|The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom
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"I hope The Long Walk will remain as a memorial to all those who live and die for freedom, and for all those who for many reasons could not speak for themselves."--Slavomir Rawicz
In 1941, the author and six other fellow prisoners escaped a Soviet labor camp in Yakutsk--a camp where enduring hunger, cold, untended wounds, untreated illnesses, and avoiding daily executions were everyday feats. Their march--over thousands of miles by foot--out of Siberia, through China, the Gobi Desert, Tibet, and over the Himalayas to British India is a remarkable statement about man's desire to be free.
While the original book sold hundreds of thousands of copies, this updated paperback version includes a new Afterword by the author, as well as the author's Foreword to the Polish book. Written in a hauntingly detailed, no holds barred way, the new edition of The Long Walk is destined to outrank its classic status and guaranteed to forever stay in the reader's mind.
Cavalry officer Slavomir Rawicz was captured by the Red Army in 1939 during the German-Soviet partition of Poland and was sent to the Siberian Gulag along with other captive Poles, Finns, Ukranians, Czechs, Greeks, and even a few English, French, and American unfortunates who had been caught up in the fighting. A year later, he and six comrades from various countries escaped from a labor camp in Yakutsk and made their way, on foot, thousands of miles south to British India, where Rawicz reenlisted in the Polish army and fought against the Germans. The Long Walk recounts that adventure, which is surely one of the most curious treks in history.
- Made up
Walking through a blazing desert for days without food or water, crossing mountain-terrain in minus degrees for days without food or water. The author was probably a prisoner who managed to escape a Gulag-camp, but after that the book is made up fiction, and when I read a book stating it's a real life memoir and it becomes painfully obvious it's not true I rate one star everytime....more info
- Incredible if True, Enthralling if Fiction...
"The Long Walk" is Polish Army officer Slavomir Rawicz's gripping account of an escape from a Soviet labor camp in Siberia in 1941. According to his story, Rawicz and his comrades walked South across the interior of Asia to freedom in British India. This journey across a winter landscape in Siberia, the Gobi Desert in Mongolia, and the mountains of western China and Tibet, is, if true, an unparalleled acount of suffering and human endurance. The BBC claims to have found records indicating that Rawicz was in fact released by the Soviets to a refugee camp in Iran during the Second World War. If these records are accurate, the main event of "The Long Walk" is an enthralling work of fiction. Readers will have to make their own judgement.
Rawicz was a young Polish Cavalry officer taken prisoner by the Soviets when Hitler and Stalin divided Poland in 1939. He is tortured by the Soviets and sentenced as a spy to 25 years in a labor camp in Siberia. The suffering of the winter journey to the labor camp is bad enough, but once there, Rawicz and six of his fellow prisoners hatch an escape plan. One night, they slip away, carrying a small amount of food, a hand axe, and an improvised knife. They will travel cross-country South to Mongolia, along the way picking up a young Polish female who has also escaped from detention. The eight will dare unbelievable hazards, including a chronic lack of food, water, and shelter, to steer more or less South toward India. Only four people will reach safety in India.
Rawicz's narrative is rather bare bones, possibly the result of translation from his native Polish. Traveling by the sun, the small group never has much more than a general sense of where they are or what is in front of them. Their survival is the incredible result of ingenuity and pluck, as the travelers plumb the absolute limits of human endurance and receive timely help from strangers along the way. The reader cannot help but be caught up in the terrible suspense of the story.
Other reviewers have commented that Rawicz's story seems a little too good to be true. Certainly the hazards of the journey would have killed many parties far better prepared; Rawicz and his comrades seem to enjoy astonishingly good luck. "Mr. Smith", the Russian-speaking American in the group, seems especially mysterious and preternaturally self-possessed in the face of their many obstacles. The alleged encounter with two Yeti in the Himalayas strains credibility. Perhaps the best advice for readers is to put aside their skepticism and enjoy the story as presented. ...more info
- Unbelievable book with a Yeti sighting to boot!
