*Due to a new exciting article which has never been published in English about The Long Walk, I am republishing four articles three years after it all started on this site. These articles have covered most things and aspects of the Long Walk so far…so stay tuned for the new article coming up soon!
The Long Walk, did it ever happen?
(By Mikael Strandberg/CuChullaine O´Reilly, first published on ExWeb) The book the Long Walk – a true story of a trek to Freedom by Slavomir Rawicz has inspired generations of arm chair readers and explorers world wide. Since it was first published 1956 it has sold more than 500 000 copies and been translated into 25 languages. Between Christmas and New Year the Hollywood movie The Way Back hit the screens in the US and the UK. It is based and inspired by the book. But the big question is, did the Long Walk ever happen? And if, by who?
The Long Walk
The Long Walk caused a sensation when it came out 1956. Allegedly a true story of a great escape from one of Stalin´s terrible gulags, initiated by the young Polish cavalry officer Slavomir Rawicz. In April 1941, he escaped from camp 303, located south of Yakutsk, in a blizzard together with six other prisoners. Instead of choosing the shortest route to freedom and survival, by walking 2500 kms (1500 miles) east for the Pacific Coast and a possible boat to Japan, they headed directly south. 18 months and 6500 Kms (4000 miles) later only four of them reached freedom in British India in September 1942. Three died during the trek. Possibly the hardest walk ever.
To reach British India, under-provisioned and with hardly any equipment except their worn camp clothes, they crossed the dense Siberian taiga in deep snow, during one of the coldest recorded winters in history, passed Lake Baikal and continued through Mongolia, suffering extreme heat in the Gobi desert, before they made it to Tibet. Once on the plateau they crossed over the Himalayas into British India. After having arrived as free men, the four survivors split up, never to meet or talk again. Slavomir Rawicz was hailed as a hero when the book came out. But was it a true story?
The authenticity of the book, which was ghostwritten by a Daily Mail reporter, Ronald Downing, was questioned from the outset. Eric Shipton, a legendary leader of Mount Everest expeditions, was one of these critics. He noted many inconsistencies about the distances mentioned. Explorer Peter Fleming, who knew the Himalayas very well, called the book a hoax. However, Rawicz met his hardest opponents at a lecture in London 1956, speaking about his book for a group of Polish ex-servicemen. While Rawicz was speaking, several men jumped up and claimed they had known the author before and during the war, that he had been in the infantry and not a cavalry officer and that his story was nothing but a lie. Rawicz never spoke again in front of his own countrymen. He claimed the hecklers were all communist agents.
BBC and Hugh Levinson
Until his death in 2004, Rawicz managed to avoid most of the critics, by either saying he had forgotten details, blamed the ghostwriter Downing for embellishing the truth or just by ignoring the questions which gathered more strength by the day. But, all along, he maintained that he had done The Long Walk.
Along comes BBC Radio 4 in the year 2006 and aired a documentary produced by Hugh Levinson, which destroyed Rawicz’s credibility. The BBC uncovered two really damaging pieces of evidence, proving that several of Rawicz’s claims were false. First, it was revealed that Rawicz had signed a document proving that he had been (a) freed in Russia, (b) went to Persia, and (c) had never been in India. Secondly, it was proved that Rawicz had been freed from the Soviet gulag camp in 1942, when he supposedly was making the Long Walk.
Looking for Mr Smith
The same facts were discovered by American researcher and traveler Linda Willis. She became fascinated by the Long Walk story ten years ago, and since then has been researching every aspect of this controversial escape story. Her book, released in November 2010, is entitled Looking for Mr Smith. In it Willis tries to find out who was the American member of the group of escapees. The author points out one of the oddest things about Rawicz’s story: that the four survivors, neither got to know each other well during the escape nor kept in contact after reaching British India.
Though Willis’s research didn’t reveal the identity of the elusive Mr. Smith, she did prove that Slavomir Rawicz never made the Long Walk. But, she concluded, somebody else might have.
Another version is discovered
There are quite a few escape stories from this era. For example, that of Cornelius Rost, the German man who escaped from Kolyma and allegedly walked to Turkey. He wrote a book, And As Far As My Feet Will Carry Me. Also Alexander Dolgun revealed a similar tale in An American in the Gulag.. But did anyone really do The Long Walk as described by Slavomir Rawicz?
The BBC and Linda Willis believed that The Long Walk had been made, possibly by another Polish man named Witold Glinski. Willis learned about Glinski in 2003. BBC reporter Hugh Levinson was tipped off about Glinski’s version of events after his first programme in 2006. In 2009 a reporter for Reader’s Digest, John Dyson, made Glinski famous by publishing an article claiming he was the man who really made The Long Walk.
Witold Glinski´s story is essentially identical to the The Long Walk described by his fellow Pole, Slavomir Rawicz, minus some outrageous claims, such as meeting the Abominable Snowman and not drinking water for thirteen days whilst crossing the Gobi Desert. Glinski told reporters he fled the gulag in February 1941. According to his own account, he was 17 years old when he journeyed to British India with his group in eleven months. The escapees, Glinski said, had walked 6500 kms (4000 miles), averaging 20 kms/day (12 miles).
Why did Glinski wait 50 years to tell his story?
Glinski told reporters that even his wife didn’t know the full story of his escape until 2003. In interviews with Linda Willis, the BBC and Reader’s Digest, Glinski claimed the reason he kept silent was because he was afraid of one of his fellow escapees, a murderer called Batko. Glinski asserted that he met the dangerous criminal in England, where both men had resettled after the war. When Batko threatened him, Glinski reported him to the British police, who arrested the Long Walk escapee. Because of this incident, Glinski maintains he was worried for the rest of his life that Bartok would seek revenge. When the original Long Walk book appeared, Glinski feared that the author, Rawicz, could have been an alias for Batko. So even though Glinski says his own story had been stolen, he never dared contact Rawicz.
How did Rawicz get his hands on Glinskis story?
Glinski says the most likely explanation is that Rawicz read his account of the escape, in official papers that he found in the Polish Embassy in London during the war.
Is Witold Glinski telling the truth? Did he do the 6500 km Long Walk from a camp near Yakutsk to British India?
Glinski has convinced reporters Hugh Levinson and John Dyson, author Linda Willis, and the young Polish explorer, Tomasz Grzywaczewski. They all feel he is very convincing.
They also say Glinski comes across as very honest, seems extremely credible, and always ready to answer any question or deal with conflicting opinions – even though he has no documentation to back up his story.
After weeks of intense research and interviews, tomorrow Leszek Gliniecki will question Glinski’s claims when it reveals new evidence.
Waiting for the new evidence, I wish to say the only thing that comes to my mind right now.
Even if Mr. Gli?ski was 14 at that time, it doesn’t exclude the possibility of his making The Long Walk. His age is not a problem here. During the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 there were boys half his age fighting. It’s a Polish tradition, whether we Poles like it or not.
