Mysterious group of Polish escapees in India.
In March 1942, Chief Secretary to the Government of Bombay, Political and Services Departments, H.K. Kirpalani reported to the Consul General of Poland in Bombay about the arrival of a group of four Polish men who claimed to have escaped from the Soviet Gulag. They had crossed thousands of miles and were taken care of by the Government of India External Affairs Department. Four men recuperated for weeks in the local hospitals as per receipts from the Salvation Army and other facilities. Local government submitted expenses for their stay to the Polish diplomatic outpost. These records can be found among the accounting records of the Polish Bombay Consulate General, to the best of our knowledge, the only documentation from that Consulate which survived World War 2 (Poland. Ministerstwo Spraw Zagranicznych, Hoover Institution, Stanford University).
We assume that the main body of the Consulate’s documentation was destroyed by the Polish diplomats after the British government withdrew recognition of the Polish Government-in-Exile in London in 1945.
We don’t know much about the fate of these men after April 1942, whether they returned to Europe or joined the Polish Army in the Middle East which left the Soviet territory after the summer of the same year.
Among the accounting records there are several “Certificates of Posting” from March 1942 about the heavy exchange of mail between the Polish diplomatic outposts in India and the Deputy Commissioner of Police Security Control in Calcutta and the Undersecretary to the Government of India Home Department in New Delhi. The content of this correspondence must have been destroyed.
Escapes of the Polish officers from Soviet Gulag
State Archives of the Russian Republic, (call number: GARF, f. 9401. op. 2, d. 173, l. 125-126), contain a report from November 1, 1945 by the commander of the 2-nd division of GUPVI NKVD SSSR , Major Bronnikov, who states that out of close to 100,000 Polish Army soldiers handled by the Soviet authorities between 1939 and 1941, approximately 1,082 Polish officers escaped from the camps.
Camp commanders frequently falsified reports on the circumstances of disappearance of the prisoners and even if the number wasn’t this high, we can assume that several hundred must have attempted the escape. A small percentage of them survived the Siberian ordeal. There are numerous reports in the General Anders Papers stored at Stanford University confirming these escapes. Anders collected testimonies from Poles who successfully reached the gathering points for the deportees on Soviet territory before he took that remarkable Army to the Middle East in 1942.
What makes Bronnikov’s report look reliable is that it officially admits to killing, by NKVD, 15,131 Polish officers. This fact remained a Soviet/Russian state secret until the mid 1990?s and the document couldn’t be made public until the time of official inquiries about the Katyn Massacre.
Could Mr. Leszek Gliniecki explain where he obtained the documents he is quoting on this web site? Some of his conclusions are incorrect.
Zbigniew L. Stanczyk, Palo Alto, California
Thank you for allowing me to comment on Zbigniew L. Stanczyk’s submission.
Firstly, I have never claimed to have evidence that no Polish officers ever escaped from a Russian Gulag and subsequently made their way to India by some means.
The evidence I have obtained is specifically related to Witold Glinski. It overwhelmingly points to the fact that he did not make the Long Walk as he has claimed.
With this in mind, I would like to review the information provided by Mr Stanczyk and compare it with the archive evidence which I have obtained pertaining to Witold Glinski’s claims.
Mr Stanczyk speaks of a report of four Polish men appearing in March 1942 in India – but this does not fit into Glinski’s story.Yes, Glinski claimed he was one of four escapees, but only one – Glinski himself – was a Pole. The others, according to Glinski’s account,:were Mr.Smith — an American plus one Serb and one Ukrainian.
Let’s return to that key date when Mr Stanczyk says the escapees appeared – March 1942.
Witold Glinski – according to his military records from the British Ministry of Defence (Polish Section) – joined the 8th Infantry Division of the Polish Army on the 7th March 1942. And also, the records say that he was evacuated to Iran (Persia), where on the 1st April 1942 he came under British Command.
I’ve also discovered some further archive information that directly contradicts Glinski’s claim to have joined the newly formed Polish Army after his supposed Long Walk to Calcutta. To fit in with archive material – which I will outline shortly – Glinski would have had to have returned to Russia in order to join the Polish Army on the date which is specified on his military records. This makes no sense at all.
Archives at the Institute of Sikorski say that Glinski’s division – the 8th Infantry Division – was placed in the north of Tashkent in Russia on the 7th March 1942 – the date that he joined. The archives state that that Division was then evacuated via the Caspian Sea, on the 30th March 1942, to Pahlevi (in what was then called Persia).
Additionally, a historical research publication entitled “Polish Embassy in Russia – years 1941 – 43? — confirms that the 8th Infantry Division was stationed North of Tashkent, and that on the 19th March 1942 General Anders decreed that the 8th, 9th and 10th Infantry Divisions would leave Russia. The evacuation of all three divisions was completed by the 3rd April 1942.
This is very important additional information which has not come to light before in relation to Glinski’s claims. Because if he really had walked to India, Glinski would have had to cross back into Russia at some point in order to be able to join the army unit which his records clearly state he was part of!
Glinski’s only account of how he came to join the Polish Army after leaving Calcutta (to Linda Willis) states catagorically that he arrived in Pahlevi via the Persian side of the Caspian Sea. There is no mention of returning to Russia and indeed returning to Russia would not have made any sense at all.
Returning to Mr Stanczyk’s information, I would be very interested to see copies of the Indian receipts from the Salvation Army which still apparently exist, and from the other facilities.
This would be of historical importance. It would give a good idea of the condition of the escapees, and perhaps of their recuperation time, and even more important, the location of the hospital and the facilities. This generally would add considerably to the knowledge of what was happening during those years.
