Poland glossary








physical labourer




July 1999



Section 1
Can you introduce yourself, please?
My name is Edward Kinal, I live in Gorzanůw, I was born on 14th May 1951.

What do you do?
I work as a tractor driver in a private farm.

What are your first recollections connected with the flood which started on 7th July 1997?
Well, I woke up at 4.30 in the morning and I saw water through the window. I said to my wife that the water was getting very high, that the river was flooding us. My wife got up and we started taking the furniture out. Some of them we managed to take out, some of them we did not. Later, we took the household equipment - fridges, freezers, and animals - pigs, rabbits. We tried to secure whatever we could, however we could. And that was it.

How was the water rising?
Well, it did quite quickly. It rose by about 60 cm in an hour.

Were you prepared for the flood?
Thatís the whole point, I wasnít prepared at all, I didnít know anything at all. I was taken by surprise so much by the water rising so fast, it had never been like that before. It always reached a certain level on the meadow and it had never risen any higher. We were all surprised to see it enter the farm buildings, the house, the flats. Yes, we were all so surprised.

Why did you wake up so early in the morning?
It was the noise that woke me up, the noise of the passing water. Some of the small trees had already been broken. It was like a roar at times.

What was your first thought?
Well, I was thinking about trying to salvage whatever I could. But the water was rising so quickly. The level was higher and higher by the minute and I knew we should have been removing whatever we could.

What were the first items that you were trying to save?
The first thing? Well, it was the best furniture, the TV set, the most valuable things.
Section 2
What was the reaction of your relatives?
Well, they started to panic a bit at first. Because there was a lot of noise, a lot of movement, things wouldnít fit where we wanted to put them, the furniture wouldnít go upstairs because the stairs were too narrow. It was a panic.

Where did you run from the water?
I secured whatever I could, I put some of the things on the table and things, and my neighbour came. We went to theirs, cause they had cattle, a farm, so I helped him with the cattle, the pigs. I was there, at his, for quite a long time, and when I wanted to go back home, I found I couldnít. We tried to go back several times, but there was so much water, hip-deep. It was difficult to enter the house. So we locked and secured all the doors, but they got broken later on anyway.

Did anyone help you?
No, no-one. No-one helped me because I didnít need any help, I managed to do everything with my boy.

What damages did the water cause at yours?
It totally damaged everything that there was.

How high did it reach?
1.60 metres.

How long did the water stay in the buildings?
The water stayed there for quite a long time. The first wave was about 60-70 cm high, and it stayed quite a long time, all day long, I could say. It dropped a bit but it rose later. At 5 oíclock in the afternoon, it started to rain. It was exactly when we came back home, and the water level started rising instantaneously. But this time it was rising much faster and faster. And so we went back to the neighbourís. There, I helped the neighbour carry out some of his belongings. I was going to stay at the neighbourís because my house was an old building and I was afraid it could be swept away by the water. The current was so strong that some trees got uprooted. They floated so, with the current. Various things were found floating. Later, I changed my mind and I was going to Bystrzycka Street where there was no water, but I didnít manage. Water surrounded me from all sides, I didnít manage to get there.

What did you do then?
Then I came to the conclusion that... I took my daughter on my back, and the little dog, my son is tall enough, strong enough so he went by himself. And we went in the direction of the railway line. We got higher, the water was more and more shallow, and we got to that escarpment. And we stayed there. And when I was still walking in that direction, the current was so strong it almost took me with the child away. There were trees floating, they hit me. I didnít know exactly where I was going, I thought I was following a road, and so I walked, and so we reached the railway tracks. There was a lorry that belonged to a neighbour of mine, and we were going to stay there, but I was so soaked, all day long, so exhausted, I felt terribly cold. I went to another village - to Mielnik. And there, at a friendís of mine, we stayed all night, until five oíclock in the morning.
Section 3
What did you feel when you were running away from the water?
What did I feel? I couldnít do anything. Water is the most powerful of all the elements. When I looked back, when I had already reached safety, there was just one enormous roar, noise, and the water was everywhere. The river which was normally several metres wide was then a few times wider.

What happened when the water dropped?
We spent the night there. My wife was at Bystrzycka Street, I was elsewhere, we didnít have any contact with each other, nothing. We were supposed to meet. My brother-in-law was supposed to come in a car and fetch us, but he didnít manage, all the bridges had been broken. And so we were separated. Early in the morning, we got up and decided to go back home. We met a friend of ours in Mielnik and we asked him what was going on. And he said that the house was damaged, half of it had been swept away, all the bridges broken. I thought, thatís the end, my house doesnít exist any more. But we went on. We reached a hill, such an elevation from which you could see Gorzanůw. I told my son to climb it and see if he could see the chimney of the building, and he said yes. I asked him if there was the barn, and he said, yes, there was the barn and even a wooden shed was left. So I thought it was alright, we would have somewhere to live. And so we returned, but there was such huge [amount of] water, before the railway tracks, and there was a neighbour of mine standing there. He too went out but he couldnít return. So we took a tractor and came to fetch him, but I had to wait for the water to drop. It lasted very long. I think it was about midday, maybe 1 oíclock that I could enter my home.