Amazing story of incomprehensible hardship and persistence. A story about the march to a prison camp in siberia, and the subsequent escape and run to freedom of the Slav and his group. plus they swear they saw a Yeti....more info
- The Human Spirit Prevails
A wonderfully powerful testimony to the courage of humans placed in horrific conditions....more info
- Truly Horrendous Tale but with a Happy Ending
Sunday, March 26, 2006
"The Long Walk" by Slavomir Rawicz, ? 1956
This is an amazing story. It is incredible that the torturers in the U.S. Army did not read this or take lessons from the KGB, because some of their tortures are very similar to what is described in this book. But that is only in the first two chapters. The rest of the book is the story of Mr. Rawicz's walk with his cohorts from United Soviet Socialist Republic labor camp in Siberia to India. The walk starts with advise to walk south, not east, to avoid the obvious route and, therefore, obvious pursuit.
The oddest part of this story is that one of the particpants is known only as Mr. Smith. He is an American of unknown origins. No one on this trek is cognizant of the reason of their incarceration, but Mr. Smith is so unknown that even his Christian name is never known. The next oddest part of this story is in the preface. It was supposed to be a story about people who have encountered Yeti. These fellows saw some on their walk through the Himalayas, so the assistant to the author, Ronald Downing, reseaching for a story about the Yeti, came across this amazing story....more info
- A Great Book
This is by far one of the best books I have ever read in my short life. It tells the story of a... well I'm sure you already have a basic gist of what it is about. I digress. It is an increadible read. From page one you are captivated and it is difficult to set down. A great story. As a side note you should most definately read the preface....more info
- Loaded With Both Adventure and History
Rawicz describes his experiences from the beginning of the war, providing fine details that would be virtually impossible to fake were one not actually there. During the German attack on western Poland, he was a lieutenant in the Polish cavalry. His testimony contradicts the usual ridicule of Polish cavalry. In fact, even though the German army was more mechanized than the Polish army (owing, of course, to the larger industrial potential of the former), the Wehrmacht was not fully mechanized, and there was also a German cavalry. In any event, Rawicz describes a successful attack of the Polish cavalry against the Germans. The German position was overrun. Scores of Germans were killed and other German surrendered to the Poles.
Then the Soviet Union stabbed Poland in the back. Rawicz was captured, and eventually spent time in the dreaded Lubyanka Prison, and then Kharkov. He was subject to the standard trumped-up charges of being a spy. He was tortured, including by being subject to drops of hot tar put on him. He ended up in Camp 303 in Yakutsk, Siberia.
His escape led to an over 4,000 mile trek to freedom. He only had an axe and homemade knife. The privations were appalling. One by one, his co-escapers died. For fire, he used dried fungus lit by flint. He had to cross the Lena River, the Lake Baikal area, the trans-Siberian railway, and much more. He ate snakes in the Gobi Desert. He describes the Mongols and then the Tibetans as being hospitable. Eventually, he had to cross the Himalayas, where he lost yet another member of the crew. Finally, he was safe in India.
- best book you will ever find
This book made me put my life on hold for one day until I read it cover to cover. Very seldom have I ever encountered a book that can make me want to read it from start to finish and just escape from the world until I have finished it. After completing it, I then had to ask myself if everthing in the book was 100% true as written. I am sure there had to be a few little exaggerations in some of the events to make it extra dramatic, but I am sure this story is basically true. This book will leave a great impression on all readers. I can not believe this book has not been made into a movie. Of course, Hollywood would take away most of the truth of the story if it did turn it into a movie but still it could be a great movie....more info
- Good story, but not true
This book is purportedly a "true account" of a Polish army officer who escapes from the Nazis at the beginning of WWII only to be captured, tortured and deported to Siberia by the Russians. Most of the book deals with his (and several of his fellows) escape from the camp and wondering through Siberia, across the Gobi desert, over the Himalayas to India.