With kind regards.
A reader made me aware of this new book called Against Destiny by Alexander Dolinin, see http://www.againstdestiny.com/
Hi all of you,
A reader just sent me this:
You may want to post the following two links on your website. In them Peter Weir discusses The Way Back and presents his side of the historical veracity question.
I have followed the latest twists of the Long Walk/Way Back story with a certain interest, and appreciate the fundamental research by Mr Giniecki!
In April 2006, the Swedish Populär Historia (printrun 30 000 copies) had a story and an advertisement for a new edition of Slavomir Rawicz’s story, just out from the Historiska Media publishing company, with the title “The escape from Stalin’s camp”. It was prefaced by one Swedish radio correspondent who ascertained that it was indeed a true story.
After reading only the first three-four chapters, it was evident that this story had no relation to Soviet camp realities, nor to the NKVD interrogation methods. While in Moscow in May-June 2006 (for another historical research project) I questioned the best experts at the GARF Russian state archive and RGVA state military archive; both for any indication of the individual in question, and for details on escapes from the Gulag.
By 1940, and this is the number one crucial issue that shipwrecks Rawicz story, no sentences of 25 years were given to any political (or criminal) prisoners. The maximums were either 10 years or a death sentence. the 25-year-camp-sentence was introduced in the Criminal code during the German-Soviet war only.
There never was any Gulag camp no 303, nor in Siberia nor anywhere else. Such a number was given, much later to a POW camp in the vicinity of Moscow.
It was unlikely that any “small fish” like Rawicz would have a several-day hearing before his sentence was read by the judge.
While in Moscow in 2006, I got in contact with the BBC team and we exchanged some ideas on this “The Long Walk” background. I was from the start sceptical, whereas they had an open agenda. More and more information in Autumn 2006 confirmed our doubts. I published an article on this subject in the Swedish “Historisk tidskrift” in 2007. It has be carefully translated into Russian (see links below).
I hope that any Google translations of this texts will reflect the substance matter of my article!!
In my article, I inter alia compare the descriptions of Soviet, and NKVD, realities given by the economist Stanislaw Swianiewicz “In the Shadow of Katyn”. I then wrote, and still consider that it would be much better to base a film on his experience than on the pure inventions concocted during the Cold war in Great Britain.
I say this even after I have seen the Peter Weir movie that premiered here in Sweden last Friday.
The Polish daily ‘Gazeta Wyborcza’ ran a story on 15 Aprilhttp://wyborcza.pl/1,75478,9435847,Ucieczka_prawdziwych_niepokonanych.html
about two Poles, Olgierd Sto?yhwo and Adam Backer, who escaped from Russia to Iran in 1940 (i.e. before the Anders-led exodus) and then via Afghanistan to India. The author of the article believes this may be the real story behind the ‘Long Walk’.
In the article, Rafa? Zasu? describes how, when they reached India, Stolyhowo and Backer became a ‘local sensation’ and were written about in the press; the Associated Press of India Correspondent for some reason mistakenly gave the number of escapees as four!
Anyway, it’s an interesting article and adds another piece to the jigsaw puzzle…
One of Zasun’s sources is the Sikorski Institute in London. I’m not sure where else he got his information from. If I have a bit more time and anyone’s interested I can try and translate some of it and post it here.Leszek Gliniecki
In order to cross from Soviet Union to India in 1940′s required only to traverse about 15-20km of Afghanistan territory, therefore it not represented a great problem, except for the avoidance of the border guards. At that time Pakistan did not yet exist.
With reference to Lennart Samelsson earlier posting.
I have read with interest Lennard Samuelsson article “Escape from the Gulag, or a prisoner of the myths of the Cold War?” as translated by Anastasia Kuzina, although the article deals mainly with Slavomir Rawicz, it was interesting to see his comments on the book “Gulag” by Anne Applebaum, and the attitute of Per Urvegord.
I agree that it is difficult for some people to accept the truth of some events if their minds are already, and unequivocally, made decision to the contrary.
It was perhaps was fortunate that in the case of Slavomir Rawicz the relevant documentation has been found, although rather late, and the deception has unrolled, otherwise controversy would have continued with no end to it.
In the case of Witold Glinski documentation was easily available for those who wanted, and were willing to consult it,and for those whose duty was to consult it before embarking upon costly, and financed by others, expedition.
Witold Glinski — Short summary.
For those who are new to these pages, and for better understanding, and perhaps to facilitate navigate through all the information, the following is a brief summary of Witold Glinski’s exile in Russia during 1940-1942.
Three versions as presented by John Dyson.
Version number 1. — In May 2009 issue of Reader’s Digest:
17 year old Witold Glinski, early in 1940, is sentenced in Lubianka Prison to 25 years of hard labour.
He arrives to a gulag, near Yakutsk in December 1940, from where he escapes in February 1941, and reaches India in January 1942.
Version number 2. — June 2009, in correspondence with Leszek Gliniecki John Dyson agrees Glinski’s presence in Kriesty settlement, in Arkhagelsk Province of Russia, in February and early Spring of 1941.
The above automatically precludes his presence in Yakutsk (4500km + from Kriesty),. or Lubianka — sentenced people would not be allowed to be in Kriesty,.
Additionally, Glinski somehow travels twice, from Kriesty to 700km+ distant Szachunia, to see his father. (Under no circumstances this would have been possible).
Version number 3. — Posted by Dyson on the internet on 7th January 2011.
