The Lost Fort

My Travel and History Blog, Focussing mostly on Roman and Mediaeval Times


4 May 2019
  From Political Movement to Bronze Figures - The Wrocław Dwarfs

Well, some of the Wrocław Dwarfs - impossible to find all of the 163 official dwarfs (krasnale) spread over the town, plus the 150+ additional inofficial ones. The tourist office offers a map to help you hunt down the wee chaps, but I thought that's pretty much like seeking Easter eggs with a GPS; therefore I just kept my eyes open in hope to notice some of the dwarfs. Let me show you the guys I found.

Welcome to Wrocław

Some are cheerful, others cheeky, and a few even look grim. But this wee chap is surely of the welcoming sort.

Happy dwarf with sunflower

But the bronze guys, which are about a foot (20-30 cm) tall, have nothing to do with garden gnomes. They are the reverberation of a legend and, more important, a political movement.

Tourist dwarf with map and camera - right in front of the Tourist Info office

The legend tells that dwarfs assisted the first settlers to build the town of Wrocław. The people were plagued by the Oder river goblin, a nasty, mischievious creature that kept damaging the houses until the dwarfs imprisoned him in a mountain (where he probably still lives). The inhabitants of Wrocław were so grateful that they offered the dwarfs to live in the town together with the humans.

I loved those two bearded guys with the old fashioned fire engine

In the 1980ies, an anti-communist and anti-sovjet movement called 'Orange Alternative' (Pomarańczowa Alternatywa) took up the legend and used the dwarfs as their signature. Led by the student of arts Waldemar Fydrych, called 'Major', and mathematician Wiesław Cupała, they organised peaceful, dadaistic meetings and demonstrations that mocked the communist regime in an ironic way.

A grim looking dwarf - the blacksmith

Wherever the militia covered up anticommunist slogans on walls, paintings of dwarfs would appear soon thereafter, forcing the officials to have scores of perfectly harmless dwarf graffiti removed. Another action were demonstations where the participants wore orange coloured dwarf hoods and made the police look ridiculous if they tried to arrest people for participating in an 'illegal meeting of dwarfs'.

That naked dwarf with umbrella takes up the motive of irony

One action had members of the movement distribute single sheets of toilet paper - which was a rarity at the time - to people, forcing the police to search bags and pockets to confiscate single sheets of toilet paper. Another time they met in front of the chimpanzee compound in the zoo, singing songs that praised Lenin. Well, it looks a bit silly if you arrest people singing pro-Communist songs just because they wear orange hoods.

This one is called Sisyphos - good luck moving that ball if the other guy is leaning against it

The Orange Alternative was loosely connected with the Solidarity movement. Their actions were not without danger, of course, and arrests did happen, but overall the ironic approach proved a strong weapon. The movement culminated in a demonstration of 10,000 people in dwarf hoods marching through the city, singing "Freedom for the dwarfs".

Prisoner

A few years after the fall of communism, the first dwarf, known as Papa Krasnal, was unveiled on the spot where most of the Orange Alternative protest meetings started, the corner of the Ulica Świdnicka and the Ulica Kazimierza Wielkego (Street of Casimir the Great), in 2001 to honour the movement and its victims. I missed that chap, though.

Dwarf on a motor bike

The council commissioned the local artist Tomasz Moczek to create some more dwarfs in 2005, and things went mad from there. The little guys proved so popular with the inhabitants and tourists alike that Moczek created more of them (about a hundred overall). Soon not only the town council ordered bronze dwarfs, but also local businesses commissioned them and brought other artists into the fray.

Handicapped dwarfs: deaf-mute, blind, and paraplegic

Some figures have a more serious background. The three handicapped dwarfs which were added in 2008 are part of the Wrocław Without Barriers campaign which aims to enhance the awareness for the requirements of handicapped people.

Dwarf eating chocolate in front of a chocolate shop

Not all the dwarfs are officially acknowledged. To get an 'approved' dwarf, businesses have to go through a long and expensive process. So they tend to shirk that and commission a dwarf anyway.