The fact is that the story is fictional. There is no evidence for its truthfulness, on the contrary. Besides the account of Rawics' admission to the fact that he made it up, there are no military records from Indian or British military records that document the "arrival" of Rawicz and his fellow escapees (see Wikipedia for a list of sources). Moreover, there are enough clues throughout the book that will make you raise your eyebrows with respect to the book's authenticity. Which is a pity since the book is a good read and is hard to put down once a person gets into it. It that more unfortunate as there are many people who enjoy reading biographical accounts to help them shape their view of events and of the world. Since this is a made up story, it is also misleading in many ways, although there are things that Rawicz got right as the story is based in a real-life context.
It is entertaining, but due to the misleading information about its fictional basis I have a hard time recommending it.
- What would you risk to win freedom?
In 1939, the Third Reich invaded Poland. If you are looking for a book on the holocaust, then do not read this book. If you want to know the risks people will take to regain their freedom, then pick up this book and start reading a story of courage, will power, and determination. The author of this book was an officer in the Polish Cavalry but his greatest battle would not be fought in his own country. It would be fought in a Soviet Gulag where he and serveral other men decided to take a desperate gamble. I belive that it was Rudyard Kipling who wrote the following words. "He either fears his fate too much or thinks himself too small, who will not put it to the test to win or lose it all." I doubt that the author of this book ever read those words when he and his friends chose to escape. With scant supplies and very little knowledge of what they were up against, they escaped from the Gulag to which they had been sentanced. They headed south because they knew that somewhere south of where they were, the Soviet Union ended and freedom would be their's when, and if, they crossed into another country. But this is not just a story of men willing ro risk their lives. It is a book that make the reader think about the choices we must make, the beliefs we cherish, and raw courage
I have read several review stating that this must be a fictional story. It is my belief that this not a work of fiction. I am a librarian and I checked the cataloging done by the Library of Congress. This book is cataloged as an autobiography. In addition, at the time it was first published, the record which could verify the author's claims would have been easily accessible, but I do not consider those facts the true test of this books validity. The proof is in the story told in this book. It is in the authors words. It is in the deep seated belief that you must be willing to take the greatest gamble on earth, to hold onto your beliefs and, ultimately, if you truly believe it, you must be willing to either live free or die....more info
- An Amazing Story, If True
This book has been thoroughly reviewed on Amazon already. I add this review in the hopes on contributing something to the discussion.
This is the story of Slavomir Rawicz, a Polish cadet who was arrested by the Soviets on false charges and sentenced to prison in Siberia for 25 years, and of his amazing escape south, across 4,000 miles past Lake Baikal, through Mongolia, across the Gobi Desert, over the Himalayas, and finally into British India. The book is engaging, extremely well-written, heart-breaking and inspiring.
The problem is that it may not be true. I agree with other commenters that the book loses all of its value as an inspirational story if it was fabricated. My five-star review assumes that it is true.
Critics of the book can rely on two types of evidence: internal and external. (I reject objections that such a journey is impossible. Modern adventurers have retraced Rawicz' steps; granted, they were much better equipped, but they also weren't fleeing for their lives).
The external evidence shows that Rawicz was released from prison and sent back to Poland; that the British (probably) have no record of Rawicz or his companions arriving from the Tibetan plateau; that no one has ever located or identified his companions. The first objection can be met by pointing out that the Soviet Cheka was not necessarily above forging documents, especially if necessary to avoid a humiliating admission that seven prisoners escaped. The second objection is undermined by the history of the book's criticisms -- for years, people pointed out that the Soviets had no record of Rawicz' imprisonment at all. The discovery of his papers is a dramatic illustration that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
The final point is simply a mystery. One would expect that Rawicz's companions would try to contact him after the book was published. But that assumes his companions survived long enough to do so -- they arrived in India in 1942, and the book was not published until 1956. It is possible they died, or returned to their homes in communist countries and never saw the book, or were imprisoned again. Of course, all we can do is speculate.
