'Gzim och den frusna sjön' ('Gzim and the Frozen Lake') - Atlas Obscura

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'Gzim och den frusna sjön' ('Gzim and the Frozen Lake')

Skellefteå, Sweden

A sculpture capturing the emotional moment when a refugee boy realizes he is about to be deported. 


In 2003, artist Knutte Wester moved his open studio to a refugee camp in the mining village of Boliden outside Skellefteå in northern Sweden. There he befriended a charismatic eight-year-old boy by the name of Gzim Dervishi. He had fled with his family from the war in Kosovo in the Balkans. Gzim, who was a very outgoing kid and quickly learned to speak Swedish with a typical northern accent, frequently visited the studio where he borrowed a film camera to document his life as a refugee in Sweden (some of the footage was later used in Knutte’s 2010 documentary Gzim Rewind).

The artist became like a big brother to the boy and one winter day, Gzim wanted to talk privately with him about something really important. They went to a picnic table by a frozen lake. Gzim sat down on the table with his feet on the bench and said that he and his family would be deported to Kosovo. Then he started to cry. It wasn’t until uttering the words out loud that he seemed to grasp the seriousness of the situation. Gzim asked: “Knutte, why are we the only ones who have to leave, do you know?”

Knutte later transformed this lasting, emotional moment, which he poetically described as “Gzim’s dreams froze to ice, just like the lake,” into a bronze sculpture. He called it Gzim och den frusna sjön (Gzim and the Frozen Lake) and installed it on a bench table in a park in Skellefteå in 2014. The artist says his work “does not represent a person, but a memory” and that it became “a metaphor for the relationship between Western Europe and the poorer reality of Eastern Europe.” 

On a summer night in 2019, the boy figure was stolen. Someone had unscrewed it from the park bench, carried it away, and then hidden it in the bushes near the Skellefte River. The park staff rediscovered the artwork the following day. This info reached all the way down to Kosovo, where Gzim, now an adult, wrote on social media, “Good news, my statue has been found again!”

Know Before You Go

'Gzim och den frusna sjön' is located in the south-eastern part of the downtown park Skellefte Stadspark and freely accessible 24/7. Getting there by foot from the bus station takes about 10 minutes.

A second and a third sculpture can be found in Västerås and Täby near Stockholm.

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