Dear Reader! I just want to add that Leszek Glinieckis profound article on the Long Walk was just published at http://explorersweb.com/trek/news.php?id=19856 . These are his opinions, however, not mine. I just write that, because I have had quite a few folks writing to me in a not so nice manner about it all. However, he has a very valid point in everything he states! M
I just want to tell you I found this story on the BBC today when I was looking for more background. Witold Glinski claims that he really is the real inspiration behind the Long Walk. This is the link http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/cornwall/hi/people_and_places/newsid_9280000/9280813.stm Thanks for the great suspense in these articles. David
I have been following the latest developments in the Long Walk saga with great interest. In 2004 three friends and I retraced the journey chronicled in Rawicz’s book the Long Walk. http://dea-media.com/?page_id=697
Since our journey many people have contacted me asking if I had any new information about the validity of the story and if other members of the Long Walk had ever come forward.
I received an email from a man in Australia whose mother worked as a nurse in India and had treated a group of Westerns who had trekked over the Himalayas the same time period as Rawicz’s group. Another man said he could verify Rawicz’s story if he could have access to a tooth to do some type of scientific analysis!
Glinieckis’s story adds yet another fascinating twist in to the Long Walk story. Will the truth about the Long Walk ever really be determined? For me, after traveling through the terrain, I believe it is possible to complete the journey, but only with the help of the local people. Wether it was Rawicz, Glinski or another person, I believe the journey was made by someone.
David E. Anderson
Mr. Gliniecki’s article – along with the documents we’ve seen thanks to him – certainly sheds new light on The Long Walk story. Now, let’s go back to the very beginning. I wonder. The escape itself, from the Yakutsk gulag, couldn’t have passed unnoticed there. I don’t mean any official Russian records, it’s obvious they’ve never existed. No-one in his right mind, in Stalin’s times, would have recorded an escape from a prison camp. But what about the fellow prisoners? Maybe someone still remembers, maybe they will speak up. If not Mr. Rawicz or Mr. Gli?ski, then who fled from Yakutsk and did the trek? I do hope we will know, with time.
I just wanted to thank Leszek Gliniecki and all those who assisted him. His article clearly shows the critical importance of contemporaneous documentary evidence, especially in the evaluation of historical claims such as those associated with “The Long Walk” and “The Way Home.”
Loads of emails are coming in about the articles, and one of them alerted me to this interesting fact found on wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Way_Back, which has changed since the articles:
The film is loosely based on a book titled The Long Walk by Slawomir Rawicz, depicting his alleged escape from a Siberian gulag and subsequent 4,000-mile walk to freedom in India. Incredibly popular, it sold over 500,000 copies and is credited with inspiring many explorers. In 2006, the book was effectively debunked. The BBC unearthed records (including some written by Rawicz himself) that showed that rather than having escaped from the Gulag, in fact in 1942 he had been released by the USSR. In May 2009, Witold Gli?ski, a Polish WWII veteran living in the United Kingdom, came forward to claim that Rawicz’s story was true, but was actually an account of what happened to him, not Rawicz. In addition in 1942 a group of Siberian Gulag escapees reportedly walked to India. However these claims too have been questioned and currently are the subject of active discussion. Given such concerns, the director Peter Weir himself now describes “The Way Back” as “essentially a fictional film.” 
I have read Mr Leszek Glinecki’s ‘solid evidence’ with much interest and now realise that in my letter to him in June 2009 I misled him with a key error for which I wholeheartedly apologise. I wrote in the letter that Mr Glinsky was ‘preparing log-rafts for the break-up of the river in ice in early spring 1941.’ This should have said 1940. The error was made only in my letter, not in my story.
I have not had the opportunity to talk further with Mr Glinsky because he is not well and lives far from me, but I have combed through the extensive notes I made during our long discussions and this is the picture that emerges:
Mr Glinsky’s official birth date was 22 November 1926 but late in life he discovered he was really born in 1924. At the outbreak of the war he was therefore aged 15 and at the time of his escape aged 17.
He reached Kriesty via Moscow in mid-winter (around Dec 1939 or Jan 1940) and located his mother with his younger brother and sister in a camp nearby. He worked as a timber hand and visited his mother most Sundays. Sometimes at night he crossed the frozen river to trade his mother’s trinkets at a nearby village. He might have attended a school but he did not mention it to me and I never thought to ask.
After some months he and his mother communicated through an intermediary with his father who ran the power generators at a mining camp not far away. The whole region was a labour camp and lots of people were always on the move so it was not difficult to travel to meet his father. During their two weeks together his father urged him to ‘get away from here’ and ‘go south.’
Merging with throngs of others like himself being transported to various labour camps he worked his way southward on successive trains until he found himself trapped on a train heading east. He destroyed his papers. The train stopped in the wilds near Irkutsk, and he was pushed into a crowd of men selected for a special labour camp. Thus begun his long march shackled to a chain with scores of other men. He reached the camp around November 1940.
He made his escape ‘about six months later’ (ie, March/April 1941) and reached India about ten months after that (early 1942) and Scotland in mid-1943.
These dates are very uncertain. In my story I wrote that he escaped in February but perhaps March is more likely. In this situation one guesstimate is as good as another but the train of events does seem entirely consistent and explains why he was unaware of the amnesty.
In his ‘evidence’ Mr Glinecki raises further points I would like to comment on.
There is no argument that both Mr Glinecki and Mr Glinsky were at Kriesty. One says the records tell the story. The other says that in the chaotic conditions record-keeping was hit-and-miss. In my opinion the latter story is easy to believe. One has to wonder how long it would have taken the authorities, such as they were, to realise that Mr Glinsky had absconded. It’s more than possible, I would suggest, that when the amnesty came his name was simply ticked off with the others.
Mr Glinecki writes of his surprise that Mr Glinski portrayed himself as’ the leader of the group of prisoners’ which included two captains and a sergeant from the Polish infantry. He says: ‘The idea that men from the Polish officer corps would need to be — or allowed themselves to be — led by a young teenager fresh out of school struck me as altogether beyond belief.”
I quizzed Mr Glinski about this most particularly. He said he kept his escape plan utterly private and he did not work with two others as claimed by Linda Willis in her excellent book ‘Looking for Mr Smith.’ On the night of his escape he was totally surprised to see men following him. He thinks that because he’d been befriended by the commandant’s wife he was being closely watched by others. And it’s likely a sheer coincidence that others saw the blizzard as the best moment to run for it and the dip in the fence as the best spot to cross.
Mr Glinski was the son of a high-ranking Polish cavalry officer and himself a cadet at a military school. He would have been completely familiar with ‘officer class’ individuals and not daunted by them. He did not impose any leadership. In effect he told them: ‘I am going that way and you can do what you like.’ When he looked back he saw them following him. This happened repeatedly. The two officers, he said, were in a bad mental state and were ‘nurse-maided’ by the sergeant. The officers died on the way and the sergeant was killed in a cliff fall. The mysterious Mr Smith said little but kept himself close to Mr Glinski and supported his actions. There were hardly any discussions about what they should do and they did not exchange personal details.
About the Lubianka episode: Mr Glinski did not mention it the first time we talked through his story but it did emerge the second time. I have to wonder whether he was in fact using ‘Lubianka’ as a euphemism for the hated officials who had taken over his life. To any young man in that situation, a tribunal of any sort behind barbed wire would have seemed like a Lubianka. This is just a possibility worth mentioning but the Lubianka story could equally well be true.
My notes have nothing more to add but in my opinion the story that emerges is rational and convincing.
