As much as it sounds like science fiction, this story was real. 55 years ago, two chimpanzees that escaped from the zoo ran around Poznań. One of them had a rifle in his hand, the other was chased by ZOMO units, firefighters and garden workers.
Everything happened on Thursday, October 6, 1966 in the morning. A few minutes after 8 o’clock, disturbing noises began to come from the monkey pavilion. The animal keeper heard them and immediately decided to check what was going on.
“An experienced nurse, who has been working in the zoo for 20 years, entered the monkey pavilion, where something bad was happening – chimpanzees were fighting with each other” – wrote Express Poznański.
As soon as he opened the cage, something he did not expect happened. “One of the monkeys pushed him and when he fell – the other swung over him. He chased them down the corridor, but the chimpanzee Monika opened the pavilion’s lower door with one blow of her paw” – reported the Poznań afternoon paper.
How the monkey became “military secret”
According to the text in “Express Poznań”, one of the monkeys escaped from the cage. “The second chimpanzee, Grześ, politely turned back, but Monika had a taste for freedom,” we read.
However, the truth was somewhat different. Two monkeys escaped from the cage, but only zoo workers and soldiers knew about it. Rather, no one cared that anyone else found out about the latter.
As Janusz Kocięcki, a longtime zoo worker, explained in the book “Miasto nie do Poznania”, the second monkey immediately fled to the military unit located in the immediate vicinity of the Old Zoo in Poznań. And there she surprised one of the soldiers.
– The chimpanzee ran to the soldier standing on guard, grabbed his rifle, pointed it at her side, looked inside and threw – he said.
It only ended with fear. Moments later we managed to catch the fugitive.
The second monkey knocked the woman off her feet
Monika the chimpanzee enjoyed freedom longer. After she jumped over the fence, she entered the yard of the house at the corner of ul. Zwierzyniecka and Kraszewski. There she entered the staircase and reached one of the apartments up the stairs. Then she gripped the doorknob, trying to get inside.
– The woman who lived there, hearing someone hitting, opened the door. At the sight of the monkey, she fainted – described Kocięcki.
Chimpanzee did not care at all. She entered the apartment, picked up the newspaper and sat down with her on the windowsill.
“P. Seweryn Orkowski – as his wife told us all his life, he does nothing else, but records beautiful melodies on tape or photographs genre scenes. This time he took a photo of a runaway monkey, which during the chase jumped on the window sill on the first floor and began to pretend that she doesn’t care, because she has to read something to herself, “wrote one newspaper that posted three pictures of a runaway monkey.
In one of them he is reading a newspaper in the window, in the other he is looking out the window on the floor below, in the third he is trying to force the door open.
Two people suffered
ZOMO officers, two firefighters and zoo employees set off to catch the chimpanzees.
As Kocięcki said, when the “pursuit group” reached the building, the monkey grabbed the gutter and went downstairs. –From there, she ran away to the laundry. We thought we already had it. We wanted to chase it into a corner with a water hose and catch it there.
There was a net and a box waiting to be taken to the zoo in reserve. At first, Monika defended herself against the water … with a fibreboard, which she caught in her paws. Then she apparently found that this method was useless and tore the snake from her hands and covered the hole with her finger.
Eventually, her guardian entered the cage and lured her there. We moved the cage with the chimpanzee and her guardian to the garden – he says Janusz Kocięcki, a long-term employee of the zoo.
However, it was not without damage. “Malignant Monika, who had been removed from the Circus Center in Julinek near Warsaw, managed to severely bite two people”, wrote Stefan Anioła and Jan Śmiechowski in the book “Stary zoo in Poznań”.
Two zoo workers suffered. The first was an assistant who tried to chase away onlookers, especially parents with small children in prams. The man needed immediate medical attention. The second – the head of the breeding department – suffered a serious hand injury, in which he did not regain full fitness.
* all italicized quotes come from the book “Miasto nie do Poznania”
The building, into which the monkey ran, is still standing today
Main photo source: Archive of Zoo in Poznań / Daria Ołdak (TVN24)