According to this version Witold Glinski is more or less allowed to do what he wishes while in exile. He settles his mother in some village, visits his father, who is now in a near proximity of Kriesty, and then he decides to escape. The time frame varies from the previous versions.
The above three versions are diametrically opposed to each other, and therefore none can be taken seriously. It need to be added that each of these versions, according to John Dyson, was compiled from the notes taken by him during his 8- day interview with Glinski in November 2008.
However the first of those versions became rationale for Tomasz Grzywaczewski, and others, to undertake Expedition in the steps of Witold Glinski, and to this day Tomasz Grzywaczewski with companions propagates the first version as a true historical event.
Linda Willis and her book “Looking for Mr.Smith” published in November 2010.
I must complement Linda Willis for her perseverance in pursuing the subject, and also in rejecting version given to her by Glinski on the manner he arrived to Yakutsk.
Incredulity however arises, why did Linda Willis accept his version of the actual escape, while rejecting first part as not credible, particularly when the time frame did not allow for the long walk to take place.
However I must thank Linda in providing the name of the military unit, which Glinski has joined on the 7th March 1942. (given in the archives).
The following is therefore Witold Glinski’s history in exile in Russia.
1. 10th February 1940: forcefully sent into exile.
2. 24th February 1940 arrives to Kriesty in Arkhangelsk Province of Russia. (location of his exile).
3. Amnesty announced for Polish exiles in August 1941..
2nd September 1941 Glinski receives documentation allowing him to leave Kriesty for Szachunia, Province Gorki, to join his father.
4. 7th March 1942 — Glinski joins 8th Infantry Division of Polish Army in Czok-Pak, Russia.
5. 1st April 1942 — 8th Infantry Division arrives to Pahlevi in Persia, and comes under British Command.
The above is based on the archives from:
Polish Remembrance Institute in Warsaw.
Arkhangelsk Province Internal Affairs Department.
Polish Army in the West (London), and extract quoted in Linda Willis’s book “Looking for Mr.Smith”.
Gen. Sikorski archives in London.
Polish Embassy in USSR years 1941-1943.
But even more important, as far as I am concerned, was my personal knowledge that Witold Glinski lived in the same room as myself between September 1940 and June 1941 while we were attending the same school in Russia during our exile.
There was no possibility that he could have been escaping from somewhere else during that period.
My Grandfather Zdzislaw Piwowarski, one of the Poles who did walk to India.
Sorry I really should qualify my comments. I am 100% certain my Grandfather was put in a Gulag in Siberia. I am certain he walked to India. His story is true. The Story of the book and film I have no idea if this is true or not. However the parallels to my Grandfathers story and the documents I have such as his passport issued in India tell me there is more to this. I notice also the the team doing filming were keen to trace my Grandfather or family (me). I know my Grandfather’s story well but I am really keen to find out how this team locked onto him.
I know nothing about Glinski but my father was a 12 year old boy who escaped the Soviet camp leaving his mother and sister and travelling alone ended up in Palestine joining the Junaki. It may have taken him more than a year, I’m not sure. He found his mother 10 years later living in Canada. He is dead now and I only have bits and pieces of his story. I wish he had told me the whole story but it was too difficult for him…
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 …
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.
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?
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.
Bong of India
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”.
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!
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.
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!
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?
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!
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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
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.
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.
http://g.co/maps/4mhv6 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.
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
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.
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 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
How many different versions are you going to offer?
An Open Letter to Richard Rawicz and the Rawicz Family.
Dear Mr. Rawicz,
On 13th December I emailed you privately to ask you to please provide answers to a number of disturbing questions connected to your father’s book, “The Long Walk.”
Those questions remain unanswered.
As you have chosen to once again enter into the public debate about the misleading travel story, commonly known as “The Long Walk,” by posting your comments on Mikael Strandberg’s exploration blog, I feel the public and I have the right to pose questions to you and your four siblings.
To begin with, I believe it behoves the public to realise that you are the son of Slavomir Rawicz, the man who deliberately perpetrated the original Long Walk hoax on the public.
There are at least two websites which hold messages which confirm that you are the son of the author of “The Long Walk.”
Date: 5 May 2006
“my father was born in pinsk in 1915. his name was Slavomir Rawicz any information would be most appreciated.”
richardrawicz[the at sign]
Comments: My Father Slavomir Rawicz author of The Long Walk was in
Persia, R.A.F Cranwell, Croughton, Hucknall, between 1942-1946.
Any information would be greatly appreciated.
When the BBC investigated your father’s story in 2006, it discovered government documents proving that Slavomir Rawacz had been released in 1942 under a general amnesty designed to incorporate Polish prisoners of war into the Allied war effort. The BBC also learned that along with hundreds of other Polish prisoners, your father was sent from a Soviet prison camp directly to Persia.
In a article published in the Sunday Times on 19th December 2010, reporter Richard Brooks, wrote, “Two key pieces of evidence undermined, even destroyed, Rawicz’s story. First, from the Russian human rights organisation Memorial there was an amnesty document showing that Rawicz had been given his release in 1942, even though he maintained he had escaped in 1941. Second, that Rawicz had written in his own hand that he had been freed and went to Persia, not India.”
The news organization concluded that while there may have been an actual escape from Siberia to India, your father was not the escapee.
Furthermore, I gather that in a letter to the BBC, “even Rawicz’s own children appear to concede that his account was fictional.”
Therefore, the first question from my original email remains, do you have any evidence which would prove that the story published by your father and Ronald Downing was based on fact, not fiction?