Hi all readers! I know there´s many of you and I just had this thread sent to me by a reader regarding an article in the Washington post by Annie Applebaum, which is of interest, see;
My faith in one of America’s better newspapers, The Washington Post, has just been undermined. Please see Anne Applebaum’s op ed article, “A real-life look at the Gulag” (Washington Post, January 25, 2011) at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/24/AR2011 012404566.html . In particular, the following quote is disturbing: “‘The Way Back’ is based on a book called ‘The Long Walk’ by Slavomir Rawicz, a Gulag survivor who ‘borrowed’ his escape story: Three Poles crossed the Himalayas from Siberia into India in the 1940s; the Polish consulate recorded their arrival; one of them told his story to Rawicz.”
In this case I at least partially agree with Richard Rawicz.
Anne Applebaum’s assertion that “… the Polish consulate recorded their arrival …” is hearsay. If there is hard physical evidence supporting the alleged registration, she should produce it. Unfortunately no such record is known to exist.
As has been repeatedly noted on this bulletin board and the IMDB bulletin board discussion of the movie “The Way Back”, there are no contemporary documentary written records supporting any Pole having actually escaped from the Soviet Gulag in the early 1940s and without supplies walked 4000 miles across the Gobi and the Himalayas into freedom in India. Though several researchers have devoted years seeking such records in the appropriate archives their efforts have failed.
I have just received the following short email message from Anne Applebaum:
“an archivist at stanford has the documents, i undrestand [sic] someone is writing about it. AA”
Assuming that she is correct, clearly this will impact the entire course of our discussion.
Very interesting. I look forward to some new information.
i fhe was tellign the trought why didn’ the other survivers help him with his true story
As you are aware, there is considerable controversy as to whether the story has any basis in fact. Still, for the sake of the argument, let us grant that the story has some factual core and that in the early 1940s three Polish Gulag escapees did reach India. Various reasonable conjectures might be offered as to why in the 1950s none of the other survivors emerged, e.g., the others simply were dead (after all, there had been a war!) or they feared retribution against relatives still living in Communist controlled Poland. However, given the absence of further evidence, any such explanations are completely speculative.
I read The Long Walk and swallowed it whole, believed it and marveled at the endurance and suffering that one person can bear. Then I read the 1997 update at the back of the book, where the author says that he never saw the other 3 survivors again, and my belief evaporated. Trauma victims, whether by war or abuse or common suffering, form deep bonds that are not negotiable. These guys came close to death a dozen times and saw half their number die en route. Then all the little questions that came up during the read resurfaced. Swimming a winter Siberian river, wringing out the clothes and rewearing them to dry them out by the body’s warmth? Here in the Northwest the winter ocean turns you blue in 10 minutes and you’re dead in 20 (a bit of an exaggeration but serves the uninitiated well). When the water has sucked out your warmth there is no warmth left to dry clothes. The author didn’t mention his hands and feet hurting from the cold water induced vasoconstriction nor his voicebox involuntarily grunting/gasping aloud, nor his hands refusing to obey him after getting out of the water.
The other nagging doubt was the story of arriving at an oasis after 7 days in the desert, dehydrated and starving, to head out into the desert again for 12 days. Another major doubt was crossing the Himalayas in mocassins and street clothes; forget the mountain climbing hazards, the cold would’ve sucked all the warmth and energy out of them the first night. Finally, dying men have no secrets and Mr Smith would have revealed his first name. And would he not have seen the opportunity to tell his story, and wouldn’t the rest of America love to hear of an American beating the whole Russian system?
The story is fiction.
I just watched the movie “The Way back”. I would also like to know where the American or his relatives are? Why didn’t he write his story? They usually do.
I just finished watching the movie & I found it fascinating. I would also like any information about the survivors–what happened to them; where did they end up living; did they reunite with any of their family members; etc????
I have seen the movie just last evening, and to be honest it is a fascinating one, i would love to believe that it really occurred as it gives in within yourself a feeling that “nothing is impossible,” but when I, from intense curiosity went and researched out in the internet and also at the behest of some suspicions raised during watching the movie my belief fell short of my conviction to believe that it did really occur. Firstly few questions are obviously raised about how easily the prisoners escape the gulag, which was a bit ordinary to the other incidents of escape that we know during the same time period or during the second world war, secondly the terrain they crossed if at all possible gives some doubt of the condition a human body would be while in there and if at all possible to cross the Himalayas and the Gobi desert with such limited food and water. I am from India and have traveled to the Himalayas and know how the terrain is, though i have traveled up to Gurudongmar at 17100 feet and even from that i could tell you it is murderous (the road leads to Lhasa, Tibet) and so thinking that these men had to counter the perils of much more altitude and dangerous terrain while they came into India, was that really possible without encountering Acute mountain sickness, hypothermia, or altitude sickness, which even mountain hardened climbers and trekkers are prone to and fall prey to………………I honestly think this could be a fiction and not a reality, although keeping my mind open to believe with proper backup that the “Long walk” really did take place because once again then it will be a showcase for all of us around the world to believe with strongest conviction that “nothing is impossible.”
A reader just notified about this comment made on IMDb:
Among the very plausible characters are an American who went to work on the Moscow subway and fell victim to the Great Terror of 1937, a Polish officer arrested after the Soviet Union’s 1939 invasion of Poland and a Latvian priest whose church was destroyed by the Bolsheviks.
From me, as a Latvian I can say that a Latvian priest in the GULAG as early as January-April 1941 is pretty far fecthed. As first major deportations to Siberia from Latvia started in June 1941, just before German invasion. Plus, I actually don’t know if I’ve heard anything about church burnings in Latvia in 1940-1941… there were some in 1919-1920, for the short while the communists ruled here and maybe after 1945 but I believe they didn’t touch churches in 1940-1941… they simply didn’t have time. They invaded in June 1940 and had to leave in July 1941, even collectivization wasn’t really carried out and had to be postponed to postwar period…
If they tried to escape in early 1942 then yes, it’s possible… but early 1941 is too early for Latvians for Latvia (especially priests) to be in GULAG.
See link at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1023114/board/thread/177319950?d=184729646&p=2#184729646
I’m currently rereading the book and enjoying it immensely but am now aware of the problems relating to Rawicz’s credibility. It is a pity but if the walk was done by Glinski at least I content myself with the thought that it actually did happpen. I wonder how Rawicz viewed himself for the remainder of his life?
Trying to find a copy of the movie
I have seen the film and am enthralled by Rawicz’s book. I cannot imagine how he could make the whole story up with the detail he includes. The book reads as if he remembered the broad scppe of the journey but had distinctive, traumatic memories which I feel would be difficult to fabricate. I respect of accusations that they knew little about each other, I think it is perfectly plausible that in the chaos and fear of Eastern Europe at that time that the men did not ask questions of each other. They were strangers who had fearful bonds that they shared and their reticence spoke to their bonds as survivors and travelers. There is too the issue of language, the differences for them in communicating and for Rawics in his reports which would change with time and in translations. In respect of the evidence and signed papers – how credible or reliable are any records coming out of Poland or Russia either in respect of the records or that they relate to the named individual. He describes in his book how as men die during their transportation by train to the Gulag that their names are struck off lists. For instance, no one has ever found out exactly what happened to Raoul Wallenberg ,the Swedish diplomat and he came from a high profile banking family. Remember too that communication today is vastly different from then and after the war people, kin, friends disappeared. Keeping in touch with people was simply impossible a hundred years ago. My grandparents for instance came to Africa from Scotland when they were in their late twenties. They returned to see their siblings when they were eighty. They exchanged few letters in the sixty years in-between. I suggest the there could be enough give and take in the dates for Rawic’s story to be credible. Lauraine
Hello! I’ve created a (very) rough chart of the Long Walk trek in Google Maps (based on the book by S. Rawicz). Feel free to correct it, add alternative routes, modern treks repeating the effort or any other information of interest. I think a visual representation of the topic may be an interesting addition to the discussion.