For me, the more interesting question concerns the internal evidence. Is Rawicz' description of a Soviet prison camp consistent with actual practice? When Rawicz crossed the border into Mongolia, he described a series of signs marking the border -- is his description accurate? He describes the clothing, houses and certain material culture in Mongolia, China and Tibet -- is it consistent with local practice at that time?
Adventurer Peter Fleming supposedly challenged the internal evidence as unrealistic shortly after the book was published, but I have not found a copy of Fleming's specific charges, so I cannot evaluate them. In addition, according to a wikipedia article on Rawicz, Fleming supposedly discovered military records that contradicted Rawicz' claims. One must wonder why Fleming would bother with such external evidence if he thought the case against the internal evidence was so clear....more info
- A good read.
After reading snippets of this book for years, I finally got it. The story was interesting and entertaining from the initial captivity in the European prisoner camp, through the trek to the Siberian camp, until the end of the long walk that led from Siberia to freedom....more info
- this book is fiction...nothing about it is true.
The story in this book is just that: a story. There is no record of anyone named Slavomir Rawicz existing before the post WWII era. Though he claimed to be a free polish veteran who was personally recommended by General Anders to be a pilot, his name cannot be found in a single record from that time. There are not even records of how or when he arrived in the UK let alone any trace of him in India. His "companions" on his journey have no records anywhere at all. Nobody has ever met any of them aside from Rawicz. Its not details like what happened in the Gobi thats questionable. Its everything about the person who called himself Salvomir Rawicz.
Second, this book was not written by Slavomir Rawicz as he was barely literate in english when it was written. It was ghost written by a British Reporter named Ronald Dowling whose primary interest was Yeti sightings....more info
I purchased this book in a National Park bookstore. Given its glowing reviews I plunged in and read it in just a few days. It's a stunning
read - - well written and understated. Several times during the process I was puzzled; eight days in the Gobi without water, thirty miles per day in rough going, etc. However, so absorbing is the book that I suspended
my better judgment in the rush to advance the story. Only upon completion did the doubts surface. Upon rereading certain sections, it now seems clear that the story is a hoax. Furthermore, it is written by
someone without much experience in hiking/walking in wilderness. I also
wondered why the USSR would "waste" one year in trying to get one individual to confess before shipping him to Siberia. I leave this to experts on the Soviet Union, but as one who has done just a bit of hiking in warm climates, I can say the "long walk" portion of this book is more
of a comic book story than a real one. A pity....more info
- never heard of the book
i read this based on a suggestion from a friend and just loved it. i cant believe i have never heard of it before. i think i put this book down once since i started reading it. this is a great survival story and you feel like you are with slavomir during his party's trek....more info
- This is a work of fiction
The story just doesn't add up. The ghostwriter has gone off on a tangent and created a compelling story out of whole cloth. He did a lot of research, but not quite enough! The escape was made with only a few weeks preparation instead of the months of careful planning used in successful escapes. There is no mention of how they planned to get out of the camp until the night of the escape, and then it is so simple and easy as to defy belief. In the Gobi they go on walking twenty miles a day and more for six to eight days without water-not once but several times in succession. Not likely to be true even for men in the best of health let alone men who have already been on a semi starvation diet for years. Then they cross the Himalayas in the dead of winter and encounter the abominable snowman! Give me a break!
As others have said, there is no record of Rawicz or any of his companions that anyone has been able to find. In the epiloque written to the 1997 republication of the book, Rawicz offers a lame explanation as to why he has never kept in touch with his fellow escapees. The most likely reason is that they don't exist. Finally it was telling to me that writing for publication in 1956 he glosses over much of the story claiming loss of memory. Assuming he worked on the book a year or more prior to publication, many of the events would have been less than ten years in the past. My own war expperiences- including my time as a POW are quite vivid after many more years than that....more info
- Pure fiction
I read this book as an autobiography and I have given five stars because it is an excellent read. However, I read it as a true story not knowing anything about it. When I discovered it was a hoax and pure fiction (and I did begin to wonder after the crossing of the Gobi desert) I felt somewhat cheated. I felt very cheated after completing the book to find there was nothing at all about what happened to the men when the event was over. That is why it is without doubt a fictional work.