If not, then allow me to express my shock at your family’s cold-blooded decision to continue to peddle your father and Downing’s book with the deliberately misleading title, “The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom.”
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 think 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.
On May 5th, 2004 a family friend named John Adams published an obituary regarding your father in the British newspaper, The Guardian. Mr. Adams wrote, “… each year he received hundreds of letters from people all over the world, inspired by his book, often school children. With Marjorie’s help, he answered them all.”
When I read that statement, I had to ask myself this question. Did Slavomir, and your mother, Marjorie, really sit down together and send school children misleading letters about the fictional trip?
As the son of Slavomir Rawicz, the man who deliberately perpetrated the original Long Walk hoax on the public, I am curious about your family’s current decision to continue to mislead the public as your parents apparently did.
The Amazon website is currently offering a new edition of your father’s book for sale. This is the description currently being advertised as “true” to a gullible public.
“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, Czechs and even a few American unfortunates who had been caught up in the fighting. A year later, he and six comrades from various countries escaped from a labour 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.”
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?
Finally, 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?
CuChullaine O’Reilly FRGS
I must admit to being taken aback by Mr Dyson’s response to my article.
It seems that, despite all the archive evidence I’ve produced and all the contradictions I pointed out, he still prefers to believe Mr Glinski’s assertion that all records at the time were chaotic and unreliable.
Neither does he address all the discrepencies between the different accounts Mr Glinski has given. And where he does address issues which I raised which do not make sense in Mr Glinski’s different accounts, Mr Dyson’s new information appears to create new contradictions and raise further questions.
I will come back to this, but let me first say that to be begin with, it was not at all obvious that Mr Glinski was in Kriesty at all as Kriesty was not mentioned in the Readers Digest article – in fact, if the Lubianka episode was accurate Kriesty would not fit in. That is because in the Lubianka episode Glinski was sentenced to hard labour. Kriesty was for exiles not a hard labour camp. Mr Dyson has never confirmed that Mr Glinski was at the school I attended, even though it is obvious from the correspondence between myself and JD that he was asking Mr Glinski questions raised by me.
Now it appears the Lubianka episode did not necessarily happen. I will return to this.
Also the fact that Mr Dyson now says he got a key date wrong in correspondence to me actually has major knock on effect for undermining other dates and locations he gave me in correspondence. But I will not go too far in to that now because there is so much else to say.
It’s difficult to address everything that Mr Dyson said in response to my article. So I will start by pointing out a selection of the new contradictions that Mr Dyson’s response has raised.
JD in his original Readers Digest ariticle (May 2009): Glinski is sentenced to 25 years hard labour in Lubianka prison.
JD new information: JD is not sure if the Lubianka prison episode happened – he now says it may have been some kind of “euphemism”.
Comment: Surely this is letting Mr Glinski off the hook rather too easily. If he cannot be relied upon to remember something as dramatic and striking as the Lubianka episode accurately, surely this casts doubt on other things he says. What other recollections might be “euphemisms”? The escape from Yakutsk? The Long Walk itself?
JD new information: Glinski’s father, a high-ranking Polish officer, was in charge of a power plant in a mine at a camp close to Kriesty. Glinski could visit him pretty much at will for a period of two weeks because the whole area around Kriesty was a labour camp. Glinski absconded from Kriesty in 1940 before the general amnesty of Polish exiles.
This raises a new contradiction with Linda Willis’ book: Glinski’s father was sentenced to hard Labour in an unspecified camp. His father was 700 kilometres away in Szachunia. Glinski and other family members joined his father in Szachunia in 1941 after the general amnesty.
JD new information: Glinski was advised by his father to “go south” in 1940 before the amnesty.
New contradiction with Linda Willis’ book: Glinski was advised by his father to “go east” in 1941 after the amnesty.
Comment: Exiles were not able just to leave Kriesty at will. Under exceptional circumstances, internees were given 24 hour passes. Spending two weeks in another camp would not have been sanctioned either by the authorities at Kriesty or the authorities of the other camp concerned. Nor could exiles roam easily getting on and off trains without being challenged. I think anyone who experienced life as an exile would find the picture Glinski paints of just being able to travel around in this way – almost at will – unthinkable. Also, and most importantly, two matching archives say Glinski left Kriesty together with family members (with travel documentation for Szachunia) after the amnesty and not before as claimed to John Dyson.
Here are some further general comments:
JD now says he never thought to ask Glinski whether he was at school in Kriesty.
Comment: Yet I wrote to JD specifically because I was at school in Kriesty with Glinski – raising this and a number of other matters. Did he not ask Glinski whether he was at school with me at that point? And yet when he relayed Glinski’s answers to my questions during our extended correspondence, at no point did JD ever say that Glinski confirmed that he was at school in Kriesty.
JD new information: Glinski found in late life he is two years older than he thought he was meaning he was born in 1924.
Comment: How and at what point does someone lose track their own age? And how does this square with Mr Dyson’s assertion to me in correspondence that Mr Glinski thought he was the same age as his younger sister – ie born in 1928. Glinski apparently said this confusion had somehow occurred because of faulty records. What is the nature and origin of these faulty records, by the way? Can he produce them?
And still on the matter of documentation which JD referred to in correspondence with me. JD said he had seen similar documentation to the archive documents I sent him. But he did not say exactly what this documentation was and why seeing it played a part in his decision to dismiss the archive evidence I was putting forward. What exactly was this material he had seen? And again, can he produce it?