I’ve just recently finished reading the book and most of the discussions on the Internet. I admit I’ve found many facts in the book unbelievable. However, given the allegedly existing documents confirming the emerge of a group of men in India escaping from Siberia in 1942 and recent successful treks along the dramatic route, I believe the WW2 feat can be real. Also, as much as I would like to know who have done it, I am more interested in the achievement itself and reasons behind it.
So many questions to ask.
Modern forensic investigation of hair or teeth from Slavomir Rawicz might reveal some truth.
The Commandants wife? Does she have living relatives?
Perhaps the bones of Kristina will one day be found.
Regardless, it is a remarkable and inspiring story, and I hope the film does it justice.
I heard about the book recently by chance and was fascinated with it. I’m not a cynic and do tend to believe everything I read but even I was incredulous at the Abonimable Snowman and tales of walking the desert with no food or water. Since reading the book I have done lots of online research and am gutted to learn it’s not true. I also can’t seem to find conclusive evidence of Glinski doing the Long Walk either, wikipedia says he was running a factory at the time!
It’s a fascinating story, I would love for it to be true
I believe this story to be true. For those who do not I submit to you any contrary evidence that comes from Russia can not be trusted. I remind you of Katyn denied for 50 years and how they went to great lengths to prove they did not do it. The entire country of Russia had been severely traumatized. Can anyone think of another country that was more brutal to its people then the USSR (maybe Cambodia). To tell the truth in russia about anything was certin death. Investigate the story but to use Russian supplied material to support or contradict the book is stupid.
It seems to me tracking down Mr.Smith should be easy. It should be possible to determine all the american companies that built the moscow metro and determine if any of their employes disappeared. The other possability is Mr.Smith was indeed a spy and he tried to keep his identity a secret.
As far as clothing for the trip. Remember they were in siberia. The clothing had to be good enough for the Gulag so why would it not protect them during the walk?
The only thing that i wondered about is why did it take mentioning about eating snakes to Smith before he told them how to do it. With snakes around their first water hole they could have rested more with the water and snakes to eat to rebuild their strength.
One last thought, never underestimate the human ingenuity to survive. When i was stationed on the Aircraft Carrier Lexington my Captain escaped from a north vietnamese POW camp in the north and walked all through N. Vietnam,, evading detection and making it to south vietnam and safety.
Remember Captain bligh and his men in the open boat sailing over 3,000 miles to safety and the men of HMS Pandora, Crew from the whaler Essex, the chezh legion’s march across russia to freedom there are many examples.
Think of all the poles who escaped poland to fight through the war never knowing what the fate of their famillies were or about their future. They are a valiant people.
John Regina Former US and royal Navy person
I want to agree with what John Regina is saying but to add that as an anthropologist I listen most to oral testimony and would be fascinated to learn how his family retell their father’s stories and how his memories were understood amongst them. But most importantly no one discredits the impossible, inhumane marches into the Gulag on which many died yet they question the possibility of men and a woman walking to freedom through the same hazards but with hope of surviving. Psychologically we understand very little of people’s capacity to survive. In listening to stories we also give far too much credit to small facts or anomalies such as the abonimable snowman which may have been evidence of their state of mind and perceptions at the time i.e. their/his being semi delirious.
Having read The Long Walk , savouring every word of a believable experience and living the journey with all concerned ,I was left cold with no follow up. A simple footnote on each survivor would have completed this wonderful epic.
Awww hell, I’ve only 32 pages left of this story on my iPad but made the google mistake. Now that I see that it is most likely a work of fiction and – the abdominable snowman is soon to arrive – I feel I haven’t the inclination to finish this formerly spell-binding book. Part of me desires to ask Amazon for a refund. 13 days w/o water? In the desert? Shoulda been my first clue. It was actually, yet I continued to read on choosing to ignore the obvious.
Many years ago, 1970, I was working in a tobacco shop in Westminster California. I had a Russian language book sitting out on the counter. One of the regular customers asked me what I was doing with it. I told himI wanted to learn Russian. He then began cursing the Russians. I didn’t say any more about it because it upset him. Later, a woman who came in with him and said she was his sister, told me the story of the Long Walk. She also said that the man, Eugene Wyra, was one of the people who made the escape and subsequent walk. I always thought the story fascinating and wondered what happened to Mr. Wyra. I was surprised when I read the book, several years ago, and one of the people mentioned was a man named Eugene. His sister told me about the camp commander’s wife helping them. It makes me wonder now if they had read the book and it made a good story or if Eugene, a Pole by his own admission, really was one of the escapees. I often thought about the story and why Eugene never put it in print.
How odd to find comments on this topic more than a year after the film was released, wherein people question the motivations of fictional characters or ponder how Google Earth can help them map the route of a fairy tale.
What seems to elude these viewers/readers is that what makes The Long Walk/The Way Back exceptional is that it is a double-hoax.
Slavomir Rawicz perpetrated the original literary deception by publishing his fictional account of escaping from a gulag. This would simply be a literary hoax akin to the one perpetrated by the phoney Tibetan monk, Tuesday Lobsang Rampa, in his classic forgery “The Third Eye.”
What makes the Long Walk/Way Back of historical interest is that a second travel charlatan, Witold Glinski, then claimed that he had actually made the non-existent escape.
That’s akin to a girl named Sally claming that she fell down the rabbit hole into Wonderland, not that cheeky Alice, who by the way unfairly stole her story.
Thus, thanks to Rawicz & Glinski, we’re left with a lie about a lie.
Of course no matter how much evidence is presented, any myth is going to find believers. For example, thousands of devout New Age disciples are currently camped out in a remote French village, awaiting their salvation in an alien spaceship.
The infamous equestrian travel deception known as the Hopkins Hoax, which served as the basis for the fraudulent Disney film, Hidalgo, is another perfect example of this “faith versus reason” view.
The ability of a believers to ignore the evidence and embrace the myth was summoned up by a fanatic Hopkins fan. In a documentary broadcast by the History Channel, she said, “Just because something didn’t happen doesn’t mean it isn’t true.”
Likewise, just because Rawicz made it up, ignoring the fact that his family and Hollywood profited from this act of mercenary deception, and forgetting that Glinski tried to peddle it a second time around to a new generation of naive reporters, doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen.
What solid evidence have you for any of your so called opinions ?
Do I have the honour of addressing Richard Rawicz, son of Slavomir Rawicz, the originator of “The Long Walk” deception?
