The mystery of The Long Walk is still alive. In average I have about 4000 readers a month who´s only interest is the Long Walk. And I notice most people don´t read all articles, only one or two of them and comments show that some still are for Slavomir Rawicz and some against. But very few seem to take the time to read all articles to get the bigger picture. It seems people like to have their own opinion, especially the one´s who are for that the story of Slavomir Rawicz is the truth and nothing but the whole truth. And some have actually met him or his relatives and they all seem to believe in the story, because Slavomir and his supporters come across as very believable. Fair enough. There´s no doubt that it is both a great read and an inspirational story. It is just a shame it doesn´t add up.
One of the main reasons I personally once got involved in the Long Walk Mystery, as it surely is, was due to the fact that 97% of those with opinions had absolutely no experience themselves of either having been part of the system of lagiers called the GULAG, like Leszek Gliniecki, who´s article is one of the most read and commented, or Siberia. Or of the extreme cold climate or the Soviet Union itself. Extremely few of the commentators or writers on the subject have been to a former camp or lagier. So what I did intially, I applied the experience of explorers who had good experience in all those above and some with not, but who were extreme athletes and the research ended up adding a bigger picture to it, but still offered no proof that the Long Walk ever happened. At least not as Slavomir Rawicz claimed. For these reasons, there´s also no surprise that the best work done so far on the subject is by a Pole, Zbigniew Stanczyk, read his article which is the best to date.
I am in Karaganda now, where one of the biggest GULAGS in terms of area existed up until a few years after 1953, the KARLAG. And when I tell locals over the age of 45 years about the Long Walk, most of them just smile and none of them believe that anyone actually could have walked all that distance. People did escape and many did some extra ordinary walks, but none like the one claimed by Rawicz. The main reasons for the walk being impossible, according to the locals, was how over worked, tired, sick and guarded most prisoners were. Either by guards or the environment. And they carefully tell me to note the big distances of steppe where there were few locals living in those days (and today) and not all local people helped the escapees, mainly due to their own fears of getting problems. Nevertheless, my questions were not a scientific job, just off hand, so treat it like that.
But, I have written a report about my experience of visiting the KARLAG, which will follow this piece, a visit which opened my eyes in many way. And one of the people who some researchers thought might be the mysterious American called Mr Smith, Alexander Dolgun, spent time here. At Steplag. But I just want you readers to note and have in mind that many people who are involved in the Long Walk on a research point, especially non-poles, they have never spent any longer time in extreme cold or have walked long distances. Some haven´t even visited the former Soviet Union and the areas where the GULAGS existed. For me that makes a major difference. Documents is one thing, extreme cold another.
And, I think, for me the most important discovery visiting the former KARLAG is all the new research done since I started to do some simple research into this issue, back in 2008. The discovery is more about the mentality and reality of understanding the system of GULAGS, but doesn´t share any profound new light in the Long Walk itself. Not more than I know the story of Slavomir Rawicz never happened as he claims it did. But, yes, I know the story is inspiring, but it isn´t true. The two Yetis he met on route surely know that.