Dopey, Sneezy, Happy, and Solidarity
The Orange Alternative began in 1981, before martial law was declared in Poland, as a newsletter promoting a new artistic movement—socialist surrealism, which captures the feeling of detachment from reality experienced by many people under Communist rule. Its publishers, led by Waldemar Frydrych, a historian from the University of Wroclaw, have persistently brought their political message directly to the public, in the streets.
The people from the Orange Alternative began their surrealist protest during the first year of martial law, by putting pictures of characters from fairy tales—dwarfs in particular—on the walls of buildings. Then, on June 1, 1987, young people dressed as dwarfs appeared in the streets, walking around and giving candy to children. June 1 is celebrated in Poland as children's holiday, so the situation did not look too serious. However, the dwarfs had names—of such outlawed organizations as Solidarity, or Peace and Freedom. They were beaten, rounded up, and arrested. As this was the first time fairy tales characters had been arrested in Poland, the situation was a bit surreal.
Then in November, the Orange Alternative took to the streets to celebrate the anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution. People carried paper copies of the warships Potemkin and Aurora, known for their crews' participation in the revolution. The police destroyed the warships and arrested the demonstrators.
In December, a group of Santas took to the streets, only to be arrested again. By that time, the demonstrators were rather popular among onlookers, who asked the police if Winnie the Pooh would be taken away as well.
In March, Frydrych was sentenced to two months in prison for disturbing the peace. Subsequently, on March 21, the fairy tale characters took to the streets again, this time stating a demand for Spring (and that definitely was an appropriate time to ask for it) and for freedom for Frydrych. This time over 150 of the demonstrators were arrested.
What is quite unusual about the Orange Alternative is their attitude, so different from that of both the arrogant government and the pompous opposition organized around the Solidarity movement. These young people have retained enough of a sense of humor to parody the dishonesty and lies given to them almost every day by the system in which they live.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Dopey, Sneezy, Happy, and Solidarity".