GLOSSARY
Poland glossary

Maria

(POLAND 36)

Sex

female

Age

44

Occupation

teacher

Location

P

Date

P

 

transcript

Section 1
What were you doing when the flood began?
Well, that day exactly, we went to Otmuchůw. It was Sunday. The river was floating its natural stream-way. We saw the water level: it was up to the second stone. We assumed that it was nothing to worry about. In cases of other heavy rains, sometimes the water even reached the level of the fourth stone. We count the stone steps, you can climb down from the river bank into the water. When we were coming back at about eight in the evening, the water was covering the road. When we got to our house, the water had already been on the backyard. The nearest to the river stood a poultry-house and a wood-shed. The first thing we did was to evacuate the hens. We brought them to the cow-shed. In the wood-shed we kept some building materials, as we were planning to redecorate our house. We took those things into the house. Next, we wanted to save the garage. Unfortunately, we didnít manage.
It was about 10 or 11p.m. when the water began to go up very quickly, and, to make things worse, electricity broke down. The water took our garage, and the next days also the rest of our backyard sank. Coming back to the Sunday night, we didnít sleep for the whole night. At about 1 or 2 p.m. I heard a loud bang coming from the side of the bridge. I felt as if the house was trembling. So I rushed towards the kitchen. The water had already been in the corridor and in the kitchen, too. Led by my intuition, I went into the cow-shed. The cattle were already getting drowned. We started to block the stream of water with some stones. We tried to change the direction of the stream a little. It so fortunately happened that a platform for carrying hay, which stood against one wall of our house, was moved by the water in such a way that it got stuck between the bridge and our house thus blocking the pressure of water a little. On Monday morning, at about 9.00, my father decided to go to the other side of the river to fetch the cows which were left there. I looked up the river to learn what was the condition of the bridge across which you could get to the other side. It turned out that the bridge had already been broken. So my father had to go one and a half kilometre down to cross the river.
While he was there I went to the cow-shed. The water was one metre deep there. I had problems with taking two cows out because the gate got blocked by the water. So we took them through the house, through this porch. Then, the only animal to be taken was the horse. It was shocked and wouldnít move. We brought a neighbour, who was an expert on horsesí mentality. He managed to take it somehow backwards, to the backyard. Then, we started getting ready for the evacuation. We took the most valuable things, got dressed. It was impossible to get out through the door, so we were getting out by the window. The neighbours helped us to take away whatever was possible.
Section 2
What was your first thought? What to save first?
My first thought was to take documents and money. Then I thought of some household equipment. I took the cooker, which, by the way, got damaged very quickly during transportation. Then, I took some food. Next, we took a TV-set, a radio, a fridge, a freezer, and other things. We put it all in the neighboursí house. As far as clothing is concerned, we took only the most necessary items. Then, we started arranging the nightís lodging.

Were you prepared for such an event? Did you see or hear any information about the flood on the radio or television?
I heard about the floods in other countries, but I didnít expect something like that might have happened in this region. I didnít expect such a range of disaster. I would never guess that such a little stream which I have known since the beginning of my life may suddenly turn into such an enormous amount of water with such a strong current.

Did you watch television right before the disaster?
No, I didnít. I normally watch TV occasionally. Maybe more frequently in winter. We donít have either first or second programme of Polish National Television here.

Didnít you hear any news of the flood on the radio?
No, I didnít.

So you were absolutely unprepared, werenít you?
No, not at all. Even when we were coming back from Otmuchůw, we didnít expect anything. When we left Otmuchůw, it began to rain, when we were passing Klodzko, it cleared up a little. We only got to Wilkanůw when we noticed that something was going wrong: the tree trunks down the village were sank in water.

Have you heard of similar disasters, for instance, from your parents?
No, they didnít tell me of any similar events. Both my parents came from different parts of Poland, and the regions they come from, have never been affected by floods. No other member of my family remembers any floods. The only fact Iíve heard about was the flood in Goworůw a long time ago. It took place here when Goworůw was inhabited by the German. But I donít know any details, e.g.: which way did the water float or which level did it reach.
Section 3
What did you think of that particular flood when it started: that it was the end of the world or something like that?
I treated it as a flood, simply. An enormous amount of water, which came very unexpectedly. I know people who experienced horrors of war. For me, it was something like an outbreak of war. I didnít wash, I didnít sleep, I didnít eat... I felt so miserable. Even when the water went down, I still couldnít sleep. All the time we were watching whether the water was coming up or not. Right after the flood, I didnít expect any help. I took to work at once. The household needed tidying up thoroughly. There was a lot of dust and mud all around. Everything we could do was to try and bring everything back to its original condition.