Dwarf with gift parcel in front of a gift and knick knack shop

The reason for the rise in illegal dwarfs is the fact that a dwarf in front of a shop increases the attraction to customers. But the wee chaps are so well liked by tourists that it pays off for the town as well, which is likely one reason the authorities tolerate them. Another reason, so my guess, is the political background.

Scholar

This is the story behind the bronze figures. Below are some more dwarfs which I found.

Dwarf with laptop

The modern variant of a scholar. Or maybe a travel blogger updating his Instragram account with the latest dwarf photos.

Glutton

That guy was digesting his latest meal in front of a Pizza Hut. (You can't escape those dang chains even in central and eastern Europe. I prefer to look out for local restaurants.)

Drunk dwarf

That one is surely having fun. I wonder what's in that jug, judging by his swaying around it might have been vodka.

Sleeping dwarf

Let's hope our drunk friend found his bed as well. This figure stands in front of a hotel (of course *grin*).

Pastry thieves

And last there are those two suspicious chaps stealing pastries from a bakery - after the one on the windowsill already filched an ice cream cone which he doesn't want to share with his accomplice below.

Pastry thieves

I hope you have as much fun looking at those wee dwarfs as I had hunting down and photographing the chaps.
 
Comments:
Oh, ich sehe gerade, dass du bereits in Breslau warst :-) Die Zwerge sind dort überall, es gibt regelrechte Zwergen-Stadtkarten. Im Sommer sieht man Kinder durch die Gegend sprinten: "Mama, Mama, hier ist auch einer..." Ich habe ganz viele fotografiert bei meinem letzten Besuch...

Liebe Grüße
Kasia
 
Hallo Kasia, willkommen auf meinem Blog.

Ich wollte keine Karte, dazu hat mir das Suchen zu viel Spaß gemacht. :)
 
Im Grunde braucht man auch keine. Man stolpert fast an jeder Ecke über die Dinger ;-)

Wenn du mal wieder in Breslau sein solltest, kann ich dir das Przedwojenna-Bistro wärmstens empfehlen. Du bekommst dort ziemlich günstig Drinks und authentische Snacks. Von der Einrichtung wirkt es, als hätte jemand seinen Antiquitäten-Keller ausgeräumt. Muss man einmal gesehen haben!

Liebe Grüße
Kasia
 
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The Lost Fort is a travel and history blog based on my journeys in Germany, the UK, Scandinavia, and central / eastern Europe. It includes virtual town and castle tours with a focus on history, museum visits, hiking tours, and essays on Roman and Mediaeval history, illustrated with my own photos.


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Location: Goettingen, Germany

I'm a blogger from Germany with a MA in Literature and History which doesn't pay my bills, so I use it to research blogposts instead. I'm interested in everything Roman and Mediaeval, avid reader and sometimes writer, opera enthusiast, traveller with a liking for foreign languages and odd rocks, photographer, and tea aficionado. And an old-fashioned blogger who still hasn't got an Instagram account.
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King David and the Civil War, Part 2

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A Scottish Wedding

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Alexander of Argyll
The Fight for Stirling Castle


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The Rise of House Aberffraw

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A History of Rebellion
Llywellyn ap Gruffudd to Owain Glyn Dŵr


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House of Knýtlinga
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The Duchy of Estonia
Danish Kings and German Sword Brothers


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King Håkon V's Swedish Politics
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Rebels
Alv Erlingsson of Tønsberg


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Riga
The History of Mediaeval Riga

Tallinn
The History of Mediaeval Tallinn


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Troublesome Cousins - Jogaila and Vytautas

The Northern Crusades

The Wars in Lithuania
The Siege of Vilnius 1390


Poland

Royal Dynasties

The Jagiełłonian Kings
Władysław Jagiełło and the Polish-Lithuanian Union

The Northern Crusades

The Conquest of Pomerania / Prussia
The Conquest of Danzig


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Royal Dynasties

The Bohemian Kings of House Luxembourg
King Sigismund and the Hussite Wars


Roman History

The Romans at War

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The German Limes
The Cavalry Fort Aalen
Limes Fort Osterburken
Limes Fort Saalburg

