Is Netflix’s Series ‘High Water’ Based On A True Story?

When natural disasters strike, nothing seems to be on our side. It seems that Mother Nature is hell-bent on avenging the atrocities done to it; she stops at nothing to show human beings their true place. Disaster movies and web shows have been quite popular in the past, and they still continue to be. Not only do they remind us of the tragedies we had to suffer, but they also, in a way, prepare us for the future. “Chernobyl” did that just a few years ago and collected widespread critical and commercial acclaim. What worked in the show’s favor was the fact that it uncovered the naked truth right in front of the world, which had remained widely unknown for many decades. So, it is automatically assumed that all disaster shows and movies have a basis in reality. But then, there are films like “2012” and “Armageddon,” disaster movies that were purely fictional. In the current world where OTT consumption has overpowered the traditional television and theatrical modes of consuming media, the stories go far beyond reality or mere fiction. Then comes Netflix’s “High Water,” set in Poland in the 1990s, which is about a real natural disaster that killed millions.

“High Water” has received some extremely good reviews and ratings and has coerced Netflix subscribers worldwide to switch on their TVs, phones, and laptops and tune in to the Polish drama that arrived on the OTT platform without creating a fuss. But once the episodes begin to play, it exhibits rampant chaos in the form of a flood that terrorized Poland in the late 1990s. The show is centered around a certain 1997 flood in Poland’s Wroclaw that was brought about by the authorities’ failure to take timely actions in order to safeguard the city’s inhabitants. However, the fans who have witnessed the tragedy through their screens have repeatedly asked the question whether the show “High Water” is based on true events. The answer is yes. In 1997, Poland saw its worst natural tragedy in decades. Also known as the Central European Flood or the Oder Flood, it was a natural disaster that claimed more than 100 lives. Not only that but $ 4.5 billion was lost in the disaster as Poland came to a standstill. The flood began in the Czech Republic at the Oder and Monava river basins and spread to Poland, where it was dubbed as the Millenium Flood since it was the biggest tragedy of its kind in Poland in the 20th century. The flood claimed the lives of 114 people in Poland. The flood drowned 40 percent of the city of Wroclaw, and once it was over, the ghostly dread of the tragedy remained inside the city’s inhabitants, invoking fears for years to come.

The series “High Water” attempts to portray the fatal tragedy in the form of a six-episode long mini-series. Directed by Jan Holoubek and Bartłomiej Ignaciuk, the mini-series stars Agnieszka Żulewska, Ireneusz Czop, Tomasz Schuchardt, and Tomasz Kot in the lead roles. Anna Kępińska serves as the creator of the series. The series has got viewers hooked all over the world, and even though there was absolutely no promotion for the show, it is quickly gaining momentum to become a worldwide sensation. It won’t be surprising if, in the near future, the show becomes as popular as “Chernobyl.” 

The series takes place in Poland in July 1997, when the flood alert is at an all-time high. Scientists and local government officials are facing life-and-death situations as they panic over the red alert. Since the flood has been wreaking havoc in the neighboring Czech Republic, the Polish authorities are well aware that it will just be a matter of time before the tragedy reaches Poland and destroys everything in its way. In this time of crisis, government official Jakub Marczak thinks quickly and seeks out Jaśmina Tremer. She is an extremely talented female hydrologist who is somehow struggling with a troubled past. Saving the city of Wroclaw gives her a purpose, and she puts all her mental and physical facilities to good use to possibly save the city from the flood or at least minimize the damage.

On the other hand, there is Andrzej Rębacz, who has returned to his hometown in a time of crisis and is determined to save his beloved city and his loved ones from impending doom. Eventually, the flood is unstoppable, and the authorities now have to make some really bold decisions to tackle the threat. Some of those decisions are going to change the lives of the city’s inhabitants forever. The series glides along at a relentless pace, but it takes a breath at times to allow the audience a long and scary peek into the natural disaster. It thus enables the audience to completely immerse themselves in action on-screen and empathize with the sufferers. “High Water” eventually reaches its climax, where, amidst all the despair and the deaths, a ray of hope emerges. In a subtle way, the show’ High Water’ takes a dig at the man-made nature of these disasters, as climate change is a very real threat to our existence on this planet. Even as 25 years have passed since the tragedy struck Poland, the world is still unbothered about the growing impacts of climate change. The series aims to once again draw the world’s attention to how deadly Mother Nature can get if not cared for. Let’s hope that humanity will learn its lesson.

See More: ‘High Water’ Ending, Explained: Will There Be A Season 2?

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Manoj Ashodia
Manoj Ashodia
Manoj Ashodia is an independent filmmaker and a creative writer. He hails from India, a country with a millennium-old tradition of narrative fiction. He has been published on several popular online platforms and in print. He is a surrealist who hopes to have his stories seen by millions.
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