying that the podcast is great thanks solely to Sam, so I almost told her to shove her suggestion where the sun doesn’t shine.

Thank you also to Jake Petersen for your kind words, we’ll do your suggestion of hobbies in a coming week too.

Katie Lisle seemed to think it was amusing that Sam corrected me for a Byzantine’s speak Latin joke.

Katie, Sam is hard enough to work with as it is, without you wading in, massaging his ego.

Red Beard; thanks for your comment regarding Mad Jack Churchill

Mango Man hasn’t quite understood how wills work. He commented that he’s changed ‘cremation’ in his will to ‘defenestration’.

Mango Man, a will isn’t where you tell people how you want to die

“I want to be suffocated between the legs of Miss World whist eating cheese-cake”

If you made the change you’ve suggested, you are basically saying “when I die, throw my corpse out of a window!”

Which is a bit morbid, and very cruel if there are young children at your funeral

Matt recommended another podcast about the windshield debacle you mentioned recently Sam


Right! This week I am going to talk about Voytek the bear, Voytek the bear, Iranian Polish Corporal bear, yes Voytek the bear…


Voytek the bear is reasonably famous, so many of our listeners may have heard of him, although I had never heard of him before.

He’s a Syrian Brown Bear, so not from deepest darkest Peru

Our story starts in 1939 when Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union secretly agree to invade Poland from the East and the West, splitting the country between the two powers.

In the aftermath of the division of Poland, the Soviet Union treated the Polish people with dignity and respect, NOT!

Stalin did what Stalin did best; over 300,000 Poles were deported to the Soviet Union, often to Siberia, and they were the lucky ones, because many were just executed, people may have heard of the Katyn Massacre where around 22,000 Polish generals were executed and buried in a woods.

In 1941, Hitler does the old one-two and initiates Operation Barbarossa, turning on the Soviet Union.

Michael Caine; and remember folks, never invade Russia in the Winter.

Once under attack, diplomatic efforts, largely British, successfully persuaded the Soviet Union to begin speaking with the Polish Government in exile.

It was agreed that the Soviet Union would allow Polish prisoners of war to form infantry units under, wait a minute, where are all of the Polish generals?

The units were named after their commander; Anders’ Army

The newly allied British and Soviets invaded Iran in 1941 basically to secure oil.

The Polish units were involved in this operation and ended up being transferred into British control and eventually became known as the Polish II Corps


Right, let’s get back to Yotek, Yotek the bear, everybody knows his name!


Polish soldiers, when travelling through Iran, encountered an Iranian boy who had found a deserted bear cub.

That’s a proper childhood

One of the Polish civilian refugees, an 18 year old girl called Irena Bokiewicz, looked after the bear cub for a few months before Yotek was given to the Polish 22nd Artillery Supply Company.

As you would expect from a bear growing up amongst soldiers, Yotek enjoyed coffee in the morning, beer in the evening and the occasion cigarette. Yes, like Paddington, he enjoyed marmalade too.

He was also quite fun to wrestle too

On one occasion, I think it was the night before Christmas, Yotek managed to discover the Christmas food and booze store, which he smashed!

Yotek travelled with the Polish company throughout the Middle East and into Egypt.

When in Iraq, he apparently stole an entire washing line of servicewomen’s underwear

Whilst in Palestine, Yotek scared the shit out of an enemy sympathiser who was trying to steal ammunition from the camp when he wandered into a shower to cool off, finding the thief!

On this subject, apparently the Polish soldiers taught Yotek to hold new recruits upside by the boots

From Egypt, the Polish II Corp was transferred to Italy to fight alongside the British 8th Army in the Italian Campaign.

Pets weren’t allowed on British transport ships so the Polish made Yotek a private.

He was given all the things that a private would be given

Army rations

Marmalade, marmalade, marmalade, honey pot…


Yotek’s biggest moment was during the Battle of Monte Cassino between the Allied Forces and the Axis Forces.

Allied forces landed in Sicily in 1943 before quickly landing on the Italian mainland.

Mussolini’s fascist government collapsed and the Germans took over Northern Italy with Mussolini looking pretty at their hips.

The Allied forces then made their push north through Italy.

They encountered strong resistance at a series of fortified defence lines known collectively as the Winter Line.

The Battle of Monte Cassino was an exceptionally hard fought victory for the allied forces against a very strongly positioned enemy.

After three futile but costly attacks on the German positions, the Allied forces, including the integral Polish II Corps, broke through the German lines.

55,000 Allied forces were killed, less than 20,000 Axis forces.

Many of those lives lost were Polish

During this battle, Yotek was initially scared by the noise and tried to climb a tree, from this spot, he saw one of the Polish soldiers struggling with ammunition, so he made himself useful carrying 25 pound artillery shells (45kgs) to his fellow soldiers.

And there are eye-witness reports from British soldiers who were really rather surprised by this!

After the battle, Yotek was made a corporal to acknowledge his contribution to the victory


After the war Yotek ended up in Edinburgh zoo and a was a big hit. He often appeared on Blue Peter.


He died at the age of 21, standing around 6 feet tall and 35 stone.


There are a number of statues of Yotek, in Edinburgh and Poland, and a short animated film was made in 2011 narrated by another big, fun bear, Brian Blessed (losing his temper as Squire Western in Tom Jones).



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