Gareth Jones

[bas relief by Oleh Lesiuk]



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Last night, as the woodcutter and the toymakers were gathered in the village inn, singing their old folk-songs of the Ore Mountains, a villager dashed in and shouted: “The ice is breaking! The ice is breaking !”   

All jumped to their feet and there was a scramble to the door.  Then a series of crashes could be heard outside, as if many large pine trees in the narrow valley had tumbled to the earth.  There was a breaking, grinding noise, to the continual accompaniment of the roar of a big torrent. 

I was mystified, for the stream was so small that it could never make a noise which could so outrival the Thames or the Severn in flood.  So I rushed out with the woodcutters to the back of the inn, which was situated a few yards from the river and then I realised why they were excited.  The stream had really swollen into a big river and was carrying along - as one could vaguely see in the darkness with the help of a torch - huge blocks of ice, which were being dashed against trees and stones.  The water was flooding up to the court-yard of the inn. 

Saved - on the Roof 

“Danger!  danger!”  shouted the innkeeper.  “We’ll have to telephone right down the valley.”  The innkeeper’s son rushed to the telephone while the others still stared at the sudden elevation of their local stream into the dignity of a real river.  One of them said: “There may be bad times to-night in the next village, because their houses come right down to the stream.  It was madness to build them so close.  When the ice broke last year there were some people who had to climb out on the roof and were only saved that way.” 

Someone cried that we had better see if the bridge were still standing.  We went out on to the village street, which was one mass of ice, and slithered along until we reached the bridge.  Its half-iron, half-wooden structure was still standing firm, and we stood on it watching the torrent rushing underneath, and seeing every other moment a large sheet of ice being tossed from one side of the stream to the other. 

News then arrived from the next village.  They had been long prepared.  People living on the bank of the river had already been removed to safety, we heard, and beyond the usual flood no grave results were feared.  The children bad all been wakened and were staring out of the windows at the swiftly-travelling ice-blocks, and some of the younger ones were terrified by the rumbling and the crashing in the valley. 

Disasters of Other Days. 

The excitement soon died down and the villagers returned to their pipes and their gossip. 

Tales of how the ice had broken in years gone past were told by the elders.  The ice-drifts of to-day were, in their view, mere bagatelles compared with the disasters which the ice had brought fifty years ago.  There was silence when memories of lives lost in the floods in the Bohemian mountains were revived. 

“When that cloudburst came over Gnats’ Tower and the water was dammed by piles upon piles of timber,” said a toy maker, “and when the dam suddenly burst and waves descended on the cottages, bearing huge pine trees and smashing bridges and drowning people, that was terrible.” 

When the morning came the stream had lost its violence, but everywhere there were blocks and large pieces of ice, tossed into the fields around, on to the road, into the woods near the bank, and the fir trees near the stream had had their bark torn by the sharp contact of the on-coming ice. 

Phenomenon Explained 

This phenomenon was explained by the sudden thaw and the rain which had fallen heavily for twelve hours.  Up to that change in the weather the river had been completely frozen into masses of ice, and the valley had been covered with snow. 

When the thaw and the rain came water had formed in the river and had loosened the ice from the banks.  More and more water formed, and in some parts of the stream was dammed by the ice masses. 

Finally the pressure of the water was so great that the ice blocks were finally loosened from one another and were driven down stream. The ice often collected into packs, which collided with the trees and stones and the banks, and caused the cracking and the crashing which we had heard. 

Such was the breaking of the ice in this village in Bohemia.








Adolf Hitler, Chancellor of Germany.


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