Returning to JD’s new information. One other observation that JD makes in his response to my article is that Glinski planned his escape from Yakutsk alone whereas in Linda Willis’ book, Glinski planned his escape from Yakutsk with two others.
Comment: JD himself is pointing out a clear contradiction between two accounts given by Glinski. Why does this not raise a red flag for JD and lead him to question the reliability of what Glinski is saying?
Back to JD’s new information: The Polish officers were sick and being nursed by the Polish sergeant. Glinski went to cadet school and therefore would not be led by sick officers.
Comment: Young military students would have been in awe of Polish officers and naturally deferential to them whether the officers were sick or not. One would have expected officers to provide knowledge, experience, advice and maintain an air of authority whether they were fully fit or not. And surely they could not have been that ill because of the many thousands of kilometres which, according to Glinski’s account, they must have covered and the hardships they endured. Glinski’s account shows no indication of the respect or deference that one might normally have expected a cadet to have shown to Polish officers.
In conclusion let me make the key point again. Mr Glinski’s account to Mr Dyson contradicts matching information in Russian, Polish and English archives and information Glinski’s own military records. There are also inconsistencies, contradictions and changes of story Glinski’s accounts. Yet on Mr Glinski’s word alone, Mr Dyson is apparently prepared to overlook all this.
In my humble opinion, I think that you have done an excellent job hosting and moderating this discussion of “The Long Walk” and “The Way Back.” Everyone interested in this subject ought to be grateful for your efforts. Just witness the way in which you took John Dyson’s long response and nicely reformatted and reposted it.
The debate has been very thought provoking. All of the participants also ought to be thanked for their contributions. In years past an information exchange such as this might have taken months or even years. Now we are able to debate the matter in near real time.
Which leads me to a question. Thus far one person apparently missing from this discussion has been Linda Willis. As we are all aware, she devoted years to researching “Looking For Mr. Smith,” a well written, engrossing discussion of this entire subject. Have you or someone else contacted her to seek her views regarding Leszek Gliniecki’s article and the subsequent responses? Many of us would especially like to know her assessment of this latest material.
In reply to your observation concerning Gliniecki, yes, I agree that the discussion has become a little heated. However, I really cannot comment one way or the other. Levinson at the BBC has mentioned him but I know absolutely nothing about Gliniecki. I can only hope that any controversy over The Long Walk will eventually contribute to solid, documented information coming forth that will shed more light on the subject. Whether the target of controversy is Rawicz, Glinski, Mr. Smith, or any of the other men who escaped or tried to escape and walked to India, as I describe in Looking for Mr. Smith, I feel that all views should be aired and the public invited to join in the investigation of claims and counter-claims.
Thank you again Mikael for pursuing this subject. Sincerely, Linda Willis
Dear Ms. Willis,
Thank you for joining this discussion thread. As everyone acquainted with the subjects of “The Long Walk” and “The Way Back” knows, your decade of work in the area and recent book have greatly contributed to our understanding of the subject. All of us are in your debt.
I believe that we all understand that until very recently you did not know of Leszek Gliniecki. The question now before us are the implications of his recent article and the ensuing discussion. As one of the foremost authorities in the area, the value of your opinions and views cannot be underestimated.
Hence, I hope that you will permit me to ask: Do you believe Gliniecki’s evidence to be credible? Do his contemporary documents support his conclusions? Is his analysis of Glinski’s testimony to you and to John Dyson correct? Do you think that Gliniecki’s conclusions concerning Glinski are convincing? If not, could you please indicate why? I, and I believe everyone monitoring this mail thread, would welcome your responses to these questions.
In advance of your reply, I would like to thank you for considering my request.
Waldimar C Rawicz
Reply from W.C.Rawicz to CuChullaine O’Reilly.
Having given yourself the position of judge, jury and executioner of Slavomir Rawicz and his
family I feel you should be brought to order.
You cold heartedly claim that my father is “conveniently not around to be cross examined”.
My father died from a broken heart 3 months after the death of his beloved wife of 60 years.
At no time have we as a family conceded our father account to be fictional!
There is doubt in my mind that the release documents found by the BBC where signed by
my father.His very distinctive hand writing is nowhere on the copies I have seen.Papers
supposedly signed at a time when forgery,deception and corruption wher common place.
My father certainly did not steal a story from Witwold Glinski.We have had 5 different versions or his outrageous claims,he really needs to make up his mind which one to
adhere to futhermore he is himself at the moment under scrutiny.
The book was written nearly 60 years ago do you now expect us to unwrite it?
If you are expecting myself and my family to don sackcloth and ashes and to spend the rest
of our lives with our heads bowed in shame then I am afraid you are seriously mistaken.
We are all proud fo our father whose whole purpose in writing the book was to show to the
world the cruelty, oppression and murder perpetrated by the Stalin regime.
The”excellent book” by Linda Willis that you refer to contains so many errors and untruths,
written without any contact or reference to us and closed proving nothing.
This is strictly between my family and our agents and certainly NO BUSSINESS of yours!
The number of supporters of my father and his book far outweigh his critics.
We are in the possession of a mountain of fan mail to prove it.
Whilst I respect that you are entitled to your opinions, you are only in possession of a
fractions of information surrounding The Long Walk and Slavomir Rawicz and I feel that
your ignorance is only overshadowed by your arrogance.
My father wrote “Remember always the precious heritage of freedom”
Please respect that statement and let my family enjoy our peace and freedom.
The Long Walk and The Third Eye – Companions in Crime
Dear Mr. Rawicz,
Allow me to extend my sympathies over the loss of your mother and to acknowledge the grief felt by your father.
