Janusz Szpotański used the name Gnome in reference to Władysław Gomułka, First Secretary of the Polish United Workers’ Party. The Gnome made his first appearance in the satirical opera Cisi and Gęgacze (“The Quiet and the Cacklers”), and was featured in several later works. In his satires, Szpotański made numerous references to the contemporary political landscape of Poland and took inspiration from current news provided by the media. As mentioned by the author, one time he saw on the news that the popular book by Mieczysław Moczar entitled Barwy walki (“The Colours of the Struggle”) was to be adapted into a ballet. This is how he got the idea to write, among others, his 1966 work Targowica czyli opera Gnoma (paświęcona obchodom milenijnym) (“Targowica or the Opera of the Gnome [Devoted to the Millennium Celebrations]”). Its action takes place in Warsaw, on the eve of the millennium celebrations. The Gnome, envious of the successful adaptation of Moczar’s work, decides to write his opera under the title Targowica. The principal theme of his piece is the Letter of Reconciliation of the Polish Bishops to the German Bishops. In real life, this initiative of the Polish clergy was harshly criticised by the state authorities and led to a widespread smear campaign, with the propaganda presenting the bishops as “black reactionaries” and accusing them of treason, falsifying Polish history, and supporting the “Bonn retaliation,” that is cooperating with West Germany.

Another piece featuring the Gnome as a protagonist is Rozmowa w kartoflarni (“A Conversation in the Potato Storage”), written in 1968. This time, Szpotański was inspired by a press article about Gomułka’s 60th birthday. In the poem, Gomułka is a political prisoner kept in the Rawicz prison. When working in the potato storage, he tells Ukrainian poet Taras about his plan to seize the power over the country and boost the Polish economy and agriculture. His ideas, however, are utterly absurd and reflect the lacking intellectual capacities of the Gnome.

In Szpotański’s works, the Gnome was depicted as an uneducated, insecure, green-eyed man, a shallow-brained political commissar, as well as a paranoid self-important tyrant, suspecting conspiracy almost everywhere:

To mam z Leninem wspólnego jeszcze,

że moc problemów w swym mózgu mieszczę,

a równie dobrze jak na diamacie

znam się, jak uszyć należy gacie!

Gdy tylko w Polsce obejmę władzę,

wnet kult osoby własnej wprowadzę,

by czcić mnie mogli w kraju i w świecie,

bom niezrównany jest mędrzec przecie!

A kto nie będzie Gomułki kochał,

ten będzie w lochu jęczał i szlochał!

(Rozmowa w kartoflarni)


  1. Madajczyk P., Na drodze do pojednania: wokół orędzia biskupów polskich do biskupów niemieckich z 1965 roku, Warsaw 1994.
  2. Szpotański J., Gnom, Caryca, Szmaciak, ed. A. Libera, Z. Saloni, Łomianki 2007.
  3. Szpotański J., Rozmowa w kartoflarni [online] [Accessed: 04.02.2018].
  4. Szpotański J., Targowica czyli opera Gnoma (poświęcona obchodom milenijnym) [online] [Accessed: 04.02.2018].




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