A true biography would have left a verifiable thread about what happened when the men returned home - but there is nothing! ...more info
- Human endurance is unbelievable
This book was impossible to put down. If I hadn't known it was a true story, I would have thought it fiction. The human spirit and longing for freedom is truly the basis for their endeavor. ...more info
- No ordinary book
Reviewed by Beverly Pechin for Reader Views (10/06)
From the very beginning of "The Long Walk," the reader will know immediately that the author is no ordinary person. After reading the book, you will truly understand the abilities of the human soul to overtake the human body and survive, literally.
The true saga of a man who is imprisoned in Russian work camps, the author takes you from the beginnings of his capture. His writing style, including the translation process, seems to give you an even more authentic appreciation of the trials and tribulations he and the many others he was with went through. You will see determination, human pride and utter miracles as they unfold throughout the story, touching you so deeply within, that you will never be able to simply walk away from this story. You will carry a piece of it deep within your heart and soul and be able to pull it out whenever you need to be reminded of the human spirit.
As a former Polish soldier, he was taken prisoner under false pretense. Accused of being a spy against the Russians he was given a trial, basically as a front to say he was justly accused and tried for his wrong doings. Having no truth to the matter, they found most all men in his situation, former Polish military men, guilty and quickly condemned them to work camps.
One of the most touching moments of the book was when the men, all gathered tightly in a train car, realized that it was Christmas Eve. Keeping the true spirit of Christmas in their hearts, they banded together and sang to celebrate the birth of Jesus together, ending with most men in tears as they remembered the families they left behind. Those that made the trek through the first part quickly came to realize that survival was going to be something that they had to do themselves, as their capturers were not going to be of any help in keeping them alive.
Marching by gunpoint across the cold Russian terrains, they fought freezing temperatures, horrible weather conditions, plagues, lack of food and much more as they were forced to continue on their route to their literal death camp. Eventually, trekking across many miles after a heroic escape from their camp in Yakutsk the author shares every minute of their life with the reader. While some of it can be almost unbearable to read, you simply cannot turn away as you know you have to see what happens to these brave men who escape their assured fate of death.
As they come across many people who are so kind and generous, they realize that perhaps not the whole world is cold and evil as they have come to expect. Meeting village after village as they walk carrying what little they have to their name, including their own few articles of clothing that sparsely covers them, they literally walk out of Siberia and through China, Tibet, The Gobi Desert, across the Himalayas, over ice covered waterways and finally into British India. As they watch their friends and colleagues die in front of their eyes, combat such amazing conditions that no human being should ever be able to overcome, they begin to realize that perhaps freedom will be theirs.
Touching, amazing and literally breath holding moments will make you want to share this story with others simply to share your sudden awareness of mankind's ability to overcome the impossible. The touching moment when he and his fellow survivors say goodbye from their final ending place, an Indian hospital, you can feel the pain and loneliness in the author's heart. Written with an amazingly poignant touch that will make you not only sympathize but truly feel the pain of all those involved. As you read the special "Afterword," added to the 1997 edition of the book, you will realize that this man is truly someone you would want to use as a role model. "The Long Walk" shows readers a man of men, a man of courage and a man of heart. Not only will you celebrate his ending, you will cry with him as he realizes he truly is alive with life. ...more info
- Great perspective of a man in a concentration camp! amazing book!
I really enjoyed this book. although i have read many other concentration camp books, this one is by far the greatest journey. it really puts you in the perspective of this poor man and when something bad happens to him you seem to feel it for yourself! very descriptive!!
P.S. whoever said "just a story" is utterly wrong and has no brain at all!! it is "just" a gripping story of a man making his way form a concentration camp, all the way down to india. so i do not see how tis can be "just a story" ...more info
- Outstanding Read!
Rawicz's trek is an amazing story, and a great read. His voice comes through so strongly, and authentically that you find ourself with him almost every step of his journey....more info
- Against all odds...