However, 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. Nor should the investigation into your father’s literary hoax be sidetracked by your attempts at patriotic anti-Stalin flag waving.
This isn’t about freedom, Mr. Rawacz, it is about your family’s claim to a gullible public that your father’s book is a “true” story. Nor do reams of letters from misled readers alter that fact.
Ironically, while the debate continues about the increasing likelihood that the Long Walk has inspired a double travel hoax, i.e. both Rawicz and Glinski claiming ownership of the same lie, there is an undisclosed element of this debate, namely that the year of publication, 1956, gave birth to not one, but two of the world’s most outrageous frauds in the history of travel literature.
As the world now knows, an English reporter named Ronald Downing helped a Polish refugee named Slavomir Rawicz to write what has now proved to be a deliberate hoax, “The Long Walk.”
But what has been overlooked is that in that same year ANOTHER Tibetan travel fraud was also perpetrated on the world.
“The Third Eye” was written by an English plumber named Cyril Hoskin. Published in 1956, in this fictional account, the plumber turned holy man said his real name was Tuesday Lobsang Rampa. Hoskin/Rampa claimed to have been a lama in Tibet, before sending his soul to reside in the plumber’s body. Hoskin, (8 April 1910 – 25 January 1981) who described himself as the “host” of Tuesday Lobsang Rampa, went on to write nearly twenty books based upon his imaginary theology and travels.
Yet Rampa had his critics – now and then.
Agehananda Bharati was an authentic scholar of Tibetan Buddhism who held the rank of sannyasin in the Dashanami Order. Asked by the publishers to inspect Hoskin’s manuscript prior to publication, he denounced Rampa’s writings as ‘cretinistic confabulations’.
Yet, when “The Third Eye” was published despite his objections, Bharati pointed out, “Publishers are not the harbingers of authenticity, but businessmen. They published the book in spite of the negative reports, anticipating its sales potential. And they were right. I understand the six British editions sold close to eighty thousand copies. The German translation, wouldn’t you know it, sold close to a hundred thousand, and comparable numbers of copies were sold in other European languages. People simply cannot stand the idea that there is no abominable snowman, that there is no white brotherhood somewhere in the Himalayas, and that people do not fly through the air except in planes.”
The scholar became even more concerned when it became apparent that though people realized Rampa was a fake, they still eagerly accepted his story.
Bharati warned, “The popularity of these faux mysteries from the east is not due to the difficulty in getting access to the scholarly works. It is due to the attractiveness of fantasy and the ease with which fantasy can be understood and appear to be profound. It is due to the desire to be special and to have knowledge of the mysteries of life without having to study or think very hard.”
Ironically, a reporter for the Daily Mail denounced Rampa’s deceit in 1958, even though Downing, another Daily Mail reporter, had previously been involved in writing the fraudulent Long Walk account in 1956.
Yet as 1956 drew to a close, both books were denounced as frauds by a single remarkable source of Tibetan wisdom and eyewitness experience.
George Patterson is an extraordinary man, universally known as Patterson of Tibet. There was nothing in his early life to indicate that this son of a Scottish minister would go on to lead a life of adventure, travel and intrigue. Yet George turned his back on all that he knew and journeyed into remote Tibet at the conclusion of the Second World War. He not only underwent a great spiritual awakening there, George also became involved with the Tibetan resistance to the invading Chinese Communist army.
George’s subsequent equestrian journey, across the Himalayas in the winter of 1949, to deliver a plea for help from Tibet to the outside world is now the stuff of legend.
Since the Chinese invasion of Tibet, George has continued to be a tireless champion of that captured nation. He became a noted journalist, covering Tibet and exposing Chinese atrocities there. In the 1950s he led a documentary film crew into occupied Tibet and filmed native guerrillas attacking Chinese army motor convoys. And he assisted in the rescue of the Dalai Lama from Lhasa into India. Because of these activities, Patterson was sentenced to death in absentia by the Beijing authorities, a sentence which has never been withdrawn.
George is still writing and recently lectured at Cambridge about his experiences in Tibet. When the Dalai Lama last visited Britain, he especially asked to meet up again with his old friend, George Patterson.
I spoke to George yesterday on Skype. He’s now 90, retired in and living Scotland. His brain is as sharp as ever, and George is still able to recall how the BBC asked him in 1956 to review the two books about Tibet – The Long Walk and The Third Eye.
George told me in no uncertain terms yesterday that he clearly remembers denouncing both books to the BBC as preposterous hoaxes.
Did anyone listen? Apparently not, as both books enriched their authors. Though it is interesting to note that in 1965 Harper Publishers in New York reissued Rawicz’s book with the new title – “The Long Walk, A Gamble for Life”. Why was it suddenly no longer a “true story”? Had they heard Patterson?
Sadly, the original warning issued by Patterson of Tibet lay forgotten until Mikael Strandberg bravely reignited this search for the truth regarding “The Long Walk,” and its companion in literary crime, “The Third Eye.”
