Directed by Jan Holoubek and Bartłomiej Ignaciuk, The Millennium Flood from Netflix is a drama series that takes place in 1997 in Poland. Hydrologist Jaśmina Tremor arrives in Wrocław, a city on the upper Oder River, to study the alarming rise in water levels that indicates a potential flood. She works alongside the local government to assess the situation and soon warns everyone that the damage could be more dangerous than expected. However, the villagers do not take Jaśmina’s warnings very seriously, resulting in widespread destruction when the flood occurs.
Soon, the government is forced to make crucial decisions that would determine the fate of hundreds of people. With its gripping storyline and compelling performances by actors like Agnieszka Żulewska, Tomasz Schuchardt, Ireneusz Czop, and Damian Krajczyk, the show keeps audiences anticipating what happens next. In addition, the realistic setting of the 90s and the detailed portrayal of the natural disaster forces you to ponder whether ‘High Water’ portrays real events. So if you’re in the same boat, let us quench your curiosity!
Yea, The Millennium Flood is based on a true story. The series chronicles the tragic Central European flood of 1997, also known as the Oder flood of 1997. Thus, this event affected Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic in July 1997. After southwestern Poland and northeastern the Czech Republic suffered two periods of high rainfall that month, the Oder and Mava river basins flooded extensively and devastated both countries, with additional damage in Germany.
The high levels of rain came about from the pressure a Genoa Low created. This, a cyclone formed from a pre-existing cyclone south of the Alps over the Gulf of Genoa, Ligurian Sea, Po Valley and northern Adriatic. The said cyclone then moved from northern Italy and remained in southern Poland for a long time. Resulting in multi-month average rainfall occurring in just one week. The floods started in the Czech Republic on July 5, 1997. And so it spread to Poland the next day through rapid flooding.
Gradually, it reached several cities through rising water levels, including towns and cities such as Prudnik and Głuchołazy, Chałupki to Racibórz and Krapkowice. In addition, several historic buildings in Kłodzko were severely damaged due to the flooding. In the second stage, the waves of the flood crossed the Oder River and several neighboring towns were submerged in the water. On July 12, 1997, the waters reached Wrocław, the central location of the Netflix series.
The flood affected many other cities such as Opole, Rybnik and Głogów before gradually abating as it reached the Polish-German border. The reduced velocity of the water gave some time to implement preventive measures to prevent further damage. Unfortunately, the floods caused significant losses to the Czech Republic and Poland, with financial losses estimated at EUR 3.8 billion.
On the other hand, Germany had relatively smaller losses of €330 million. Sadly, the catastrophic event also claimed 144 lives in the three countries, with 56 casualties in Wrocław itself. Regarding other losses in Poland, around 7,000 people lost all their possessions and 680,000 homes were destroyed or damaged. Not only that, countless private companies, schools and public transport have suffered severely.
Was the Netflix series faithful to the story?
Given the magnitude of the effects of the disaster in Poland, July 18, 1997, was declared a National Day of Mourning by the president, and the flood was dubbed the Millennial Flood. returning to The Millennium Flood, the series intricately details the events that led to the natural disaster in Wrocław and how the people coped with adversity. Although the protagonist, Jaśmina Tremor, is a fictional character and symbolizes all those scientists and government officials who worked hard to minimize the effects of the Millennial Flood on the city.
In an October 2022 interview, the show’s producer, Anna Kepinska, elaborated on the themes explored in the show. She said: “We wanted to return to that mood and emotions, but in essence create a universal story about making difficult decisions, a conflict between generations, individuals with the majority, country, and city. About the fact that you have to face your unfinished business, you can’t get away from it.”
“But also about an extraordinary common movement, the will to help, solidarity, and the need to act. It was special. Overnight, ordinary everyday life was replaced by the struggle with the element, and trusted leaders emerged from the crowd. The flood is for us only the background of this story and the catalyst for events.” continued Kempinski.
More than a dramatized replay of the incident and its victims, The Millennium Flood at Netflix focuses on the wrath of nature and sends a moving message in the current time of environmental crisis. So while various fictional elements and characters appear throughout the narrative, the series is largely authentic.