The Greatest Escape? 4000 Miles From Siberia to India

Andy_S

LE
Book Reviewer
#1
"Our immediate aim was to get out of Russia. The border was 1,600 miles away. I pointed south – ‘That way!’"

Seven departed; four arrived. And their only navigational aid had been a glance at a map of Asia in the prison camp commandant's office.

Could this be the longest - and greatest? - escape on record?*

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/top-st...les-from-siberian-death-camp-115875-21364916/

According to the piece, the story is going in Readers Digest, but there is no mention of a book. Publishers - get your cheque books out!

*Assuming, of course, that it is true. This is the Mirror, after all...
 
#2
Book overview
"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.

This is a reprint, I read the original, which was totally inspiring!
 
#3
Markintime said:
Book overview
"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.

This is a reprint, I read the original, which was totally inspiring!
If you read the whole piece they trash "The Long Walk " saying the author stole the story from this bloke, I have red it and thought it was a great book, it seemed to well written to be a rip off of someone else's story,but then, can we believe the Daily Mirror wouldn't be the first time they got the whole thing wrong
 
#6
I read The Long Walk at school. It was by far the best book I was ever made to read. It is a very inspring storey and I recommend it to anyone.
 

Andy_S

LE
Book Reviewer
#7
SNIP
I second The Long Walk, very inspiring! One of only 5 books i've ever completely read in my life!
SNIP

Given that the title is "The Long Walk" perhaps they should subtitle it:
"But fear not! It's a fast read!"
 
#8
I'm sure there is another tread on this somewhere..but just can't find it right now...
Wasn't it proven to be false - or at best embellished stories from Russia?

The decider for me was two weeks without water :roll:
and crossing the Gobi desert without mentioning the telegraph poles and wires that criss-cross the area - in my view you could read up on various aspects of the journey but unless you've been there....

Still a cracking read though - mind you I liked Jihad by Tom Carew so it show how much I know!!
 
#9
WilieCayote said:
I'm sure there is another tread on this somewhere..but just can't find it right now...
Wasn't it proven to be false - or at best embellished stories from Russia?

The decider for me was two weeks without water :roll:
and crossing the Gobi desert without mentioning the telegraph poles and wires that criss-cross the area - in my view you could read up on various aspects of the journey but unless you've been there....

Still a cracking read though - mind you I liked Jihad by Tom Carew so it show how much I know!!
The original author was an imposter, possibly a plagiarist but definitely one of the original escapees. As for telegraph poles etc. where they necessarily there in 1941? The Mirror article is about a man who claims he was definitely part of the original escapees, he did not write the book however.
 
#10
Mil Myth!

The Gurka who escaped from the Japs in SIngapore or Burma? and walked to India.
On arriving was questioned "How did you navigate"?

Answer was . "I had a map" . Shows map and its of the London Underground.
 
#11
BBC
Last Updated: Monday, 30 October 2006, 12:26 GMT


Rawicz's story described an escape from Siberia through Tibet to India

By Hugh Levinson
Producer, BBC Radio 4's The Long Walk

An epic story of human endurance is being challenged. Did wartime prisoners really walk from Siberia to India?

In 1956, a Polish man living in the English midlands published an extraordinary book that became one of the classic tales of escape and endurance.

In The Long Walk, Slavomir Rawicz described how, during the Second World War, he and a group of prisoners broke out of a gulag in the Soviet Union in 1941. They walked thousands of miles south from Siberia, through Mongolia, Tibet, across the Himalayas, to the safety of British India.

The only question is: is it true? From the start, a ferocious controversy has raged about whether anyone really could achieve this superhuman feat. Critics particularly questioned one chapter in the book where the walkers apparently see a pair of yetis.

But The Long Walk was a sensation. It has sold over half a million copies and has been translated into 25 languages and is still in print.

Archive trawl

Contemporary reviews raved about the story. Cyril Connolly said it was "positively Homeric". The Spectator said "the adventures it describes must be among the most extraordinary in which human animals have ever found themselves involved".


SLAVOMIR RAWICZ

Born 1915 in Pinsk, Poland
Arrested in 1939 after Soviet occupation of Poland
His book, The Long Walk, described a 4,000 mile, 11-month escape by Rawicz and six prisoners from a Soviet camp to India
He settled in Nottingham, UK after the war, died in 2004
One of today's leading explorers, Benedict Allen, says The Long Walk has served as a personal inspiration. "It was just from the heart and - bang - you get this story of this man who lived this tale and I loved it for its simplicity."

Rawicz himself could never produce a single piece of evidence to support his story.

So now, 50 years on, I set out in a BBC Radio 4 documentary to investigate the claims. I sent out enquiries to contacts in Poland, America, Lithuania, Finland, Latvia, Sweden and elsewhere. We sent out enquiries to Rawicz's old school, to the Polish military archives and to the Ministry of Defence.

The programme's presenter, Tim Whewell, travelled to Moscow to see if he could find any records of Rawicz's imprisonment in the gulag files - but there was no mention there.

Then our first breakthrough came from an unlikely source - an archive in Belarus, the most closed country in Europe. They sent us a package of documents which shed amazing detail on Rawicz's pre-war life.

Conflicting evidence

There were official documents he had filled out as a young man, which tell us a lot about his family and his background. But they couldn't confirm his arrest, or his escape.


An amnesty document challenges Rawicz's account of his escape
Our next find came at the Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum in London, a treasure trove of Second World War memorabilia.

We found Rawicz's military record, which clearly says he had rejoined the Polish Army in Russia. We wondered how this could possibly fit with the story of The Long Walk.

