There Is No Freedom Without Dwarfs

By Cecilia Uitermark

UCR-Student Cecilia Uitermark decided to write a small column for the Four Freedoms Column Contest. Just because she felt inspired, just because she thought it would be fun to try out. And guess what, she won! With this beautiful little narrative that challenges everyone to think about how to deal with threats to freedom, she has won an award at the ceremony yesterday, and a trip to New York! Read it here on Tabula RASA:

“As I wander through the streets of the historical city of Wroclaw (Poland), it is not a tour guide who is accompanying me, but rather a multitude of little mythical creatures. Everywhere I look, small dwarfs appear in front of me. I laugh as I detect one in front of the Pizza Hut, lying flat out on a plate with a huge stomach, having eaten a bit too much… Along the river I see a dwarf driving a tractor, and as I turn around I spot another one taking money out of its very own ATM. Today perhaps a major tourist attraction and a funny sight to look at, these bronze figures are actually a reminder of the anti-communist Orange Alternative Movement from the 1980s. What started out as dwarfs graffitied on top of removed anti-regime slogans, soon transformed into a nationwide movement opposing the Stalinist authoritarian regime. What is so unique about the Orange Alternative is that it did not resort to violence, but the only weapon it adopted was its sense of humour. It provided Polish people with a peaceful way to fight back, making a laughing stock of the authorities. 

So when I am asked ‘What does it mean to be free?’, it is exactly this that comes to mind. That in spite of everything, people seek for ways to make themselves laugh and take control over their situation by mocking those who are oppressing them. The decision to harness the freedom of creativity, the power of laughter and people’s ability to transform art and humour into a tool of empowerment is what is truly liberating to me, and so it was for the Polish people. “

Cecilia Uitermark is a sixth-semester History and Politics major from, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

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