I first read The Long Walk; A True Story Of A Trek To Freedom By Slavomir Rawicz as preparation for my Kolyma Expedition back in 2004. At that time I knew little or nothing about the prevalent conditions in eastern Siberia and thought the book was one of the most thrilling I have ever read. Except that I found the idea of him coming across the yetis as slightly odd, I did not seriously question any details about the story. However, having put myself through many physical hardships, I realized that when one is out of food, energy, and almost too tired to think, one´s mind has ways to make fun of reality. Just the knowledge of Rawicz having heard about the possible existence of a yeti through stories was most likely enough to make him hallucinate and see the yetis. Twice. And I was well read enough to know that we human beings can do the most extra ordinary things to survive. End of story. Like most readers I bought his story without any serious questioning and took it as pure entertainment.
Six years later, during a short stint as a writer at ExWeb, I came across a Polish expedition calling itself the Long Walk Plus. They claimed that another Pole, Witold Glinski, oddly enough living in Great Britain just as Slavomir Rawicz , was the true hero who actually did the walk. They argued that Slavomir Rawicz was not telling the truth and that a journalist working for Daily Mail, Ronald Downing, had made up a lot of things, such as the yeti, to make the book sell better. They backed it up with evidence discovered by BBC reporter Hugh Levison that the Rawicz story had serious factual problems. Then a Readers Digest journalist, John Dyson, told the story to the world, making Witold Glinski the hero.
Once I published their story, I received phone calls and emails from another Pole, also living in the UK, Lezsek Gliniecki, inflicting serious damage to Witold Glinski´s claim. And as if that wasn´t enough, a book written by Linda Willis named Looking For Mr. Smith was published and added more confusion. When Peter Weir´s film “The Way Back” based on Rawicz book came out early 2011, well, all hell broke out! Since the premiere of the film almost 100,000 people have read, commented on, and re-read the articles published here, called the Long Walk Articles. I am amazed at the interest! And it isn´t slowing down. Rather it is increasing by the day!
It is a polarized discussion. Either you think Rawicz was telling the truth. Or you don´t. Very few bring up Witold Glinski today. Most readers who comment are disappointed that the book might not be the truth. Many have their own theories. As wild as any. My own personal opinion today has changed as dramatically as the comments. And just for fun, a few years back, I talked to some of our world’s best ultra runners and they all believe that it is possible to do this trip under the circumstances described in the book. Since I have spent quite some time in Siberia in winter in the low temperatures described in the book, I have my doubts.
My theory today? For some time, my thoughts go like this: It seems that it is several stories which have ended up being one. Both Rawicz and Glinski could have done parts of it, or almost all. And there are more contenders for this hero title out there. So the walk, somebody walking from Siberia to India, could have happened. But we can never know for sure. Seventy years is a long time. Proof is lacking and the real truth will most likely never be discovered. However the story and its many theories will live on. And not long ago, I was notified that there was a researcher who had summarized it all in the best of ways I have seen so far. I will publish his research and theories soon!
But first I will do a re-run of the most important articles to make a new audience aware of this drama! Maybe it shows that the true hero was somebody else?
Stay tuned for the new input to this drama!
Looking forward to a properly researched piece. Thanks for keeping this intriguing story alive.
I see that story about the Long Walk mystery is still bringing much attention and there are people who are trying to solve it! I hope that finally sb find the hard proof confirming or denying its authenticity.
If the author of this article needs my opinion on this matter, please put him in touch with me!
I find it quite believable that there are questions about this tale. Given the conditions of the man’s experience, his great desire to conceal his Polish identity, the length of time he had suppressed the story, to mention a few things, it seems to me very possible that there are generalities that might disturb those desiring concrete facts.
I am curious to know where the journalist Ronald Downing sits in the discussion of the truth of the account. Did he ever get his “proof” of the yeti? I would like to know if anyone has managed to find any documentation of Mr. Smith? (I have just now learned of the Willis book.) I was disappointed, as another reader noted, that the survivors did not have any contact with each other.
Basically, I am a romantic: I want it to be true, to have him survive such horrible times… I cannot believe that it is possible to invent such a story without having lived it. In fact, that is what sustained me while reading it long before I knew of any doubt as to its authenticity: he lived to tell the tale… The rest is speculation.