The missing link came through documents discovered by an American researcher, Linda Willis, in Polish and Russian archives. One, in Rawicz's own hand described how he was released from the gulag in 1942, apparently as part of a general amnesty for Polish soldiers. These are backed up by his amnesty document and a permit to travel to rejoin the Polish Army.

These papers make it almost impossible to believe that Rawicz escaped, unless there is a case of mistaken identity. However, the name and place and date of birth all match.

The documents also show that rather than being imprisoned on trumped-up charges as he claimed, Rawicz was actually sent to the gulag for killing an officer with the NKVD, the forerunner of the Soviet secret police, the KGB.

Re-creating the journey

When I showed the evidence to Benedict Allen he was visibly taken aback.


Rawicz's wartime escape - across the Himalayas to British-ruled India
"It's shocking for me personally," he said, "because it means the whole of that great account is a - it's not all a fabrication, but the meat of it, the great wonderful inspiring trek, is actually not that.

"And it's all the more shocking because he has provided the evidence that all that was faked."

The news has also jolted French explorer Cyril Delafosse-Guiramand, who is currently retracing the route of Rawicz's escape on foot and who has been walking for several months. We spoke to him by satellite phone from Mongolia.

"Let me just react physically, my hands are all wet right now, my back is completely wet," he said. "That, that is amazing. I'm shocked because I've been working on something that took me so much time, so much energy."

Delafosse-Guiramand remains determined to continue his trek in memory of victims of the gulag.

Starvation

But what inspired Rawicz to write the book? Its dramatic passages tell of extremes of exhaustion, starvation and thirst as the group of prisoners survived snowdrifts and storms and even the pitiless Gobi Desert.


Explorer Benedict Allen says he had been inspired by Rawicz's story
"In the shadow of death we grew closer together than ever before. No man would admit to despair. No man spoke of fear. The only thought spoken out again and again was that there must be water soon. All our hope was in this."

A clue may come from the story of Rupert Mayne, a British intelligence officer in wartime India. In Calcutta in 1942, he interviewed three emaciated men, who claimed to have escaped from Siberia.

Mayne always believed their story was the same as that of The Long Walk - but telling the story years later, he could not remember their names. So the possibility remains that someone - if not Rawicz - achieved this extraordinary feat.

Rawicz's children, however, defended the essential truth of the book. They said in a statement: "Our father was dedicated to ensuring the remembrance of all those whose graves bore no cross, for whom no tears could be shed, for whom no bell was tolled and for those who do not live (or die) in freedom."
 
#12
A French guy by the name of Sylvain Tesson has done the same walk in 2004. He wrote a book on his experience called "L'axe du loup" (The axis of the Wolf).
 
#13
Anyone who thought the "The Long Walk" was good should try "Eastern Approaches" by Fitzroy McLean. That IS a true story of a British diplomat who avoids Stalin's secret police to travel from Moscow to India in the late 30s. Later, he joins David Stirling in North Africa and ends up as military attache to Tito's partisans in Yugoslavia. A truly inspiring read.
 
#14
I vaguely remember reading a story called 'As far as my feet will carry me' authored by Clemens Forell.

The author claimed to be a German officer who escaped from Siberia. I seriously doubt that the story was any more true than the Rawicz book though. I read both in my teens but when I think about it now neither seems remotely possible.
 
T

trowel

Guest
#15
Swiss_Toni said:
I vaguely remember reading a story called 'As far as my feet will carry me' authored by Clemens Forell.

The author claimed to be a German officer who escaped from Siberia. I seriously doubt that the story was any more true than the Rawicz book though. I read both in my teens but when I think about it now neither seems remotely possible.
Read the book years ago, have seen the film a couple of times. Probably enjoyed best with cynicism mode disengaged.
 

Andy_S

LE
Book Reviewer
#16
All fascinating stuff. The 2006 BBC piece seems to back up the current claims, ie yep, it happened, but nope, not to the chap who wrote the original book.

Re: Fitzroy Maclean
Even the name is heroic

Re: Benedict Allen
Seems to be a more cautious, more sensible but less entertaining version of Bear Grylls.
 

the_boy_syrup

LE
Book Reviewer
#17
Swiss_Toni said:
I vaguely remember reading a story called 'As far as my feet will carry me' authored by Clemens Forell.

The author claimed to be a German officer who escaped from Siberia. I seriously doubt that the story was any more true than the Rawicz book though. I read both in my teens but when I think about it now neither seems remotely possible.
I've seen the film
From what I've read and seen it seems to be a mish mash off all different stories
He claimed (or at least the film showed) him being pursued by the NKVD and only just beating them to the border by the skin ogf his teath
 
#18
I read 'The Long Walk' whilst on tour and then enthusiastically pushed it on a few other members of the squadron. When we next got to an internet terminal, I looked it up and was gutted to find it largely discredited... then I remembered thinking it a bit odd that they waited until after one of the group had died before it occurred to them to try eating the snakes! Cracking yarn though.

What is probably most in favour of 'As Far As My Feet Will Carry Me' is its style. It is not a ripping yarn like TLW, but more like a travel book, detailing various escapades and anecdotes in a roughly chronological order. Indeed, IIRC, at one point he says something along the lines of "these sorts of adventures continued for about a year as I worked my way south and west."

It's not a military tale, but for a tale of escape read Endurance by Alfred Lansing about Shackleton's journey off the icefloes and from Elephant Island to South Georgia... and then over the mountains of South Georgia. And also 'Shackleton's Forgotten Men' by Lennard Bickel. You'll probably already be familiar with the first story, but the second is just as, if not more, amazing.
 
#19
Read the Long Walk at school aged 12 for English classes.

My teacher told us it was concotected ... I didn't believe him until the yeti turned up in one of the final chapters.

Trotsky
 

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