How ironic that you should rear your head on this blog – again – on April Fool’s Day !
I note that you continue to conspicuously fail to provide answers to the questions I publicly posed to you in this same publication a year ago.
Before I refresh your memory regarding our previous exchange, allow me to respond to your request for “evidence.”
A quick glance at the internet reveals these links and discoveries, any one of which should alarm anyone seeking the truth about “The Long Walk.”
BBC Radio – “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.”
Outside Magazine – “The Long Walk may never earn a secure place among the true classics of survival, here’s my advice: Enjoy it as the great thriller it is. But caveat lector—which is Latin, of course, for “you won’t believe this one.”
Ben Macintyre – The Times – London, England – “Take Peter Weir’s new survival epic The Way Back, which depicts a 6,000-mile trek to freedom by escaped prisoners from the Soviet gulag in 1940, and is based on a 1956 memoir by a former inmate, Slavomir Rawicz. Weir nearly pulled out of the film when he discovered that Rawicz was a fraud. “I said, ‘Well, I can’t do it if it’s not true’.”
Basha O’Reilly – The Long Riders’ Guild – “Did Rudyard Kipling inspire Slavomir Rawicz’s Long Walk? In 1907 Rudyard Kipling, the celebrated English author and noted expert on the British Raj, published a short story which may have provided the literary inspiration for the debunked “Long Walk”. In Kipling’s account, a cavalry officer is captured by the Russians and imprisoned in Siberia. However, the officer escapes and makes his way over the mountains to British-controlled India. Sound familiar? Here’s a link to Kipling’s story: http://www.bartleby.com/195/22.html
Leszek Gliniecki – “Glinski’s credibility appears to fail in at least three areas:
1 – He is inconsistent. Many versions of his story have emerged.
2 – He is incoherent. Explanations do not make sense or add up.
3 – What he says does not match with historical archives from more than one source.
Rampa/Hoskin is now listed in “The Guinness Book of Fakes, Frauds and Forgeries” by Richard Newnham. Further reading on exposing the Third Eye literary hoax can be found at: http://www.serendipity.li/baba/rampa.html
Thus, I believe this resolves your request for “evidence.”
Yet for the benefit of readers who may have just discovered this thread allow me to explain that this is not the first time you and I have publicly sparred over this deceptive travel tale.
On January 8, 2011 I responded at length to your previous allegations.
In that lengthy, and still published reply, I asked you in turn to provide the public with “evidence” and/or answers to vital questions connected to the Long Walk hoax.
“What part of your father’s story is true, Mr. Rawacz, that he was Polish? That he encountered yetis – twice? That he spent nearly two waterless weeks in the Gobi desert?”
I went on to say, “The public should understand that since your father’s book was released in 1956, it is estimated to have sold more than half a million copies and has been translated into at least 25 languages. Currently the book is supposed to be selling at least 30,000 copies a year. And that doesn’t take into account the tremendous profit which will come your family’s way thanks to Peter Weir’s new movie. The magnitude of this lucrative deception is therefore of interest and importance to the exploration community, as are the actions of your parents and siblings.”
I concluded last year’s message by seeking your response to Glinski’s attempts to claim to be the “hero” of this discredited fable.
“Generations of readers have felt cheated when they discovered the depth of your father’s deception. Moreover, this fabrication does more to cast doubt on actual survival stories than legitimize them. I believe that the public has a right to ask how you and your siblings justify using the word “true” in the title of a book which has been thoroughly debunked? Given your family connection to this discredited title, I am curious to discover your views of Witold Glinski’s attempts to claim that he was the one who made the imaginary journey. Can you share your opinion on Glinski’s attempts to purloin your father’s fable?”
Our entire previous exchange can be viewed here –
So what have we learned one year later, Richard?
That once again you have refused to answer these obvious questions.
Which part of your father’s tale is true?
How does your family continue to justify the use of the word “true” in the title of this book?
Ironically, I am currently busy writing the massive “Encyclopaedia of Equestrian Exploration.” It is filled with the incredible exploits of brave men and women who survived astonishing hardships and completed extraordinary rides on every continent including Antarctica.
Long Riders in Tibet were beheaded. They were imprisoned in India. They were attacked and stoned by a mob of 500 angry natives in Tanzania. They shot it out with bandits in Mexico.
All very exciting stuff from a historical point of view. And unlike “The Long Deception,” all true !!!
CuChullaine O’Reilly FRGS
Do you honestly expect me to believe that you believe everything that is posted on the internet is true.anyone can accuse anyone else of anything and the rest of the world assume it is true.you must be very naive.
Incidentally The Way Back is currently showing a huge loss.
So any jealousy over finance is very misplaced.
The last time we exchanged messages publicly you chose to ignore the facts and attack me personally.
In my reply dated 11th January, 2011 I wrote, “Attacking the messenger, instead of responding to the message, namely that your family enriches itself by promoting “The Long Walk” as a “true” story, even though you have not produced a scrap of evidence to substantiate your father’s fantasy, won’t wash.”
Fifteen months later you have revived these tired tactics.
Once again you have avoided answering questions regarding the book’s validity. Nor have you addressed concerns regarding the ongoing financial profit your family continues to derive from peddling this literary hoax as a “true” story.
I suggest you restrict your participation in this on-going investigation to the sidelines until you are ready to provide evidence which demonstrates that your father’s tale is anything other than an elaborate deception. For example, perhaps you’ve overlooked a family photo showing your father standing next to the Yeti he met – twice !
But not to worry. Should such a photo not be available you and the rest of your family can continue to laugh all the way to the bank, during which you carry on selling this supposedly “true” story to a trusting public.
Just don’t expect the rest of us to join you in endorsing your father’s deceptive money-making scheme.
CuChullaine O’Reilly FRGS
Walk across the Gobi with no water ….. nonsense.
You have obviously got issues that a clever man than I could possibly hope to cure.
Just finished the book and must admit I wondered more than once about the truth of the story, especially crossing the Gobi desert. Still, would like to see the movie and see what Peter Weir has done with the story.
I got to the 4th last page then Googled, after telling everyone, that the book could be a lesson to whining Australians that things are,nt that bad here, i.e. the book is a lesson of comparison ,even if it is, as it seems, a piece of fiction. (Bloody good fiction though) ,even allowing for the ‘Snowmen”.
In the late 60’s, I met a Mr. Schmidtke (Not sure of spelling), he told his story to my father, my brother & I listened, spellbound to his story. I can’t forget how powerful & incredible it was hearing him tell of his amazing journey, it had a profound affect on us. Could this be the Mr. Smith that was mentioned in the article?
I do not know if the film or book is true or not. I do know my grandfather was one of the Poles who made it to India. I have his papers. I also know his story was true I talked to him many times. Some more info, he was also put in prison in Kabul and I know how he was released. The walk was shorter and the years are different. I am serious about clarifying the story of the Poles who made it to India. If anyone can help please post a comment.
I’ve watched the film, read the book and spent many hours searching the internet for information.
I also spoke to my ninety five year old Grandfather about the ‘Long Walk’ and asked him for his views. I was blown away when he said he met the Poles that completed the walk, though he couldn’t remember where exactly… North Africa, Middle East or Ancona in Northern Italy.
