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July 1999


The majority of the interview concerns the narrator’s personal experience of the 1997 flood: “We thought our life would be peaceful, without any unpleasant surprises … in 1997 we were affected by the catastrophic flood that nobody had expected. We’ve been living here for 50 years, and we’d never seen anything like that before”. But there is also a lot of personal detail, particularly at the end about the death of his son in a car crash and his good marriage – the narrator even comments on how much he opened up in the interview: “But I prefer open people.”

The narrator was particularly badly affected by the flood, because “we stayed at home, we didn’t obey the warnings, we thought that our cellar would be flooded at the worst, nothing worse could happen to us…”. He describes their anguish at losing their possessions, especially their books and photographs, which has meant “you could now say we are people without a past” but “the most important thing is we are alive”.

He believes that the distribution of material assistance was “fair” and felt “grateful for everything we got and we don’t complain”. They did not go to the District Office because “for one thing, the poor health makes it difficult; for another, asking for help is not a part of our nature”. He notes the flood did create some bad feeling: some “said it was just as well that Grunwalkzka Street in Bardo was flooded because all the rich people live there, and that there should be even more water. My God, how mean people can be, especially under such circumstances”. In general, though, he feels people cooperated well, and he was helped greatly by friends and family.

detailed breakdown

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Section 1  Early life: came to the area in 1947; “happily married” for 40 years. 1997 flood was “catastrophic”.
Section 2  They thought it was “the last moments of our lives”. Eventually the floodwaters dropped and firemen took them to safety. Describes the damage, and the help they received from neighbours, friends and district authorities.
Section 3  Did not leave earlier because they are both disabled and also “we simply didn’t believe” how high the waters would rise. Remembers the kindness from his German friends (whom he met when his son moved to Germany).
Section 4-5  Distribution of material assistance after the flood was “fair”. Doesn’t know “the real reason” for the flood, though “after the flood, we sort of blamed God”. Feels fearful now whenever heavy rain falls, and has to “ look at the Nysa river to see how much the level has risen, if we are still safe”.
Section 6  The town they used to live in (Przylek) had “minor floods”. Describes how sad he felt watching all his belongings being destroyed: “…we had a lot of books, photographs – all that was devastated by the water. It’s a pity because you cannot recover those. You could now say we are people without a past.” But he did not feel “broken down” after the flood and kept “thinking positively, despite our old age”.
Section 7  Lay on top of the wardrobe for 10 hours in the flood, scared it would overturn.
Section 8  Hopeful that they could salvage and renovate their home – “we were thinking positively. We never got depressed”.
Section 9  Recalls how his relatives “cried because they thought we had drowned”. Thinks the flood affected him more than war, which “did not influence me. Psychologically, I mean. Even when I was losing my health, losing my leg, at the age of 18, I did not panic at all”.
Section 10  Recalls how “curious” he was during the war years and how he lied about his age because “I wanted to put on a uniform and fight”.
Section 11  Says his wife has not returned to her homeland of Lvov, as “she’s got unpleasant memories, especially from the local Ukrainians … [they] murdered a lot of Poles, they burned down entire villages”.
Section 12-15  Explains how much he loves the mountains and how he trusts the local people here and has “no enemies”. Opens up about his very happy marriage and how lost they would be without each other.