Did you want to come back to the same place afterwards?
We didnít even take such a possibility into account. The walls got broken, the stove didnít stand firmly, the water undermined the floor, the chimney was trembling. I realised that the house might have collapsed any moment. I didnít care about the house any more. I wanted to survive; to rescue my father and myself. I was afraid of the second wave of the flood, which was also forecasted. If the water had undermined the house from the other side, it would surely have collapsed, because on that side it had some wooden parts. Now, we have exchanged those parts for hollow brick.

Have you got any trauma after the flood? I mean when you listen to the news of the flood or when people mention something about that?
No, I donít get influenced by radio or television at all. But I noticed that now I focus much more on observing the weather. When it begins to rain heavier than usual, or even when the clouds gather, I get scared. Not long ago, it so happened that there was a storm at night. It rained pretty long. Our horse was on the other side of the river. I got up at one oíclock at night, I went to the river to check the level of water and then I went to the other side to bring the horse. I felt more confident having everything by my side. I donít rely on weather forecasts on TV. The only thing I really trust are my own observations. Living here so many years, I got used to observing the nature. I know what I can expect when I look at the sky.

How do the others behave during the flood. I mean: friends, neighbours, relatives?
Well, of my family there were only two of us: my father and I. There was also a friend of mine with us. The other relatives joined us afterwards, on the first day of the flood it was impossible to get here. Another friend somehow managed to come from Miedzylesie. First, we made some holes in the wall to let the water float, you know, to lessen the pressure of the water. It also stopped the water from coming up, a little. On one of the next days my cousin with her children appeared. They helped us remove the mud and tidy everything up. There was a metre high heap of rubble on one side of the house and a huge hole in the ground, the same size, on the other. Also, the neighbours helped us a lot. One neighbour cooked meals for us, but I couldnít eat anything. I tried to make my father eat. I wanted him to be healthy and strong, as he felt so upset. He was really depressed, all his property collapsed, he had worked on that all his life. As for me, I donít care so much about material properties. I think everything is possible to regain. Sometimes it happens that I am woken up by a nightmare. It repeats very often: I can see the water coming up and up, higher and higher; the waves so deep, they grab this or that... I donít know how long it is going to come back in my dreams. Maybe till the end...
Section 4
What did you expect from the Government and the local authorities?
In the first moment, I didnít count on any kind of assistance. I was very surprised both by the attitude of the government and by the aid of the whole society. As I said, I took to work on my own at once. The others told me not to hurry with it because they heard some communicates on the radio claiming that this was not the end of the flood, that the next wave was approaching. Fortunately, those forecasts didnít prove to be true. Anyway, in the meantime, I couldnít sit still doing nothing. It was just a nice surprise to me that the aid was organised so quickly.

What kind of assistance did you receive from the Government and the State?
From the government and from my employer I received financial assistance. Then we received a lot of assistance in kind: from the other parts of the country, from CARITAS and other organisations. It was all very helpful for many people, although it was also very usual that those least affected demanded most: they would queue for the gifts which were delivered a few times. I didnít do that. I have always been keeping the household so Iíve got used to stock-piling. We didnít have electricity for quite a long time, so some amount of my meat resources went off. I was able to save a little: my sister took some of my meat to her house and put it into the freezer. As for the food we got from the state assistance Ė of course I was happy to receive anything, but I never begged or queued for the gifts as the others used to.

What was your greatest need after the flood? What would you have expected most from the Government?
The first thing I needed was to have the rubble removed as soon as possible. We had all the entrance doors stuck by the stone and mud, so for us the most important thing was to be able to get into the house and start tidying it up.

Is there anything now that you would like to obtain as a compensation for the losses caused by that flood?
Do you mean these days?

Yes.
I donít expect anything from anybody. Maybe just from myself. I must paint the walls, and I must have the new garage built. I realise that there are also the others who need help as well. I donít worry about the money. You can earn some in each situation. Even on holiday there has always been possibility to earn even up to 50 zlotys a day. I used to go picking blackberries. I havenít been for three years now, I donít need to. We have always kept some kettle to have our own meat. So financially we can manage. What is more important to me now is the problem of the management of the surroundings: the river needs regulation, the river-bed changed its location after the flood and so far we still donít know how it is going to be arranged. Now we have got neither the garden nor the orchard, which we used to have before. We still wait for the rubble to be removed from our area. We would like to plant some new trees. We havenít got any possibility to remove it on our own. We expect from the authorities to show us the development plan of this area and let us know how the river bank is going to be protected in the future.