My Grandfather has never read the book or watched the film but he told me that the guys that did the walk had to eat Snakes and Lizards in the Gobi Desert and a few other stories that tallied with what I had read and seen. He also mentioned the name ‘Jan Patik’ – could that be one of the guys that did the walk?
I told him of the debate surrounding the truth of the ‘walk’ and he just laughed. He himself was marched by Russian captors from Minsk to Sverlonsk in Siberia where he spent nearly two years in a Gulag. ‘Long Walks’ were going on all over Europe…
I asked him how he survived the Gulag and just recently he told me an interesting tale… On arrival the Officer in charge asked all the inmates if anyone was a barber. He asked this three times and on the third time my Grandfather said that he was. He had never cut hair before in his life… The Officer produced a cracked mirror and some scissors and my Grandfather got to work! The Officer was pleased with the job and my Grandfather had to cut the hair of all the officers on a regular basis. For his efforts he would be given a tin of meat that he shared with his fellow inmates and he says this extra tin helped keep people alive. The Russians always punched a hole in the tin before they gave it to him so he couldn’t stash the rations for an escape bid…
So what of the Ghost Writer, Ronald Downing? What has his tale been when it comes to the debated authenticity of the original story? Did he do any research, or just copy down Rawicz’s story word for word?
I am ashamed at most of the comments on this site and others. I can’t believe the childish innocence some display at the thought (that many horrors such as this and all the other displays of man’s inhumanity to man happened in WW11 and other wars) that there were actually millions of people that suffered like Slavomir! And what documents could he produce when he only had the clothes on his back? Do you actually believe Russia would let him tell his story without trying to discredit him or make him look like the fool? Officials in any country can fabricate false papers and signatures to make the world believe the “facts”, as they say. Russia is still very much a communist country. Beware. To this day, Russia is an unforgiving country and would never admit to the atrocities it has done to their own kind and others for hundreds of years. I have literally read thousands of non-fiction books based on the tenacity of the human spirit to survive, unsurmountable odds that we as a society, can’t even imagine or fathom! But because we cannot fathom other people’s will to survive the odds such as were described in Slavomir’s life, does not make his life story a lie. I have not read such a well written book like “The Long Walk” in 25 years or more. I have a hard time reading any fiction books anymore because they all end the same and are so predictable. True life accounts are never predictable! No one could make up a story like Slavomir’s and not be true. I believe Slavomir made this long trek. There’s no doubt in my mind that this man experienced every part in his book.God bless him for having the courage to write his story!
And one more thing, 12?, 13? days in the desert with no water? Remember, they had no watch and nothing to write down what day of the trek they were on! So he forgot how many days without water, big deal? Does that make his story unbelievable? Anyone who questions how many days they went without water as the basis that his story is not true, in my opinion, is scratching at straws. If you don’t believe the days they went without water and that they thought they had seen a yeti, two parts to his story, then for sure it can’t be true, right?
Also, one person alone making this long walk probably wouldn’t have made it. But when you have others alongside you that have suffered the same things and are aiming for the same goal, bolsters your spirits and gives you the will to go on and survive. I salute you, the Slavomir Rawicz family! Don’t back down in the belief that your father was telling the truth, whether you don’t have any documents to back up his story or for their so- called “proof”, or others produce trumped up documents to try and disprove him! I so admire your Father’s will, tenacity, gentle spirit and faith! Way to go!
I notice that the Long Walk controversy is again alive and well.
Although all the relevant information can be seen on Internet pages “sybirak1940”, unfortunately it is still only in the Polish language. Although a summary may soon appear in English.
Also other pages of Mikael Stranberg’s blogs, , , and add valuable insight to this subject.
Alternative suggestion, to definitively solve this controversy,
is to request Richard Rawicz to post contents of his father archives which will show when his father enlisted into The Polish Army, and also the record of his service. This no
doubt will dispel any existing doubts regarding the Long
These archives are available to him on application to:
Ministry of Defence
APC POLISH ENQUIRES
Building 28 B, RAF Northolt
West End Road, Ruislip HA4 6NG.
I am certain that all the readers of this Blog will be very interested to see those details, and the present uncertainty will be put aside.
To Mikael the Latvian
I read your comment about the 194041 situation in Latvia. Since I am quite well informed on what happened in Estonia during the same period of first Soviet Occupation, it sounded too different to me to be true. After some reading I can say that the Soviets did persecute the Churches in Latvia in 1940-41 as they nationalized property. The arrests in all three Baltic states started immediately after the Soviet takeover and hundreds of people were sent to Gulag before the mass deportations of June 1941.
This is to say that a Latvian priest in Gulag in the winter of 1940/41 is very probable.
I think that the book was really great and inspirational.
I first read the book about 10 years ago, I enjoyed the drama of it but I thought the details were at very least exaggerated … I bought it recently second hand and re-reading it I thought it was more than exaggerated and that led me to the BBC investigations and all the different threads calling it a hoax … I was disappointed although it’s still a good story … Glinski seems credible but at this point I suppose I’ll just imagine that someone made the trek minus the seemingly impossible details …
So, what happened in the interview? Did they find out if Mr.Glinski is telling the truth? Who were the other 3 people? I’m eager to know…
Just watched the movie. Truth or not, I knew 2 independent guys that walked from Siberia to Germany.
There must be many similar stories out there.
This is outrageous. The very nerve of you to question a great Polish hero like Slavomir Rawicz. You’re all Communist liars, but you’re not fooling me.
I was wondering if there is any documentation about whether the journalist Ronald Downing who ghost wrote the book doubted the story of Slavomir Rawicz or if he had been interviewed on the subject, especially since Slavomir Rawicz blamed him for over embellishing his story. I haven’t found any. After buying and reading the book I must say I felt rather cheated that it wasn’t true. Regardless of whether other people have made the trip. I read this book as a true experience. Not a novel.
See this article at http://www.mikaelstrandberg.com/2011/01/01/gliniecki-%E2%80%9Ci-have-solid-evidence-glinski-didn%E2%80%99t-do-the-long-walk%E2%80%9D/ You can hardly accuse Leszek Gliniecki for being a communist. Read his story.
Glinieski and Rawicz both mention Mr. Smith. The author of
“Looking for Mr. Smith” narrows him down to possibly an American engineer who went to the Soviet Union in the 1930’s. Is there any more current information on who he may have been?
I am reading The Long Walk and nearly finished it. I began to doubt its verity before I heard anything about whether it was true or not. First, at the oasis on the caravan route: surely the 8 would have kept to the well used path knowing they were likely to meet people who would help and that it must be almost flat. So…why strike out South knowing that way was a deserted desert? They only started going South to put the prison guards off. Once over the border why go in the most uninhabited, inhospitable way for no good reason? It is an amazing story but if true I feel major wrong decisions were made.
Is there anyway to view the original 50 comments? I am looking for a comment someone made about their relative Dominik Tomaszewski, who claimed to have made a similar escape and journey. I cannot recall if I saw it here or elsewhere.
I did not know that, John, let me figure that out!
Ok, John, I have done this extra page at http://www.mikaelstrandberg.com/comments-the-long-walk/ with all the comments. The problem is wordpress who has set a limit. But here they are all of them from the beginning.
read this book when i was 14. the book was well worn no front or back cover and had been in a fire so the top and bottom of the pages were burnt off.
