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Wrocław, the flood of the millennium. Water rushed onto the streets and flooded 30 percent of the city. After 26 years, the emotions are still alive

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Everyone expected a wave, but no one expected that the water would flood such a part of the city – said Krzysztof Romańczukiewicz, a photographer from Wrocław. In July 1997, a large water flooded one third of Wrocław. It’s been 26 years since those events.

The beginning of July 1997 was exceptionally rainy throughout Poland. Locally, rainfall exceeded even 500 mm, i.e. several months of rainfall. In many provinces, the water level exceeded the alarm levels. Intensive rainfall in the Oder area from July 4 led to a gradual rise in the river level.

On July 6, Nysa Kłodzka flooded the first towns and villages. A day later Kłodzko was under water. Later, the water flooded other towns and villages, including Kędzierzyn Koźle and Opole.

See also: The roar of water, people screaming, then silence. It was supposed to be a warm summer

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They believed in hundred-year-old security

In Wrocław, the highest flood risk level was announced on 9 July. The city was preparing for the fight against the flood, and the inhabitants bought necessities in stores.

Residents are strengthening the embankments on Komandorska StreetBarbara Matyńska, from the collection of the “Memory and Future” Center

But what will happen in the capital of Lower Silesia no one expected. After the flood of July 1903, when more than half of the city was under water, including the Oder islands, the zoo and the villages of Kozanów and Maślice near Wrocław, a decision was made to build modern hydrological facilities to protect the city from another flood in the future.

The belief that the system of hydrological structures from almost a hundred years ago would save the capital of Lower Silesia was widespread. However, it happened otherwise.

A flooded car park in the Swojczyce estateZbigniew Nowak, from the collection of the Center “Memory and Future”

They fled to the rooftops, food was dropped from helicopters

The Provincial Flood Control Committee decided to blow up flood embankments in villages near the city – Janowice, Jeszkowice and Łany. It was argued that this could reduce the size of the flood and save Wrocław, although opinions on this subject remain divided to this day. This caused opposition from the local residents, who organized a protest against the decision on July 11 and prevented the embankment from being blown up, despite repeated attempts by officials to convince them to change their minds.

Flooded Dog FieldJerzy Jańczyk, from the collection of the Center “Memory and Future”

On July 12, water entered the streets of Wrocław. The Kozanów housing estate was the first to be completely flooded. The southern part of the city was cut off from electricity, and the entire city lost access to drinking water. The sewage treatment plant, hospitals and ambulances were flooded. On July 13, over 30 percent. the city was under water.

The flood, dubbed the “flood of the millennium”, flooded one-third of the city. It damaged almost 44 kilometers of roads and over 20 bridges. More than 2,000 homes were destroyed. Four people died in Wrocław alone.

– Everyone expected the wave, but no one expected that the water would flood such a part of the city – said Krzysztof Romańczukiewicz, a photographer from Wrocław, who documented what the flooded streets of the capital of Lower Silesia looked like.

See also: Rats ran, people waded, prisoners were hauled into a helicopter. See footage from an amateur camera

In the most affected districts, people fled to the rooftops. Food and water were dropped on them from helicopters. People also wrote messages to the crews on them. In Kozanów, the water reached the first floor, in the center – at least to the waist.

Destroyed furniture after the flood, Traugutta StreetZbigniew Nowak, from the collection of the Center “Memory and Future”

“The flood in 1997 is the most important event in the history of the city”

Photos from those days remind us of the Zajezdnia History Center and the “Remembrance and Future” Center. – For the inhabitants of Wrocław, the flood in 1997 is the most important event in the city’s history. Among the indications of events that the inhabitants of Wrocław consider worth remembering, the flooding of part of the city in July 1997 is in the first place, ahead of Euro 2012, the Eucharistic Congress (1997) and far behind “Solidarity” and World War II – emphasizes Adam Pacześniak, spokesman Press room of the Depot History Center.

ul. Trzebnica Maria Niewiadomska, from the collection of the Center “Memory and Future”


In the Zajezdnia History Center you can see a multimedia section about the flood at the exhibition “Wrocław 1945–2016”.

Multimedia section about the 1997 flood at the main exhibition “Wrocław 1945–2016” at the Zajezdnia History CenterIryna Marchenko / Depot History Center

– The story of this cataclysm is not told chronologically – it is shown from the perspective of specific and characteristic places for Wrocław. So we will see Poltegor, where the seat of TeDe television was located, and the Main Railway Station PKP, the water tower of the Municipal Water and Sewage Company in Wrocław, the University of Wrocław, the ZOO, the Kozanów housing estate and the Oder embankments in Łany near Wrocław. Each of these places shows the memorable July days of 1997 in a slightly different light, explains Pacześniak.

Three people on a raft sail through SwojczyceZbigniew Nowak, from the collection of the Center “Memory and Future”

As he notes, modern multimedia technologies allow visitors to turn on emotional original films and photos from 26 years ago on their own.

View of the flooded pl. Powstańców Wielkopolskich, in the background the hospital of the Ministry of Internal AffairsMaria Niewiadomska, from the collection of the Center “Memory and Future”

– For the first time, the flood was shown in a problematic approach and the emotions that accompanied it were described – both a quarter of a century ago and now. This is important because – as sociologists have noticed, especially the late prof. Wojciech Sitek from the University of Wrocław, a spontaneously created community of inhabitants of Wrocław broke down the existing barriers of hierarchy, statuses and social roles. As said by prof. One of the respondents to Sitek: “The man I had for nothing first entered the water shouting: people, I’m going to the store, what do you need?”. This community was joined not only by those who defended their homes, but also by residents from unthreatened parts of the city, building fortifications in Biskupin, at the ZOO, the Main Railway Station or – after a radio appeal – moving the Ossolineum collection of several hundred thousand books to the upper floors – lists Pacześniak.

Main photo source: Barbara Matyńska, from the collection of the “Memory and Future” Center

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