137. The Flood.

By Peter Fraenkel

An early memory of mine – before the age of five. I know because it happened at Kosel and we left that little town in Upper Silesia a few days after my 5th birthday.

In the road, near the kerbstone, was a drain hole. A grill covered it. My father pointed to it. Something very odd was happening. Water wasn’t flowing down but was coming up, flooding the road.

“Oder must be high, very high.” said my father.  And then we noticed that  the ditch by the side of the road was full of water. A man was poling a small boat along the flooded ditch.

“Only way to get to the station, I guess” said my father.

“But can the trains come?”

“They’ll be ok. They’re on an embankment,” he reminded me. “I can’t imagine the waters will rise that high

There seemed to be people, lots of people, milling around the post office. We went to investigate.  They were bringing up sacks from a basement. Sacks of mail, dripping wet. They were spreading wet letters in the sun and weighing them down with stones.

“Let’s hope no letters for us in those bags,” he said.

“What if it rises still higher?”

“We’ll build a Noah’s ark!” he laughed.

“Good thing I’ve learnt to swim!” I thought.

Meadows around the river were flooded – meadows where my mates and I had sometimes kicked a ball around. We were, of course, on the upper reaches of the river. Down-stream the Oder was causing devastation. Editorials demanded better water management. Governments promised action. Some said we should not drink tap water without boiling it first. But we didn’t. And we survived. Perhaps they did do something – in later years we never had such floods again.