For more information about Patterson of Tibet, please visithttp://www.classictravelbooks.com/authors/patterson.htm
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
Tomasz Grzywaczewski “Long Walk PLUS Expedition”
Mikael, I read both Gliniecki report and Dyson’s reply. I was thinking a lot about this matter and I came to the conclusion that Gliniecki’s evidence seem to be really solid. But on the other hand Dyson gave the same answers as I had heard from Glinski. They are very vague but still they can explain abovementioned doubts. I was cosindering what to do in this situation, how my next article should look like? Then I read your report that it was time for you to end your energy in Long Walk discussions. It inspired me and my decision is not to get more deeply in this dispute. I don’t want to be involved in quarell between Glinski and Rawicz heirs. It might be the task for historians or investigation journalists. I In my last article I gave my testimony: I would like to commemorate victims of totalitarianism, not to seek the truth behing “The Long Walk”, I also want to show that world might be a great adventure and if only you have passion of life.Mr Gliniecki revealed new documents regarding Glinski’s case and on their basis he accused him of being a lier. It has started a very hot discussion about his truthfulness. But I consider if anybody make an effort and ask Witold himself about his reply to these accusations. Mr Glinski is still alive so it should not be a problem to meet with him and make an interview asking these inconvenient questions. To my mind it is a metter of pure decency to give him a right to defend his point of view. As I mentioned before I do not feel involved in these dispute so I leave this matter to the people who are in it.
My father who was polish in what is now Belorssia was captured and sent to the gulag escaped or was set free at the time russia swapped sides. He and four others made it to Persia and then to Palestine. There he joined the Polish Free forces and ended up in Nottingham UK building Hurricanes He stayed in England and married my English mother. I have photos of the eastern Polish platoon he was with with all their names signed on the back of the photograph.
I am very interested in the whole story and would welcome anyone elses thought s on this matter.
Dear Mr. Sheppard,
I wish you luck in your quest and hope that you find the information that you are seeking.
However, just to ensure that there is no misunderstanding, when you say that your father was sent to the gulag and that he “… escaped or was set free at the time russia [sic] swapped sides,” please remember that there is all of the world of difference between those disjuncts.
We all know that sadly in 1939 – 1941 the Soviets interned many Poles under horrible conditions and that after the German invasion of the Soviet Union happily many of them were released via Persia. The interesting question is whether any of those interned Poles escaped from the Gulag and made there way overland to India. The problem with The Long Walk is that Rawicz claimed membership in the second group when in fact documents show that he really belonged in the first.
Again, good luck in your search.
I would like to echo the disappointment expressed on the IMDb thread referenced above that Linda Willis has not responded to the evidence that I have presented regarding the credibility of Witold Glinski.
There is no doubt Willis did a fine job in digging out the archive evidence which discredited Slawomir Rawicz.
But I must admit that I am disappointed by the fact that she has given a platform to Witold Glinski given that there is so much evidence – including matching archive material – that his claims are suspect.
Even if we disregard what Glinski told John Dyson and confine ourselves to his account to Willis in isolation, there appear to be major inconsistencies and discrepencies with archive material from several sources.
And – in line with what has been suggested elsewhere – the biggest question to my mind concerns evidence connected with the all important chronology.How can there be time for Glinski to have done the Long Walk in the period between being released after the amnesty by the Soviet authorities and joining the Polish Army?
Willis’ book “Looking for Mr Smith” provides information which is relevant in this matter. On page 139 of Looking For Mr Smith, Willis herself states that Glinski received his amnesty from the Soviets on 2 September 1941. Then, on page 128 she reveals that Glinski’s military records show that he joined the Polish Army on 7 March 1942.
But this is only a period of just over six months. Surely this would preclude his having undertaken The Long Walk. After all, the Long Walk by itself took 11 months (and that doesn’t include time we must allow for other pertinent events before and after the walk).
So given this contradictory information that she gathered during her research, I am curious as to why she still had faith in Glinski’s credibility and gave his claims a platform in her book. And of course – like others – I would be interested to hear her comments on the other related material I have turned up in addition.
Dear Mr Gliniecki,
Thank you for sharing your experiences and research with us on the internet. Its very valuable. Regarding your point that Glinski received amnesty at a time that would have made his trek improbable, I was just wondering what your response is to Mr Dyson’s above where he said,
“One has to wonder how long it would have taken the authorities, such as they were, to realize 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.”
Does this not seem possible? Willis’ book also mentions on page 172 that “Rumor had it that the commandant had somehow disgraced himself because of alcoholism while in Poland, and he and his wife were in exile in Siberia-marking time so to speak-until he had rehabilitated himself”.
It does seem likely that the commandant might not want to make a public statement that a number of men escaped his camp. It would make sense that he would like to bury the whole affair, not draw attention to his own blunder and give the men amnesty at the same time everyone else in camp got it.
Im curious about your thoughts on the matter and thanks again,
In response to Mr Masefield…
I think that the first general point I would like to make is that Glinski’s credibility appears to me 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. Clearly this is very important.
But to concentrate for a moment on the archive material which Mr Masefield has questioned.
Any document can be inaccurate just as any any testimony can be false. But, as been argued elsewhere, you need to have some sort of evidence to indicate why contemporary documents are in error beyond random speculation.
The kind of archive evidence I have produced is relied upon by Governments, historians and others to piece together what actually happened during World War II.
It is generally accepted that this kind of material is reliable. Soviet archives in particular have an extremely good reputation for accuracy. The Soviet authorities were obsessive about crushing potential opposition. The movements and whereabouts of millions were monitored as real or imagined opponents were transported to prison, exile or places of execution. Records of this were thorough, and in retrospect, incriminating.
The Polish government has long understood how important and reliable Soviet archives are. Ever since the end of communist rule, the Polish government has been pressing the Russian government to release archives connected to the Katyn atrocity where thousands of Polish officers were murdered by the Soviets in cold blood.
Recently, the Soviets have officially accepted responsibility for the atrocity. But crucial archive material is still being withheld and Polish government would dearly like to obtain it in order to get a fuller picture of exactly what happened and document the full details of the atrocity.