There are many verifiable facts that seem too incredible to be true. Just one- a huricane striking Washington, D.C. shortly after the invasion of British forces during the War of 1812. The performance of American Forces was (excepting the Battle of Baltimore and the Battle of New Orleans) absolutely abismal. Had it not been for that huricane...who knows?
I am willing to forgive Slav for some factual errors. We all make them and we all accept exagerations in the telling of a good story, even when the story is mostly true. Crossing the Gobi and the Himilayas is not a problem.
The fact that no one has been able to verify any portion of Slav's life, seems to me. the worse problem. Records can be missing here and there, but every single record and every single person who may have known him? That seems too fantastical.
Another curiosity to me, though, is the ghost writer. If the story is fiction he must have known it and probably made inbellishments to improve the flow, but what would be the advantage to him? If it were published as fiction, it is still a very well written book and a good story. Where is the greater advantage for him to write this book, have it discredited as a hoax and never tell the truth?...more info
- All's Well That Ends Well---It's the Getting There That's Trouble
An amazing almost unbelievable story of arrest, mock trial, imprisonment in Siberia, escape and a trek to freedom covering thousands of miles.
Had this book been written in this day and time, people (media types) would have investigated it, found reasons to discredit it and claim it to be false. The story, frankly, does sound unbelievable, treking 20 to 30 miles a day in ankle deep snow and through the shifting sands of the Gobi Desert, but far be it from me to discredit the human spirit, and, ultimately, that's what this book is about--the human spirit's will to survive--to live against the odds.
One wishes there were more specific detail to make the story more alive and vivid, but the fact that it was written is enough--more than enough--to make this book a worthwhile read.
Example after example of man's humanity to man overcoming man's inhumanity to man. That is written at all proves the story ends well.
Mr. Shakespeare said, "All's Well That Ends Well," and that's true. But it is the getting there that can be horrific and terrible. And this book tells an unbelievable story of escape, humanity and redemption.
- Fraud or Not, It's Compelling-as
Well, the story itself may be untrue, and come to a point where it's even farcical in what it tries to put over on readers (seeing a pair of menacing yetis in the Himalayas while crossing the mountains in winter with all of rusty wire and animal dung as provisions). But! This is a moot point, because as a tale, it's first-rate. If you can allow the fraud (and there's no real reason to get upset about it), there are large rewards to be had from The Long Walk. The story of the trek to freedom is incredible and very compelling, page b' page. The prose isn't the best, but it serves its singular point well in keeping the action moving and gripping. It's entirely designed in this way, to be a terrific story, and true or not, it only assists itself with all its narrative tendencies....more info
- Interesting but should be fiction
This is a very interesting story, and although parts of the story may be based in fact, it is clear that large portions of the book are fabricated. It should be read as a work of fiction....more info
- Absolutely Incredible Journey
This book could be read fast but I took my time to contemplate what it was they went through. I followed the path with Google Earth and found the
landscape forboding. The story is totally believable as there are some people that think they coulndt cross the desert. You have to realize that when in a concentration camp where water is rationed, your kidneys adapt to conserve water, this served their purpose while trekking accross the GOBI. As for the bs about how his records couldnt be verified, bla bla bla; I dismiss this as KGB style disinfo....more info
- A stunning unusal memoir
I can't reccomend this book strongly enough. A stunning unusal memoir. The authour presents an epic journey of incredible daring and endurance as a matter of fact everyday adventure.
Well written and briskly paced I couldn't put it down. A somewhat short book I got bummed out as I got about 3/4 through it simply realizing this great story was coming to it's end.
I was also very amused by the fact that the whole reason for the telling of this story(a glimpse of a yeti) was dealt with in three paragraphs. ...more info
- A great story but Unture!
