This is the fourth part of our series on Myths and Legends. In this case, we present a 100% historical fact happening right now: Gnomes Invade a Polish City.
If you walk around the streets of Wroclaw, you will stumble upon little creatures doing their own thing and minding their own business. Some are guarding building, while other are just drunk. Could they be dogs or some sort of animal? No; they are gnomes, or “krasnale.” That’s right, the streets of Wroclaw are flooded with gnomes, and their population is growing every day! What’s the story behind these gnomes?
Back in the 1980’s, when Poland was under the oppressive communist regime, an underground movement called the “Orange Alternative” started using absurdity to protest the regime. As the communist authorities censored public space, the Orange Alternative sought to ridicule them. Usually, when the authorities found anti-establishment graffiti, they would paint over it. But the Orange Alternative would quickly paint over the fresh paint again, this time with gnome figures. The gnomes quickly became a symbol of resistance in many Polish cities. In 1988’s International Children’s Day, for example, dozens of people in Wroclaw dressed as gnomes wearing orange accessories.
Once communism fell in Poland, the authorities in Wroclaw took gnomes as a tribute to the Orange Alternative and as city ambassadors. In 2001, the first commissioned gnome statuette was placed near the subway where Orange Alternative usually demonstrated. In 2005 the city commissioned a local artist five more gnomes, and since then local businesses quickly followed. As of now, there are around 400 gnomes all around Wroclaw, and their population is only growing.
Gnome hunting sounds like a great weekend activity you could do with your family while serving in Poland. Unlike catching Pokémons, the gnomes in Wroclaw are not only cute and fun to see, but also teach us all of the bravery of the Polish people fighting the oppressive communist regime.