Of course, the Glinski story is insignificant in the overall picture of what went on during the Soviet deportations. But by questioning the accuracy of Soviet archive material in general, you leave the door open to questioning similar material in other areas, allowing apologists for those who don’t want the truth to come out to distort what actually happened. So it follows that reasons for questioning this sort of archive material should very specific and very strong with a solid basis.
I think Linda Willis understands the weightiness of archive evidence and that is why I personally feel it is important that we hear her views about the archive evidence I have presented that contradicts Glinski’s story.
Another important point connected with this is that I believe it would be very wise for the Polish government to steer clear of anyone whose credibilty relies on disputing Soviet and other matching archive material without very strong and credible evidence because it could backfire later. That is one of the reasons I wrote to the Polish Foreign Office.
John Dyson’s speculation as to why the archives may be wrong is just that – speculation without any evidence to back it up. And the information Mr Masefield offers unfortunately doesn’t even concern the commandant at Kriesty. It concerns the commandant at the Yakutsk Gulag (and for all we know this commandant is a fictitious character as no firm independent information about him or the Gulag exist).
And now we get what is so extraordinary about the Glinski case, to my mind. He has given several different accounts. There are inconsistencies and incoherences. And in addition we are then asked to wave aside solid historical documentary evidence because it is inconvenient.
Yet the people who gave him a platform either stick by him or remain silent. I’ve asked John Dyson if he would like to share the unspecified documentary evidence that he mentioned in correspondence with me (see above). He has not done so.
Dyson himself has also stated in his reply to me at the top of this page that Glinski told him two versions of his story. Did that not suggest to him that there was something amiss? Shouldn’t he have been cautious about broadcasting Glinski’s extraordinary claims when he had been given two versions that didn’t match up? I think that’s a reasonable question, yet we have no answer.
And, unless I am missing something, Linda Willis too had information which indicated that it would have made it impossible for Glinski to have completed The Long Walk because of a lack of time (see my previous post). So, again, why give him an uncritical platform?
John A. Gladych
My father, Stanislaw Z. Gladych, was born in Warsaw in 1920. From the time I was a small boy he told of his escape with 6 others from a work camp/ mine in Siberia and his arrival in India. He said that he and the others escaped in an empty fuel truck from the work camp. He never told me the details of their trek to India but related that he boarded a ship bound for England which was sunk in the North Sea by a German U-boat. He told of having to swim beneath burning oil and of being rescued and brought to a hospital in England. His older brother, Mike Gladych, happened to visit that hospital to see a member of his squadron who was injured. To his surprise his brother Stan was in the adjacent bed! Mike, a decorated Ace pilot ensured that my dad was nursed to health- threatening the staff with their lives if his brother died. My dad and uncle Mike told of my dad being trained as a pilot and was shot down on his first mission again ending up in the North Sea, this time with 6 bullets across his chest. My dad had six round scars in a diagonal across his chest to his abdomen. Dad told me that he had been part of an underground operation smuggling Jewish friends out of Warsaw when his operation was caught and he was sent to Siberia. My uncle Mike is 93 and living in Seattle. My dad died just before his 61st birthday. Mike was able to locate his youngest brother, John, who spent the war years as a prisoner in a German work camp. All three Gladych boys were taken in by an English family who saw to their education. I remember meeting ” Grampa Peter” the englishman who cared for my dad and brothers when he visited from England to our home in Chicago. My dad went on to become a highly successful architect working on Ohare field, the J Edgar Hoover FBI building, the First National Bank Building in Chicago, Mercy Hospital, the water filtration facility in Chicago, and the Air Force Academy Chapel, among other well known projects. He was the type of man that could survive anything, build anything, find food anywhere, fish, hunt, and live in the wilderness. After hearing about the movie I have begun researching as much as possible to verify my dad’s story. If nothing else, I never knew my dad to lie to me, and it is the story that I have recounted to many over the years. My dad spoke of extreme hunger in his life, and of man’s ability to survive extreme conditions with intellect and intestinal fortitude. He was a 6 foot 3 inch giant of a man. He never spoke of any names of any of his fellow escapees. Ingrained in my memory is my dad’s statements that “so easy is to follow, so hard is to conceive.” rest in peace dad. -John Gladych, Esq.
I commend you, Mr. Gliniecki, and thank you, for your scholarship and persistence. I feel you have made your case clearly and reasonably. I also commend your patience and hope you will not be tempted into an emotional response by some of the strange and clueless comments that have appeared here.
I read “The Long Walk” in Catholic junior high in the sixties. Most of America at that time, and Catholics in particular, were rabidly anti-communist. This story was one of several the nuns offered to our young minds as something of an “antidote”. I remember finding it a harrowing tale. It saddens me to learn that it was actually fiction, but it doesn’t really surprise me. Of course, the totalitarian regime it described was all too real. I still think it is so ironic that Russian Communism ended as it did. The nuns sure did not predict that!
I can only assume that Linda Willis needs time to get over the embarassment of her being so wrong. It can’t be easy for anyone to admit to being duped but I hope she takes stock and finds the courage to revise her published account.
History has shown that humans are capable of enduring great hardship and tremendous pain and suffering, especially when they are deeply motivated. I believe numerous men (and women) likely escaped from camps and prisons in that era and found their way to freedom through tremendous personal effort. But a false tale of escape diminishes the real events. There is nothing wrong with writing an inspiring tale that “could be true” but if it is not true, it should not be presented as such. I don’t know why that concept is so hard for some people.