The Mermaid Monument

Autor: Zdzisław Smoliński    

The Mermaid Monument

The President of Warsaw, Stefan Starzyński, had initiated the building of the Mermaid monument. The artist, Ludwika Nitschowa, was commissioned to design the monument. Her design depicted a 20 m tall figure cast out of green glass. The sculpture was to be placed on a pillar in the middle of the Vistula River. The mermaid was to show the water level, and when lit up at night was to serve as a lantern on the river.

A 23-year old Warsaw University student of ethnography, Krystyna Krahelska, posed for the sculpture. She is known for writing the words to the song “Hey chłopcy bagnet na broń” for the “Baszta” regiment of the Polish Home Army (AK). Krystyna Krahelska (pseudonym Danuta), a nurse with the 1108 AK “Jeleń” Division, was injured on 1 August 1944 on Pole Mokotowskie and died the next day.

However, technical and financial issues prevented the project from being completed. A low-budget version was made in bronze, reducing the size of the sculpture fivefold to 450 cm.

The firm “Bracia Łopieński” made the bronze cast out of a plaster mould in March 1939. The monument represents the figure of a woman, who in the lower half of the body transforms into a fish covered in fish scales. The torso is finished off with fins and a tail. The mermaid is holding an uplifted sword in her right hand and in the left a shield with an image of an eagle, which is a Polish emblem. The monument is placed on a pedestal with a fountain pool designed by Stanisław Pomian-Połujana. Merely sculptures of fish and sea gulls that were to decorate the pool were not made.

In April 1939, on the left bank of the Vistuala, on Wybrzeże Kościuszkowskie, at the end of Tamka Street the mermaid monument was positioned on a pedestal prepared earlier; it was the last monument erected before World War II. The monument was never officially unveiled, because it was interrupted by the outbreak of World War II. The mermaid monument, a symbol of Warsaw, luckily survived World War II and had not been destroyed.

After the war, the monument was renovated and its base had recently been rebuilt and the fountain that had not been working for many years was again activated. Water flows through 104 nozzles. The monument is lit at night. Today, it is like a fairytale decoration of the riverside bulwark.

The project ‘Protecting the habitats of priority bird species of the Vistula Valley under conditions of intensive pressure of the Warsaw agglomeration’ ( has received a grant from the Financial Instrument for the Environment (LIFE+) and from the National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management.