The Anti-Communist Dwarves of Wroclaw

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Scattered throughout the city of Wroclaw, Poland, are hundreds of small bronze statues of dwarves. They began appearing in the streets in 2005, but their roots go back to the 1980s, to an anti-communist underground movement called the Orange Alternative.

In the 1980s when Poland was still under the communist rule, the Orange Alternative Movement started in Wroclaw as a way to peacefully protest against the authoritarian regime. The group found creative ways to stage protest, often bordering on silliness, such as dressing up as dwarfs and painting figures of dwarfs over all communist symbols throughout the city. The idea was to use absurd and nonsensical elements so that participants could not be arrested by the police. The movement spread to other cities around Poland like Warsaw, Łódź, Lublin, and Tomaszów Mazowiecki, eventually becoming a part of the larger Solidarity Movement that led to the fall of Communism in Poland.

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Three dwarves —one blind, one in wheelchair and one who is hard of hearing— in front of the Old Town Hall in Wroclaw, portray Wroclaw’s image as a disabled-friendly city. Photo credit: Piotr/Flickr

In 2001, the city of Wroclaw placed the first dwarf statue, known as “Papa Dwarf”, in honor of the Orange Alternative. Four years later, the city commissioned a local artist to create five more dwarves, and since then new dwarves have been popping up all over the city. Although the official figure is 163, some estimate there are over 350 dwarves in Wroclaw.

Many of the dwarves were put up by local businesses and used as a form of advertisement. There is a dwarf sprawled on a pizza outside the local Pizza Hut, another handing out newspapers outside a former newspaper kiosk, and yet another sitting with two ice cream cones outside an ice cream parlor. A bespectacled dwarf in graduation robes and a book stands outside the University of Wroclaw. Rubbing the dwarf’s hat, polished by thousands of hands, is said to bring good luck. Another pair of dwarves in fireman costume and hose in hand is seen running towards the red-bricked Gothic St Elizabeth’s Church that has a long history of catching fires during lightning storms.

Dwarf hunting is a popular activity among tourists in Wroclaw now.

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Photo credit: Klearchos Kapoutsis/Flickr

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Photo credit: Klearchos Kapoutsis/Flickr

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Photo credit: Atlantiquon/Flickr

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Photo credit: Atlantiquon/Flickr

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Photo credit: Veronica Aguilar/Flickr

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Photo credit: Motoeque/Flickr

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Photo credit: Jerzy Kociatkiewicz/Flickr

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Photo credit: Piotr/Flickr

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Photo credit: Piotr/Flickr

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Photo credit: Piotr/Flickr

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Photo credit: Piotr/Flickr

Sources: The Hindu Businessline / Wikipedia / Telegraph

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1 comment:

  1. Rustic legend held that dwarves were particularly well endowed in the, ahem, trouser department and it was helpful to be associated with them. Notice how shiny the more suggestive hats are!

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