I think the condition of the book added to the experience of my reading.
Story stuck with me and i now have the name and author seeking a good condition hard cover version for keeps
How can I read the book free?
It seems to have changed, since I wrote that I am afraid!
The Long Walk,is a brilliant literary adventure story of the highest class.True,how true,who knows.What amazed me throughout was the minute detail,it seems as if the writer had to have a photographic memory plus.Considering the trauma of pain,hunger,tiredness which was always simmering,how did he remember.
I am very interested in this story and all theories. My great grandfather supposedly made a similar escape from Irkutsk but it would have been sometime between 1885-1895. He described his tale in an Auckland newspaper in about 1907. (See Papers Past website and search Rosegger-Agster). Some of the details in the article are definitely wrong and i am unsure how much was the journo and how much was my ggrandfather. He could speak fluent Chinese and held info evenings in sydney regarding the culture. This is no doubt a result of the time he spent getting through China. If anyone can help me with finding out more about this I would be very grateful.
Going across the the ghobie Desert. Was the best way to go as the Rusians wauld have thought as everybody else did that nobody wauld go that way.And therefore nobody got caught. FIND ME ON TOP GEAR VIA U TUBE. john dodd beast
Just finished reading The Long Walk this week and was suddenly struck with the need to know more! I thought first of looking for the other survivors – especially Mr. Smith, as the first order of business. Little did I know I would become ensnared in this whole hoax or truth and who’s truth business!! Now I feel left behind as all this was really active a few years back and am wondering if anyone is still “on the case”. Surely Linda Wallis and you, Mikael, are continuing to explore, right? Is anyone still out there researching?
Big news coming up! We have just come over some extra ordinary research done by Harvard researcher!
Good for you, Mikael. Please inform us as soon as possible!
Has anyone ever tried to walk the same route and do what they did??
As I was reading the book I kept saying to myself the only reason I am continuing to read is because I am told it is a true story. I kept feeling it was too far fetched and beyond belief. Now I feel totally let down to find that there is doubt about its authenticity. Can,t someone research whether the escape was recorded at the camp and maybe the story of Ushakovaa who gave him the axe? The relationship between the escapees seemed unrealistic and unnatural and the fact that mr smith remained just that is questionable. What about records at the hospital where they ended up? How about questioning his wife and children about it?
Just finished finished reading book a second time. Great read. What details are available from British Army detachment that the Gurkas belong to? The army would have some reports on the incident of meeting the escapees. What about the Polish regiment he travelled to following his recovery in India? And yes, the identity of the mysterious Mr. Smith, who must be on State Department records, passport details etc. September 2013 — end
My Grandfather’s name is Zdzslaw Piwowarski he walked from Russia through Afghanistan then on to India. I still have his passport that was issued in Bombay. He documented his walk with his friends, an account is also apparently in the Polish Museum in London (The Producer of film was trying to contact my family but we only heard about this after the film was released! ) when you grow up as a kid hearing the stories you kind of know it’s something
that actually happened. Also I quized my Grandfather (not enough) after I read his account. I suspect there is a strong link to the walk but it’s probably impossible to be certain.
I presume Mr. Smith could of been working secretly in Russia at the time. While the U.S. officially did not have an intelligence service their was some degree of professional means to collect vitally needed information through the use of expatriates living and working in country. I presume to think the truth is not pretty and for what it’s worth do feel Mr. Smith’s role is best left uncovered. To Smith’s credit, he did play his hand up to the very end.
I have just had the most incredible encounter with a man who started talking about his deceased Polish step father and his walk from a Siberian Gulag in the Arctic circle to freedom. I listened in awe as I had read the book The Long Walk back in the 60’s. He phoned his mother and allowed me to listen in to the conversation. I have no doubt that this man did in fact carry out a walk similar to that claimed by Rawicz.
The story may or may not be true,but I would’nt make it dependant on soviet records,the soviets were known to alter documents how it suited them
See this as regards to the Yeti http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/has-the-yeti-mystery-been-solved-new-research-finds-bigfoot-dna-matches-rare-polar-bear-8884811.html
I grew up with this story. I knew Slavomir Rawicz, he married again and settled in my village, I sat next to his son at school, his younger sister was at the same school, they went on to have 2 more children and moved to Sandiacre next to my Gtreat Aunt & Uncle`s farm – Church Farm, where they lived their for the rest of their lives. I have a sketch of the Yeti he gave me with his signature and inscription on the back `Observed in the spring of 1942` I read the book which I thought was better than the film.
henryk, it seems everyone who questioned him came away with same feeling, he was bullpooping.By the way the comie’s are done i think? didn’t the wall come down? and of course when somewhen claims they walked 4000 miles through some of the harshest climates in the world no one should question that, right? maybe he also stole the space shuttle and went to mars and back, book coming out soon
First read of it in ’88, and yes I have the original hardback from April 1956. That story was part of my life, always inspiring me. When I heard the Radio 4 broadcast in ’06, I felt betrayed, angry and let down. Then it all sunk in how it’s funny no one tried it on with the girl, and how they only seemed to lose their tempers once with one another, at the point in The Gobi when Kristina succumbs to the ordeal and dies. Too good to be true. I’d always wonder how on Earth no one else but myself ( pre internet ) seemed to know of this incredible tale. Seems it was held under scrutiny, sceptically, from the very beginning. Only sold half a million. Turns out his ghost writer was in fact his landlord who was a journalist with a keen enthusiasm for the Abominable Snowman of the Himalyas. We all know about that part of the book. Turns out he owed money to said landlord. Turns out he bought a house with the cash from the royalties. Scientists were plagued by the mosquitoes of the Siberian spring in the marshes when trying to investigate the Great Siberian Explosion. How come Rawicz didn’t mention this obstacle, or this unmissable telephone or telegraph wire stretching across the Gobi?
Apparently many an eastern European has made an escape south or east from the Soviets. Doesn’t mean it was Rawicz. Twenty five years on from discovering The Long Walk, I shall be hunting down Willis’ book, Looking For Mr. Smith. Read Michael Kruppa’s Shallow Graves in Siberia. One guy making his own way to Afghanistan during WW2. But thanks to Rawicz, I’m now sceptical about every ” true story “.
He brought the side down in my opinion.
I read this book in the late 80s at 19 when I worked with Slawomir’s grandson and felt honoured to eventually meet his grandfather, albeit just once. Whether completely true or not, this amazing story has touched the hearts of so many people and will continue to do so, inspiring controversy and debate for many years to come; for that we have only Slawomir to thank and any personal attack on his family is rather unnecessary.