The Hadrian's Wall
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The Fort at Segedunum / Wallsend

Border Life
Exercise Halls
Mile Castles and Watch Towers
Soldiers' Living Quarters
Cavalry Barracks

Campaigns and Battles

Maps
The Romans in Germania

The Pre-Varus Invasion in Germania
Roman Camp Hedemünden
New Finds in 2008

The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest
Museum Park at Kalkriese

The Battle at the Harzhorn
Introduction

The Batavian Rebellion
A Short Introduction

Miscellaneous Events

The Legend of Alaric's Burial

Roman Militaria

Armour
Early Imperial Helmets
Late Roman Helmets
The Negau B Helmet

Weapons
Weapon Finds at Hedemünden
The pilum
Daggers
Swords

Other Equipment
Roman Saddles


Roman Life and Religion

Religion and Public Life

Religion
Curse Tablets and Good Luck Charms
Isis Worship
Memorial Stones
The Mithras Cult

Public Life
Roman Transport: Barges
Roman Transport: Amphorae and Barrels
Roman Water Supply

Architecture
Roman Public Baths

Domestic Life

Roman villae
Villa Urbana Longuich
Villa Rustica Wachenheim

Everyday Life
Bathing Habits
Children's Toys
Face Pots


Other Times

Neolithicum to Iron Age

Germany

Development of Civilisation
European Bread Museum, Ebergötzen
The Hutewald Project in the Solling
Open Air Museum Oerlinghausen

Neolithic Remains
Stone Burials of the Funnelbeaker Culture
The Necropolis of Oldendorf

Bronze Age / Iron Age
The Nydam Ship

Scotland

Neolithic Orkney
The Neolithic Landscape of Orkney
Ring of Brodgar
Skara Brae
Life in Skara Brae

Bronze Age / Iron Age
Clava Cairns
The Brochs of Gurness and Midhowe - Their Function in Iron Age Society

Scandinavia

Bronze / Iron Age
The Ship Setting of Gnisvärd / Gotland


Post-Mediaeval History

Explorers and Discoveries

Explorers
Fram Expedition to the North Pole
Fram Expedition to the South Pole

Discoveries
Otto von Guericke and the Magdeburg Hemispheres
Raising a Wreck, Now and Then (Vasa Museum in Stockholm)


Miscellanea

History in Literature and Music

History and Literature

The Weimar Classicism
The Weimar Classicism - Introduction

Theodor Fontane
Short Biography of Theodor Fontane
Fontane Ballads, translated by me
Archibald Douglas
Gorm Grymme
Sir Walter Scott in Abbotsford
The Tragedy of Afghanistan

History in Opera

Belcanto and Historicism
Maria Padilla - Mistress Royal
The Siege of Calais in Donizetti's Opera

Not so Serious History

Romans
Building Hadrian's Wall
Playmobil Romans

Mediaeval Times
Kings Having a Bad Hair Day
The Case of the Vanished Wine Cask

Other
Rules for Writing Scottish Romances


Geology

Geological Landscapes

The Baltic Sea
Geology of the Curonian Spit
Chalk Cliffs on Rugia
Flint Fields on Rugia

The Harz
Bode Valley and Rosstrappe Cliff
The 'Hübichenstein' Rock
Karst Formations in the Southern Harz
The Lonau Falls
The Rhume Springs
Sandstone Formations: Daneil's Cave
Sandstone Formations: Devil's Wall
Sandstone Formations: The Klus Rock

Meissner / Kaufunger Wald
Blue Dome near Eschwege
Diabase and Basalt Formations
Karst Formations
Salt Springs at the Werra

Solling-Vogler
Raised Bog Mecklenbruch
Hannover Cliffs

The Shores of Scotland
Staffa

Fossils and Other Odd Rocks

Fossilized Ammonites
The Loket Meteorite


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