Although I really enjoyed reading this book, I was extremely disappointed to find out later that it was an unture story. The BBC investigated this story several years ago and found it was false. The title of this book should be changed so future readers will know it is fiction before they pay their money to purchase it....more info
- now proven to be fiction
The story told in this book did not happen. In October the BBC
and an American researcher revealed that they have found records in the
former Soviet Union that conclusively prove that Slavomir Rawicz while
imprisoned in the Soviet Union did not escape. Rather he, like so many
other poles was released by the Soviets after the german invasion
and was sent directly to a refugee camp in Iran. The documents that
prove this are written by and bear the signiture of Slavomir Rawicz.
While the book was the subject of debate for many years, the debate is
over. Its a work of fiction.
However, those who found the book inspiring should take heart in
understanding that even though this man did not walk from Siberia to
India, he still suffered terribly in the Gulag and he lived through a
painful experience that was no less heroic than the false story written
in the book.
It is also important to understand that some parts of the book are
probably true or have grains of truth in them. Rawicz was a polish
solider and he was arrested by the NKVD. He was in prison camps in
the soviet union. He did join the Free Polish Army after he left
the Soviet Union and he did serve in Palestine and Britain during
the war. Its even still possible that a "long walk" to India actually
happened but with others as yet unidentified taking part with this
book being a confused echo of real events. The world now knows that
Rawicz didn't make the long walk, but this still may not be the end
of the story.
Even though the book is strictly speaking not factually true, that
doesn't mean that is a bad story. As a story it can be inspirational
and it stands as a tribute of sorts to hundreds of thousands who
passed through the Gulag who lived amazing stories that will never
- An Extraordinary True Adventure Story
The Long Walk by Slavomir Rawicz was first published in 1956 and was an
immediate sensation. I came across the book after reading an obituary of the author a short while ago. The Long Walk should rank among the most
extraordinary true adventure stories ever written.
Mr Rawicz was a Polish Army officer who was arrested on a trumped-up charge by the Soviets soon after the defeat of Poland by Nazi Germany
when the country was divided between the Germans and the Soviets.
The first third of the book deals with his ghastly interrogation by the Soviets after which he is sentenced to 25 years in a Siberian Labour Camp
located near Yakutsk north of Lake Baikal. The rest of the book covers his
escape in April 1940 together with 5 others including an American Engineer
who had been employed in construction of the Moscow Metro rail system.
The escapers elect to travel south to the safety of British India. This
4000 mile journey is walked every inch of the way across some of the
world's bleakest and most difficult country including the Gobi Desert and
Tibet. Of the group of 6 escapers, 2 succumb to the arid desert and the
mountains. A girl of 17 years had joined them in Siberia; she had escaped
from a co-operative farm where she had been sentenced to lsbour. She dies
in the Gobi Desert.
Four of the escapers finally reach India in April 1941. They are warmly
welcomed and initially confined for convalesence at a Calcutta hospital.
The author eventually rejoins the Free Polish Army in the Middle East
and later arrives in England where he is trained for the airforce.
The book is strongly recommended to any reader interested in adventure in
a remote area of the world.
- The Long Walk
I read this book many years ago, and passed it around throughout our family and those who read it found it enjoyable and inspiring. Eventually it got lost, and no one of us could locate it, but in our conversations we referred to the story many times, and lamented our loss. Recently I was able to locate two copies and bought them (one for a backup to ensure against another loss. I reread the book with great enjoyment. It is the story of a handful of brave men who yearned to be free of their captive oppressors, and undertook a very difficult journey in order to secure that freedom. The journey itself is quite interesting in its details and it was hard for me to put it down. It seemed that I always needed to get into the next chapter to see what was going to happen. And the end of the story is quite satisfyling in itself.