I read the book a couple of years ago. Some things struck me at the time. (a) The escapees are supposed to have walked into Sikkim, which was not in British India proper but was ruled by a local rajah subservient to the British Crown. Sikkim was relatively peaceful and it seems unlikely that the British would be using their prized Gurkha troops to picnic in Sikkim when there was a pressing need to hold the front in Burma against the Japanese. (b) Which military hospital (MH) were they admitted to in Calcutta? Despite what Mother Teresa would have one believe, Calcutta isn’t a very big city. Even during WW2 most of the MHs were scattered about the country; the casualties were mostly evacuated to Chittagong (now in Bangladesh) as it was nearer to the action. So it shouldn’t be too difficult to verify which MH treated a group of mysterious strangers, of whom it seems only “Mr Smith” seemed to speak English. (c) Calcutta (and the entire North East of India) was crawling with Yanks at that time. How did they not get to question him? (d) The escapees travelled together for 4 years but still the author insists on calling the man Schmidt. This seems a bit of overacting. I don’t think this Smith/Schmidt ever existed. (e) The author claims to have been first interned in the Lubyanka prison. His description seems ordinary enough as prisons go. But around that time Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was put there too and he describes in Gulag Archipelago one important detail which no prisoner could have not noticed, and bitterly mentioned: the prisoners had to sleep with their hands visible outside the blankets, which the guards checked every now and then through the peepholes.
It’s not uncommon for military men to call friends by their last names. It took years for my husband to get out of the habit, after he left the military.
However, that being said, I do think that Rawicz’ story is thoroughly debunked. That’s a shame. I had loved the book. But my hat’s off to those who truly did make “the long walk”.
A lot of Germans walked from Sibiria to Germany manny years ago
Mikael, has the Harvard research become available yet? Thanks for your efforts here!
I haven´t heard anything, I will look into it immediately.
I found the book in Oxfam, couldn’t put it down, I would love to know more about their lives. Going to try and get the film from Amazon. Whether it was a totally true account or not one thing is for certain there are many personal accounts of stories like this and it makes me feel lucky that I have never had to endure anything like it. I personally believe it happened, why make it up?! There are a lot of courageous people in this world, past and present, and it is an insult to doubt them.
Hi! Do read all articles for perspective, see http://www.mikaelstrandberg.com/the-long-walk-articles/ M
nobody crosses the gobi dessert in summer without water and provisions on foot. i had my doubts about this story before, but when it came to crossing the gobi i knew it was a fake.
When I first read the headline, the story rang a bell. When I then read that the protagonist was a Pole, I knew this was different to the one I was aware of, which was a German guy doing the same, except for not escaping to India, but to Iran. There’s even a movie about it on German television with a similar ending as the one of Heinrich Harrer returning home from seven years in Tibet and seeing his son for the first time, if I remember right.
The “escape from a Gulag” story seems to be popular material, indeed.
Did it ever happen? Who knows.
Is it a good story? Definitely yes!
Seems that this is p
Mikael, is the Harvard research available yet?
Thanks. Teri Reid
I just wanted to share with the readers of Mikael’s Long Walk webpages a very interesting article onto which, through the wonders of Google, I just strayed: Peter Fleming’s (written under the pseudonym “StRIX”) “A ST Sunday The Long Walk, by Slavomir Rawicz, was discussed”, The Spectator (12 July 1956), page 13 (http://archive.spectator.co.uk/article/13th-july-1956/13/a-st-sunday-the-long-walk-by-slavomir-rawicz-was-d).
Peter Fleming was a noted explorer (and the brother of Ian Fleming of James Bond fame!). The article dates from shortly after the publication of The Long Walk. It discusses a contemporary BBC radio program on the book and raises a number of interesting skeptical points concerning Rawicz’ story.
Two More Interesting Items
Two more pieces which should interest the readers of Mikael’s Long Walk webpages:
(1) The Wikipedia article on Slavomir Rawicz is accompanied by a Talk page containing several insightful discussions by Wikipedia authors concerning The Long Walk’s veracity: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:S%C5%82awomir_Rawicz
(2) One item referenced in those discussions is a review of The Long Walk by Hugh Richardson in The Himalayan Journal (1957): http://www.himalayanclub.org/hj/20/15/reviews-23/ . Richardson, a noted Tibetologist and for several years a British diplomat in Lhasa, strongly challenges Rawicz’ account.
Ahhhhaha:)lol Yeah they crossed the Himalayas in paper sandals:) If you ever done any type of mountaineering or even scrambling youd’d know what ot takes to do 3000m peak nevermind a range like the Himalayas. Myself I wanted this story to be True But The Only Lesson To Be Learned Here Is the one of Human Greed.
Just finished the book and loved it, got interested in this story due to my dad ( a builder ) working at slavomir rawicz’s house in sandiacre, I would love to know if they ever met up again after the war, not seen the film yet but I’m sure it will not do it justice
Honestly, I am totally blown away by the number of intellectually-stunted, naieve individuals in this comment section who believe stories about men spending 13 days in the Gobi dessert with no water; seeing abominable snowmen; climbing the Himalayas in sandals and with no equipment; parting and never speaking again with — nor being able to prove the existence of — any of the “survivors” they went through this ordeal with (not a single one of whom ever popped up to say “yeah, that was me. I was there with Rawicz”).
Especially when one survivor was ostensibly a well educated American who was supposedly sent by his employer to work on a European subway and simply never returned. There would be TONS of documentation of that man.
Rawicz had 6 decades to locate just ONE of these other “survivors” or people again, and couldn’t? This book was a big hit in the late 50s (and started being seriously questioned way back then) and is in 25 languages. Nobody who could verify this story EVER came forward in the many decades since? Not a fellow survivor (or their kids)? Not a worker at the hospital they supposedly spent months in? Not one of the British guards on patrol in India? Not one of the villagers they came across? Not the camp commandant? Not the commandant’s wife who supposedly helped them escape? Not a worker in the ski shop? Not ONE of their hundreds of fellow prisoners who remembers that crazy night when that American, those poles, and that Latvian went missing and the guards went crazy searching for them and started cracking down on all the inmates? Not one of the camp guards themselves??? Remember people, the USSR fell– these people could easily come forward without worrying for their safety!!
What disturbs me the most is that the people who believe this fairy tale not only disregard all the documentation proving this story is total BS by saying “soviets faked documentation all the time” (completely ignoring the polish documentation as well as the polish soldiers who stood up at Rawicz’s speeches and yelled “I served with you in the army the whole time, you are lying”), but then they implore those of us who aren’t gullible suckers and actually have common sense to “prove that it didn’t happen”, or tell us that, “nobody could make up all the details Rawicz wrote in his book if they were lying” (ignoring the fact that HE didn’t write the book, his professional tabloid journalist landlord did). These people have apparently never met a compulsive liar or a con man. Are they unaware that people lead entire double lives for decades???
Sometimes I have a hard time believing such gullible people actually exist and live amongst us, driving, voting, and raising kids. Then I remember that there are thousands of Indian call centers scamming people out of their money daily by saying they’re “tech support”, or telling folks they’ve “inherited money from a distant relative who’s a Nigerian prince”.
No matter how badly you want this story to be true because it made you feel inspired about humanity, or made you believe that the little guy can win against insurmountable odds… it’s not. Not only has there never been **one single tiny little shred of evidence** produced that this story is true in the 80 years since it “took place”, but there’s plenty of evidence (actual documentation) that it’s not true. The only piece of actual evidence of any kind that you have to believe this story is true is that the man who told you this tall tale in the first place says so!
And you people serve on juries??? You’re the kind of folks who used to burn old ladies alive for “witchcraft”! It’s OBVIOUSLY not true, people. Use your brains! Get a grip!!