Twenty-five years after the Millennium Flood submerged much of Wrocław and Lower Silesia under water, a new series about the tragic events is topping viewing figures on Netflix.
Almost 40 percent of the city was submerged, and the catastrophic losses suffered in the affected areas were estimated at 12 billion zlotys in what was one of the largest natural disasters to hit Poland in the 20th century.
The events surrounding the flood are recalled in the series Wielka Woda [High Water]which appeared on Netflix earlier this month.
Currently, the series is among the 10 most watched series on Netflix in Poland. Figures are not yet available for viewers in other countries, but interest in the English trailer on YouTube is already high.
The series, directed by Jan Holoubek and Bartłomiej Ignaciuk, has been widely acclaimed in the media not only for its gripping drama, but also for its fidelity to true events and its authenticity in showing what Poland was like in the late 1990s.
The six-episode series shows how the 1997 flood devoured everything in its path, how people fought heroically to defend their property, but also how the disaster could have been prevented if the different branches of the authorities at the time had worked together in concert. more effective way.
The flooding was caused by exceptionally heavy rains that occurred in early July. From July 4 to 8, 1997, in the area between Brno, Katowice and Wrocław, a record amount of rain fell.
When mountain rivers carrying large amounts of water flowed into the Oder, they caused its level to rise rapidly. Neither the retention reservoirs nor the flood banks could cope with the huge wave.
When the culminating wave reached Wrocław, the water was more than twice the normal level.
A flood warning was issued on July 6, 1997. Opole, Kłodzko, Nysa, Racibórz and Wrocław were particularly affected.
The wave hit Wrocław on July 12, 1997, and flooded nearly 40 percent of the city, destroying property, flooding apartments, shops, offices, and almost completely paralyzing the city.
Many people were trapped in their homes and had to be supplied with food and drinking water by the emergency services.
The result of the disaster was tragic. At least 56 people died as a direct result of the flooding. 2,600 towns and villages were submerged, of which up to 1,350 were almost completely inundated. The floodwaters damaged around 700,000 houses and 800 schools. About 4,000 bridges were torn down.
Losses throughout the country were estimated at PLN 12 billion.
The scale of the damage was so great that the catastrophe was called the Millennium Flood.
The series follows the fate of the protagonists starting on May 25, 1997, when officials in Lower Silesia are discussing the upcoming visit of Pope John Paul II.
The authorities are concerned about the route of the popemobile and downplay a fax announcing a flood threat to Wrocław.
“What flood?” they say. “After all, there is a drought.”
One of the most important plot points is the plan by the Wrocław authorities to blow up the flood dams in the surrounding towns, which would have protected the city from destruction but resulted in the flooding of towns and cities. smaller.
The creators of the series are keen to point out that it is not a documentary. However, many praise the authenticity of the series, for example the scenes of local people coming out of their houses to help, and especially when a bus is commandeered to take patients from a hospital to safety.
Another scene shows the evacuation of animals from the city zoo, which actually happened in Opole, while a moment of comedy is offered when we see a group of frightened rats drifted onto a wooden panel.
Clearly a lot of effort went into capturing the atmosphere of Wrocław as it was in 1997. The streets that are not under water are filled with Polonez and Fiat Cinquecento cars, and the hits of the time are playing on the radios.
The men wear suits that seem a size too large for them while the women wear characteristic hairstyles of the time.
Original television footage is mixed with film, for example footage taken from a helicopter shows viewers the extent of the flood as it really was.
Twenty-five years seems like a long time to wait for the events to be serialized. The producers say HBO’s excellent series Chernobyl was an inspiration, showing how to tell a disaster story in an engaging way that blends facts, period atmosphere and compelling drama.
A second reason offered is that technology is only now making it possible to recreate an underwater city in a believable way.
The creators of the series hope that the series will grab the attention of audiences outside of Poland in the same way that Chernobyl got a boost, as the High Water English trailer on YouTube has already had over half a million views.