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"A PERSON THAT SAVED AT LEAST ONE LIFE WAS NOT BORN FOR NOTHING"

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DAMNED WINTER BREAK...

 


The winter break is approaching. It’s a time of fun in snow and sunshine, when children and teenagers are cheerful and free from duties. Unfortunately, sometimes a trifle can change that happy time...

You want examples? Here is one..

One sunny day in winter, many years ago, a group of teenage race walkers from Kalisz, together with their coach, went for a training to the mountains. They left their boarding house in Korbielów and ran up the beaten trail towards Hala Miziowa, on their way passing by other cheerful tourists and skiers. There were to come back a couple of hours later for a well-deserved dinner...

However, hours passed and no one came back to the boarding house. Soon the day was over and it became dark. 

The owner of the boarding house, who was waiting for the group with a ready dinner, finally got anxious for them and reported the group as missing to Mountain Rescue Team. Unfortunately, she couldn’t tell where the group planned to go, which made the search difficult from the very beginning...

The Head of the local Mountain Rescue Team sent rescuers to some snow-covered trails nearby to make sure that the group was not there. 

As it was the time of winter break and the mountains were full of colourful crowds of tourists and skiers, no one could recall that group of teenagers. The rescuers had no traces of the group so they had to rely o their intuition, logic and the knowledge of the area. Although hours passed, the rescuers were still patrolling the snow-covered trails. It was getting more and more freezing and the beautiful weather started to change. The wind, that suddenly hit from the south, brought heavy clouds and a snowstorm that changed the surroundings of shelters and ski slopes: from a colourful funfair into dangerous and desolate nature.

Darkness fell. While no trace of the group had been found, Polish Mountain Rescuers alarmed the rescue services in Czechoslovakia, as well as the Police and the Border Guards.

At that point not only mountain trails were checked, but also shelters, hotels, bars and boarding houses...

Many rescuers were working to find the group in extreme conditions of a snowstorm, freezing cold and in the hurricane wind; sometimes up to their neck in snow. Sadly, with no result...

It seemed the group had vanished off the face of the earth...

Meanwhile...

Around midday, after a short break in the shelter on Hala Miziowa, the group of athletes from Kalisz decided to climb to the top of Pilsko ,instead of following their planned route to Hala Rysianka. It was the sunny weather that tempted them...

However, they were not lucky, as when they reached the summit, they were caught in thick fog and strong wind hit them. Clouds heavy with snow were approaching quickly.

It should be made clear that the peak of Pilsko is empty and flat, only covered with rocks and bushy mountain pines. In winter all that is covered with a thick, icy layer of snow. That’s why in case of fog it is really easy to lose direction there with no landmarks around. Unfortunately, that’s what happened to the group. As they were hurrying down to find shelter from the tiring wind, they turned around and instead of coming back north, they went south... to Czechoslovakia...

They went down quite quickly through the snowdrifts that sometimes covered them up to waist or even higher. A couple of hours later, when they finally reached the wooded area, they were tired and wet, but happy to see a man in the distance. They felt relieved and safe. However, the man, who was a Slovakian forest warden, told them off and informed that continuing their way down is absolutely impossible as there is a hunting going on. He also informed the terrified group that they had illegally crossed the border, which was then a criminal offence. One should remember that back in the 80s, when the story happened, the communist authorities severely punished all attempts to cross the border illegally, no matter of circumstances. The frightened teenagers had no choice but to follow their own tracks back to the mountain ridge, where the border was...

Yet, the weather conditions were worsening. The wind got stronger, bringing more fog and more snow, blinding the group members. They were struggling with boggy snowdrifts again, falling into invisible pits under the frozen spruce branches... The trek beyond their power consumed all their energy.

 Probably only the coach and the oldest athletes realised that at that point they were only fighting for their lives. Their thin training suits and shoes were all wet and frozen – they created a hard, icy shell around teenagers’ bodies.

The murderous trek uphill made one of the older boys, who was clearing the way, fell down without consciousness. Despite the immediate reaction of the coach and other group members, who desperately tried to bring him round, warm him up and then to resuscitate him, he soon showed no signs of life. The exhausted group had to leave the body behind and continue the ascent towards the border in the growing darkness. Sadly, another boy, who was clearing the way, fell down into the snow. When he showed no signs of life as well, and the resuscitation brought no results, the desperate group turned around and headed back to Czechoslovakia, as that was their only chance. They were fighting for their lives in the darkness, fog and snowstorm; they were falling, getting up and dragging their extremely tired friends. After many more hours they found a road where they were spotted by Slovakian border guards...

This time the reception was different, as all forces on both sides of the border were looking for the missing athletes.

The guards knew the situation so they immediately packed the teenagers into cars and transported to the watchtower, where they were given hot tea and warm blankets and then to the hospital. Most members of the group suffered from extreme exhaustion, hypothermia, severe frostbites.. and a terrible trauma of participating in their friends’ death...

 *** 

In the meantime, the Polish Mountain rescuers, after a short break, went back into the snow-covered mountains with heavy rescue toboggans to find and bring down the bodies of those unfortunate teenagers for whom the training ended in such a dramatic way...

That’s the end of a story in which fog, snowstorm, ignorance and unconcern all played their part and led to such a tragic ending...



 

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