Stunning mural honours Kraków’s most renowned street musician
Dubbed by some as “the Banksy of the countryside”, an artist whose work went internationally viral four-years ago has returned to the limelight after revealing his latest work: a tender homage to Kraków’s best-loved street musician.
Well-known for his Silent Memorial project, an undertaking that saw dozens of rural barns and sheds in the Podkarpackie region painted with the figures of the people that formerly inhabited these provincial properties, Arkadiusz Andrejkow is back in the news after unveiling a new work dedicated to the late violinist Stefan ‘Cororo’ Dymiter.
Born into the Romani community in 1938 in Płonna, a tiny hamlet not far from the south-eastern town of Sanok, Dymiter overcame disability to become arguably Poland’s most celebrated street musician.
Having lost his eyesight in infancy (though some sources claim he was born blind), Dymiter also had both his legs amputated at a young age. Miraculously, despite both his ethnicity and fragile physical condition he was able to survive the Nazi occupation.
Apocryphal as it might be, according to some sources he helped his family evade deportation to the concentration camps by charming German gendarmes with his outstanding musical ability.
Later, in the 1960s, along with many Carpathian Roma, he moved to Kowary, a Lower Silesian town by the German border.
However, it is for his associations with Kraków that Dymiter is most fondly remembered.
Nicknamed Cororo, the Romani word for blind, he started out playing the streets with a group of other gypsy musicians, among them an accordionist, guitarist and a cigarette-smoking, silver-toothed double bass player.
Making the city’s Floriańska street their pitch in the 1980s, the group became synonymous with the Old Town in this era.
Embedded in local folklore, they drew crowds whenever they played, with Cororo often playing perched on a window ledge on which he’d been placed.
“When Dymiter smiled, the day felt brighter,” recalls one onlooker in one of numerous online tributes.
Says another: “when my aunt from Canada heard him in the 1980s on a visit to Poland she was so moved that she placed 100 dollars under his shirt – he was worth all the treasure in the world.”
Nor was it just the everyday public that was left awed by his skills.
The popular musician Maciej Maleńczuk once sang, “so long as Stefan plays, I have hope”.
Nigel Kennedy, meanwhile, once cut off an interview taking place on the Rynek to dance to Dymiter’s songs.
Yet another story, though now mangled into a variety of versions, remembers how Yehudi Menuhin found himself in the thrall of Dymiter’s musicianship.
Often playing tunes he’d heard previously on the radio, Dymiter’s ensemble became favourites among passers-by – on message boards and forums, some talk of being moved to tears by his music.
Self-taught, and always dapper in his turnout, Dymiter is further credited with passing on his knowledge to scores of other Romani musicians.
Having also collaborated with the legendary music and cabaret club Piwnica pod Baranami, as well as fulfilling a dream to play at the city’s Philharmonic, Dymiter passed away in 2002.
Now, nearly two decades after his death, artist Arkadiusz Andrejkow has honoured the musician’s legacy by reviving a decrepit bus stop in the place of Dymiter’s birth.
In a statement published on his Facebook account, Andrejkow confessed that this had long been in the pipeline:
“The idea to commemorate him in Płonna was raised a long time ago, but it was hard to find a suitable place in a village that only has a few houses,” he said.
“Finally, and thanks to the involvement of the both local community and others, it was possible to do so and in the process regenerate a bus stop that had resemble a small ruin only a month before.”
Based on a photograph taken by Adam Drogomirecki, the mural will eventually cover three sides of the shelter.
Depicting Dymiter in his trademark suit, and resting his violin on his stomach (another childhood disability meant the violinist had no choice but to play in this unorthodox manner), the mural can be found on a quiet, wooded road staring over the rolling countryside.