Wroclaw Dwarfs - a big attraction of the city

Wroclaw Dwarfs - a big attraction of the city

There are many ways to describe Wroclaw. Some people will remember the city as the ‘Best European Destination of 2018’ or ‘Venice of Northern Europe ‘due to the impressive number of bridges in the City. Some will see Wroclaw as one of the best places to celebrate the Christmas Market. 
There is one more factor that makes Wroclaw a very unique place. When you arrive in the city centre you might be surprised or even alarmed by the vast number of dwarfs that surround you. Don’t worry! Everything is OK with your sight! You are in Wroclaw - also known as ‘City of Dwarfs’. It's on our TOP of ‘sightseeing Wroclaw’ lists.

There are more than 520 dwarfs in Wroclaw and the number is growing. 

This unique relationship between dwarfs and the city started in the 1980s and came about as a result of an initiative from the anti-communist underground movement of the time, which was called the Orange Alternative and led by Waldemar Fydrych, commonly known as ‘Major’. The main purpose of the movement was to fight the regime using an absurd and nonsensical approach, which could have been straight from a Month Python sketch. Initially they painted absurd images of dwarfs on well-known graffiti locations where the government had tried to cover up their previous anti-government slogans. 
By doing this, members of the Orange Alternative could not be arrested by the police without the authorities becoming a laughing stock. Additionally, the Orange Alternative organized various events within the city encouraging people to think independently and laugh at what they saw as the absurdities of the system. 

Years later, to commemorate the events of the past, the first statue of a dwarf called ‘Papa Dwarf’ was founded on 01/06/2001 in a joint venture by the City Council and the Agora publishing company. Papa Dwarf is bigger than all the other dwarfs as he is leader of the dwarf community in Wroclaw. His naked figure made of bronze, stands on top of an enormous thumb next to Swidnicka Street, where many Orange Alternative events took place.

In 2005 a local artist named Tomasz Moczek gave life to the next generation of dwarves and called them:

-    Sisyphers (Curler & Boller) – in front of the Post Office at the Main Square. These poor guys are working hard as they seem to be rolling their large granite ball in opposite directions.
-    Butcher – at the Shambles (Jatki), location of a former butchery in medieval Wroclaw. His presence is supposed to keep the place free from rats and legend has it he is also Tomasz Moczek’s favourite dwarf.
-    Odra Washer – on the Sand Island. This little fellow is doing laundry for his mates on the bank of the river. He took off his shoes so they will not get wet during the laundry. 
-    Swordsman – in front of the University. He’s a naughty boy, completely naked, ashamed and covering his body with only an umbrella. His story is directly related to the statue of the Swordsman located in the University Square. This sculpture, designed by Hugo Lederer in 1904, is supposed to commemorate a true story from the Hugo’s life and to warn young people not to gamble, as in the end, they may end up with nothing but their swords!

Since 2005, the population of dwarfs has grown extensively and it has become quite a challenge to give the exact total these days. In part this is due to the fact that although over 300 dwarfs were officially founded by Wroclaw City Council, the rest have been commissioned by private investors and companies willing to pay to have their own dwarf in their courtyard or outside their shop. Since almost anybody can have their own little dwarf friend, it has become difficult to keep track of them all. Officially, in order to have your own dwarf, all you need to do is complete the paperwork and wait for approval from the city hall. In fact, there is a special registration office just for the dwarfs and legend has it that a dwarf at home brings good luck and helps double your money. No wonder they are so popular. In actual fact, due to their popularity, on occasion dwarfs have been kidnaped and even stolen, resulting in GPS being installed inside them.

The dwarfs, although not big in size, have become a huge symbol of Wroclaw and are even part of the city logo! In 2011, leader of the Orange Alternative – Major Waldemar Fydrych accused the City Council of breaching copyright, when according to him, the figure of a dwarf used by the City Council to promote the city, was a direct copy of the original dwarf painted by the Major and Wiesław Cupała on the night of 30th August 1982 on buildings at Smoluchowskiego Street. 
So far, the court battle seems to be moving in the favour of the Major with the latest ruling from 2018 directing the City Council to apologize to the original graffiti artist and pay compensation of 666,666.66 PLN (approx. 132k GBP). As you might expect, the city disagreed with this judgement and in the end, Mr Fydrych recieved his apology, however the final amount to be paid is still under negotiation. 

In the meantime, the Wroclaw dwarf community welcomed the following new members :

-    Blindie, Deafie and Wheelie are three disabled dwarfs who live outside the entrance to the Old Town Hall. Wheelie sits on his speeding wheelchair with his beard blowing in the wind. Deafie is equipped with a hearing aid and Blindie with a walking stick and dark glasses. They arrived in the city in 2008 to support the campaign “Wroclaw without barriers”. That’s the spirit!
-    Dwarfette shows us that the dwarf world is also occupied by females. This very sympathetic train dispatcher awaits you at the Central Railway Station on platform 2. She works very hard to get noticed by the passengers coming off the trains. 
-    Sleeper holds a spear and guards the gate to the underground world of the dwarfs at the square of St. Elisabeth’s church. He’s been a bit naughty falling asleep at work! 
-    Prisoner sits in the window of the former city jail. He’s stuck behind bars with a ball and chain attached to his leg. He’s serving time for shaving his beard, which dwarfs are not allowed to do, but as he has been there a while, his beard has grown back!

While walking through the old town of Wroclaw, take time to look around and you will find so many cute dwarfs surrounding you. Also, when you look up, you’ll discover them climbing lamp posts, sitting on window sills and even on the railings of the highest bridge in the city centre – the Witches Bridge where you can meet 2 witches waiting for you with their cat! 
Most dwarfs are afraid of the heights, therefore usually we find them on the ground in front of their buildings - keeping themselves occupied with different tasks such as playing music, cycling, drinking beer and running, just like us in our human world.

If you wish to look for dwarfs in Wroclaw, we would be delighted to take you on our tours and show you around our beautiful city.