Is there anything you particularly miss from the past, from your previous house?
The water grabbed whatever it could. I donít miss those things these days. We have rebuilt whatever we managed to. One of the biggest losses from our possessions was a circular saw. Anyway we have managed to buy a new engine to fit it, we also managed to find the stand somewhere among the rubble, but we lost all the cutting blades and other necessary spare parts. Nowadays we try to collect everything step by step. Sometimes we exchange something into something else with a neighbour. We try to manage somehow.
Section 5
You are a teacher, arenít you. Have you observed any changes in the childrenís behaviour or mentality after the flood? Have you noticed anything strange in them?
At my work I deal with children up to seven years of age. I admit that those from the affected families behaved differently after the flood. They were ill-tempered, nervous, exasperated. One boy started to speak extraordinarily loudly. Another boy used to mention the flood at least once a day, then once a week, and so on. Generally, the younger the children are, the sooner they forget. Older children feel it stronger: they remember more details, more facts and events. These days they almost stopped mentioning it at all. Maybe the flood will remain in their memory as something horrible, but I think they have already recovered. Primary school children will certainly remember everything better and longer.

What did your family advise you? To stay here or to move to a different place?
Yes, it was a great dilemma to me. But I really feel very strong emotional ties with this place. I am a local patriot: I like the climate here, I like all the surroundings. If we had lost the building, we would have tried to build another in the same place. Maybe not exactly, maybe a little further from the river, but I think I would never change my place of living.

So you are determined to live in the mountains, arenít you?
Yes, of course I am. And I donít like the city. Nowadays I work with small children, but as a teacher, I also used to work with fourteen- and fifteen-year-old teenagers, with whom I often went on camps in different parts of the country. I noticed that the teenagers enjoy much more climbing the mountains than walking somewhere else, e.g. the seaside. I think this area is very attractive. I feel closely attached to it. I spent a few years of my life living in a city, and I know, I wouldnít move to town for good. Besides, I donít feel good on the plain countryside.

Assuming you had to move away from here, what would you miss most?
If I had to live these mountains I would move into the other mountains [laughter]. I like the Beskid Mountains. I think it is also beautiful and the landscape is lovely.

And if you had to live somewhere else?
I tend to put my alarm clock half an hour earlier and go picking mushrooms or blackberries in the morning. I love it. Where else could I have such a life?

Have you ever believed in superstitions?
No, I never have. Whatever will be, will be, I think.
Section 6
Didnít your neighbours feel envious about the assistance you received after the flood?
As far as my family is concerned, no, I hope. The inhabitants of my village were generally angry at those who didnít deserve any assistance but used to go, queue and beg for gifts. I didnít hear of any complaints concerning our family. Once it so happened that I felt disappointed because I was promised to have something delivered and they failed. At the time when the goods were delivered to peopleís houses, I had to milk my cows, so I asked them kindly to come to me a bit later. They didnít come. Next time they come with another transport of gifts, I received more than I expected, so I divided everything into equal parts and sent it to different people. I knew that people made envious remarks about those who took too much, so whatever I received, I used to distribute among others. I didnít pay much attention what I gave to whom: There was some flour, rice, pasta, etc. But later on, it didnít prove to be the best system: people kept complaining. Then, I used to go to a farmer from another village to bring some potatoes and feeding stuff. He gave me a list of those with whom I was supposed to share. So I distributed the feeding stuff directly according to the list. I did so in order to avoid unpleasant comments. Then, whenever I received something, I asked for the list. I divided the gifts together with a neighbour of mine. First, we put everything on the floor in my room and then we put the label with a name of the receiver on each item, strictly according to the list.

How do you now consider the news about the floods in other parts of the globe?
I really sympathise with those people. I really know what they feel. Iíve experienced it all myself. I know what it means for the victims of flood. It is a tragedy. I wouldnít wish anybody to experience anything like that.

Did you have the opportunity to look at your family or neighbours from a different point of view? Maybe you have discovered something you didnít know about them before?
I have always believed in co-operation between neighbours and within family. So far, I think it exists. Anyway, Iíve confirmed that those who had always been kind-hearted before the disaster, remained so. On the other hand, those who had never been helpful to the others, also remained the same. It could be worse, we didnít quarrel much among family and neighbours, either.

How did your father behave after the flood?
I saw him swearing quietly to himself. He wondered here and there, he couldnít sleep, he just couldnít find a place for himself. He didnít want to go to anyone else to have some sleep. Finally I managed to talk him into having a rest in a car. He sat there with our dogs which were very frightened. So, I could see that he suffered very severely, and I see it is still in his memory. Whenever he meets somebody or talks to somebody, the leading topic is the flood. He often recalls his garden, his fruit trees, which he was so careful about. Now he just has a heap of stone instead. He has lamented about it right after the flood and till now it is all the same. I am afraid he will stay like this to the end of his life.

Doesnít your father think it might have been a kind of Godís anger?
No, I think he doesnít.

Is there anything you dream of?
My dream? No, I havenít got any particular dreams or wishes. I take life as it is. I donít know? To win a fortune, maybe. But I donít play fortune games... Well there is so much to do around. I must go on working.
Section 7
Thank you very much.
Thank you, too.