The story of his adventure was related by Rawicz and contained a description of an encounter with a strange creature, large and hairy, that walked upright and was seen on the southern slopes of the Himalayas, by the men who made the journey. A British journalist learned of the sighting and was interested, even fascinated by it. Though Rawicz never referred to it as the Yeti, the Abominable Snowman, the journalist supposed that is what it was and wanted to write about it. Rawicz, on the other hand, was interested in telling his story about his capture by the Russians, his imprisonment and torture, and his exile to the Gulag, and then, his escape and flight to freedom. So they collaborated, the British journalist and the Polish lieutenant, and they produced a very good adventure story, detailing all the cruelty of their captors and the extreme harshness of their trek. They were always vigilant and wary of meeting strangers who might turn them back to the Russian authorities, who would have again imprisoned them. So each new day was an adventure for them, and the account of all these adventurous days makes for some very interesting reading. The severe climate they had to endure, the meager supplies they had, the necessary vigilance to prevent recapture, all of these things tested their resolve to continue on.
They made their escape on a night when it was snowing heavily, with the thought that the rapidly falling snow would cover their tracks before it was discovered they were gone. After the arctic cold they felt more comfortable in the milder weather, passing through an area without either ice or snow. Food was always a problem and they scrounged for whatever they could find. Then came the hike through the Gobi desert, where the only food they could find was snake meat,and water was so scarce that they nearly perished. And then came the perilous trek through the Himalayas, with ice-cold temperatures and snow and treacherous ice. Finally, when they reach India and are welcomed by the British Army, they are exhausted, emaciated and relieved. What follows is a lengthy rehabilitation. Medically speaking, they were a wreck. The whole of knighthood would have been proud of their successful quest. ...more info
- The Long Walk
This is one of the best books I have ever read. I sit back and wonder how a true story such as this one can't be #1 for years....more info
- poorly told, true or not...
I bought this book with great anticipation, having read and enjoyed other survival tales such as "Endurance" and "In the Heart of the Sea." I've been slogging through the uninspired language for the past month with great difficulty. The lack of passion Rawicz brings to his writing is perhaps a clue that this is not a true story, as some have attested. Or maybe it's a problem with the translation. Either way, I don't find this to be the gripping tale it could have been.
I should add that I have been reading this under the assumption that it was true. So discovering now that it may not be true has not in any way affected my review; I thought it was boring before then. I wish I had known about the controversy and had picked a different book. Other reviewers have stated that it is an exciting and remarkable story, true or not. I disagree. If it is true it is a dull and lifeless transcription of a remarkable feat. If it is fiction than the author has not only lied but written a boring book. ...more info
- The Ultimate True Adventure/Survival Story
I've read quite a few true adventure/survival stories: Into Thin Air, The Last Place On Earth, Shackleton, but never have I read such a harrowing story of strength and perseverance. The real question is, why hasn't anyone made this into a film? Once you start, you won't be able to put it down....more info
- Story of endurance and survival
In 1941 as the rest of Europe was entering WWII, we learn that in the Siberian Gulag there are political prisoners sentenced for 10-25 years for offences such as being nationality other than Russian. These are mostly young men, strong, educated and smart. Qualities that present a threat to Stalin's new world where only Russians are to be trusted and all others are representation of threat to a New World he was building in that part of the world. Story about seven men of different nationalities who amongst themselves speak Polish, Russian, French, English and German languages. They all want their freedom more than anything else. Even death seems a better option than spending the rest of their lives in humiliating conditions of a political prisoner in the arctic pole. This group of men decides to make an escape during snow night of early April 1941, hoping that snow will cover their tracks and give them a lead for their escape plan. They head south and start their facinating journey thru Mongolia, China, Gobe desert, Tibet and India. Their determination to escape and survive is mesmerizing. I could not put this book down. The book written in 1956 still has magnificent impression on anyone who reads it. It is a story of human triumph in the face of diversity that is indescribeable. Small kindness of village people they meet along the way is heartbreaking. These people instictively know that the group is the "unfortunates" - title reserved for Siberian prisoners. But they are not judgemental and they help in the only way they can by providing food, shelter and clothes to them to help them on their journey to the south. This book will help anyone to be reminded of the small things we have to be thankful for in our everyday lives. It is a book of human bonding, friendship, endurance, bravery and determination. This book is a must read no matter what generation, gender or social standing a person is. It will make you humble and grateful for the little things in life. The book will change you and the perception of limits of the human will....more info