What did it look like after the flood?
The house was... it looked terrible. Heaps of uprooted trees, loads of rubbish, broken hedges. There had been a new hedge, not even a bit of it was left, all the wood was lying about. It looked tragic. The trees in my orchard were as if lying on the ground.

How did you feel when you were looking at it?
At first I didnít know what to do, where to start, what to begin with. I simply felt like walking away, going somewhere and leaving all that. But I had some animals, chicken, ducks. I started cleaning up the buildings to let them in. I cleaned one room up, but it took me so long, it took until the next day. On the first day, I couldnít do anything, because all the rooms, all the buildings were still flooded. We had to wait for the next day. We went to Bystrzycka Street, my wife came to fetch me, we went to Bystrzycka Street to my in-lawsí. I spent the night there. On the following day we could cross the only bridge that was left in the centre of Gorzanůw. Slowly, slowly, but we managed to cross the river. We came here and I started removing that mud, as much as I could, and I stayed there, I didnít go to Bystrzycka Street any more. I went to the room upstairs, where I slept. And so day by day... Repairing the damages, cleaning.

Did anyone help you with that?
Yes, I had help. The first person to help me was my cousin who came from Lomnica. My neighbours had enough work in their households, so none of them could help anyone else. But, in general, people were very helpful. I didnít have any shoes, for example, so the neighbours living in those streets that hadnít been flooded gave me some.
Section 4
What sort of help did you get?
Well, I couldnít complain, I did get help.

How was it manifested?
My relatives helped me a lot, they helped me clean the household, all the buildings, all the rooms, everything.

How about the assistance from the authorities?
Well, yes, we got some from the government as well.

Was that enough?
It was just a fraction of what was needed, a small fraction. The expenses were higher, much higher.

Do you suffer from a post-flood trauma?
Well, there is some trauma. I can feel it in myself, and I can see it in other people, those living in those flooded streets. Whenever the water rises a bit, all we talk about is the flood. And we talk about what happened a lot, all the time. This will probably remain with us till the end of our days, something like that.

What were peopleís opinions about the nature of the flood - natureís revenge? a punishment from God?
I donít know whether it was some sort of punishment or a revenge. It may have been a punishment. I would rather say it was such a small warning from God, a small one. Because - as the priest in Stara Lomnica said - God has got a lot of other punishments at his disposal. That was just a small warning, a very small one, because Godís power is much stronger than that, and he can send much more serious punishment.

What is your reaction to the news about current floods in various other parts of the country?
I feel very sorry for those people, shortly after our flood, there was a flood in Kudowa, Polanica, it went that way. So I know, I know, I have been through that, so I know what it means to people, what shock that is.

Do you think the flood wouldnít have been so serious if you were not living in the mountains?
That is possible. Well, definitely, it would have been less sudden and abrupt, or it wouldnít have happened at all. But Iíve got used to living in this area, and although the elements sometimes bother you, I like living here, I simply like it here.

Have you ever thought about moving away from here?
No, no, Iíve never thought about that. At first yes, I was a bit depressed. Even the local priest asked me how I felt after the flood. The priest helped me a lot as well.

How did he help you?
With various gifts, supplies from the west and so on, second-hand goods simply, various pieces of household equipment.
Section 5
Do you believe in the prophecy saying that there will be another, even more serious flood?
I donít believe in that. In general, I donít believe in any prophecies or anything like that.

What would you do now if you were told that another flood wave was approaching?
Now I think I would be wiser, more careful. I would start preventive actions much sooner. I mean, you canít prevent such a calamity, but I would remove my things so that they wouldnít get damaged.

How would you appraise the assistance you received after the flood?
There were various kinds of assistance. I think it could have been divided more equally, more fairly - the financial, material assistance. No-one can deny that various people were treated differently - some got more, some got less.

How was the assistance divided?
There was a committee, specialists, a construction engineer and there was someone else. And they came and appraised the damages to the house, the buildings.

Did you learn anything new about yourself, about your relatives?
Well, I did learn something. My relatives helped me a lot, they didnít let me down, I wasnít disappointed with them, my relatives. As well as some of the people I donít know, strangers who offered their unselfish help. Poles as a nation are quite good in such extreme situations, they help each other a lot.