Slavomir Rawicz Message Board
Confused/Astounded posts on 2/24/2008 4:10:42 PM
I have just finished reading "The Long Walk" for the first time. I had no idea the book even existed until a chance conversation about my father prompted someone to give me their copy.
I was born in Botswana to a Polish father and I can't remember how old I was when I was first told of his escape from a Siberian concentration camp that led him to India - then to Britain and then to Botswana. He rarely spoke of his journey and would only answer my simplist questions. He had no toes on his left foot and I asked about them - frost bite - he told me at first, then as I got older he told me a little more - in Siberia - the death march - had to cut them off to save his foot. When I was a teenager I met another Pole when we moved to England. I was told he was a distant cousin of my fathers and a fellow escapee.
Reading Rawicz's book has opened so much emotion for me. So much of the stories I grew up with fit into the book and yet so much does not. None of the names in the book fit. My fathers journey brought him into India much later - by the time he was recovered in hospital the war was over. I knew of 4 survivors (not including Rawicz who I never met or knew of). I never was told how many were in the group to start with. Prior to escaping he was moved several times from one camp to another. My father would not talk about it - he would get very upset. Little bits and pieces came out from unrelated conversations. He would never eat lamb - telling me once it was because of such bad memories of his journey. Lamb and goat being the only meat they ate - the catching and killing arduous and inhumane, the meat often barely cooked or rotting from rationing it out over long periods. I don't know if his story was a different story - Could there have been several groups of escapees over the years that made the trip? Was he one of the group that escaped with Rawicz? Were all the names and dates changed to protect families in what had become the USSR? Did my father change his name and assume another identity in India? Those were terrible times and I was always aware that my father held secrets that he had no intention of ever exposing. My father died in 1973 aged 53. I read the book in one session and immediately went on line when I finished to see if Slavomir Rawicz was still alive - I was crushed to see he was not. I am at a loss as what to do now. I hesitate to give my name in case there is still a reason (I have no idea what) my fathers identity needs to be hidden. I would love to hear more from those who have done research - I am ashamed to say I have done none.
Compton Boodhoo posts on 2/20/2008 9:51:22 AM
I have read this book twice and believe the story is largely true, the criticisms of the lack of accuracy in describing geography is not valid, imagine not being schooled in topography and having to describe the country you are passing through accurately. Many of us would not do well.
Only knowing Smith’s last name seems suspect, but maybe Smith had the presence of mind to know that revealing his real identity could be dangerous. If your real identity is known then it would be possible to track you if the escape attempt is successful. It is also possible that he really was a spy.
These were men who escaped from a Russian prison, it is not difficult to imagine that they would all want to lie low and not be identified after successfully escaping. According to the book these men avoided all the villages and endured starvation because of the fear of being re-captured by the Russians. It is not surprising that we have not heard from the other members of the party.
The girl in the story seem suspicious, but these were extremely harsh times. I have learned that fact is often stranger than fiction.
The account of seeing the Yeti also makes you think, but we are all asked to read the account and judge the truthfulness. History is full of amazing stories of human endurance, and all the stories are subject to question. Rawicz points out that they never did have a clear idea of how to escape and where to go. Even when on the escape trek they often did not know where they were and where they were going.
Enough said. It is natural that this story would be questioned.
Lee Falco posts on 1/4/2008 6:05:20 PM
I just finished reading about Slavomir Rawicz and the other 6 people that started this incredible journey with him.
To me it proves once again that humans can be the most inhumans of any higher form of animals. It also proves to me how the will to survive is imbeded in our DNA or at least some of us.
I am a hiker with all types of what I call yupie gear and when I do a 6 to 10 mile hike think I have done something.
I cannot comprehend doing 4,000 miles with house slippers and a light weight closthes and no food or water to speak of.
I could not put the book down.
I wonder if anyone could do this today; I think not.
What an inspiring book, it makes you think deep and long.
Desmond posts on 12/16/2007 9:25:45 PM
Really does anyone believe that making such a long jurney with other men under such conditions that you wouldn't know every detail of someones life. This business of only knowing Mr. Smith by his last name.
I can't take a two hour car drive without asking a million questions of everyone in the car.
Also, i find it impossible that none of the other men ever told their story. No one eached out to him after this? Years later?
oswald posts on 12/12/2007 10:09:18 PM
The story is one of beauty and pain. There is enough truth for it to be believable. One rather convincing truth is how slav occasionally mentions especially good meals. When fabricating a tale one sticks to the plot and main storyline, why wander about recounting menus? It is thoroughly logical that one so emaciated and starved would recount with fondness past meals. These and other odd details, and others, like an old man's clasp-knife or a nice pair of boots, destroy all hope of making the book a piece of well-constructed prose or a gripping adventure story. Quite frankly, it's not written like a lie. There is too much of the human, of the inglorious to be a sad man's desperate bid for attention and respect. It is much too human.
Brian R posts on 10/26/2007 2:19:12 PM
Doesn't it seem that the prison camp life as described was extremely lenient, with more food given to prisoners than either Solgenytzen or Anne Applebaum have written about?
Brian R posts on 10/26/2007 2:05:27 PM
I just finished The Long Walk.
It is not that such a mamouth undertaking is unbelievable. One needs only to consider the Antarctic Expeditions led by Ernest Shakelton to understand how some people can respond and survive extreme adversity.
There are lots of detailed and considered opinions in the postings.
My instincts say the book has many improbables found mostly in fiction.
1) It does not seem that a nation with scarce armaments would provide a personal airplane to the Camp Commandant. He had been dishonered to a concentration camp position or he would have had a more responsible position at the time so his meetings would not have been so important as to provide a plane. 2) Nothing I have read previously hints at prisoners having any personal relationships with the "camp authorities" or their families let alone becoming an accomplice. 3) Never knowing the full name of a person you walk 4000 miles with. 4) The addition to the story of a wayward girl. 5) The number of men in the escape party seems large and the preparation almost whimsical. 6) the mention of discovering yesterday's caravan at the oasis. 7) The Yeti. 8) The length of time on the desert with no water.
Just to name a few.
I would love to believe the story as gospel.
Fred posts on 10/15/2007 8:28:12 PM
The ability for humans to survive is amazing, but the ability to remember so many details, like the food he receives from the Mongolians, is something I doubt.
Jack Wright posts on 8/29/2007 11:06:26 PM
In response to Glenn, you are confusing Indian hospital records during the war with documentation of refugees entering India. I can assure you that there is no end of careful lists in government records of those entering India and of any foreigners in Tibet. Hospital records are not the same as entry/exit records. Movements of people were carefully tracked for obvious reasons to do with spys. This was especially true in the case of places like Tibet and Afghanistan.
As far as his re-entry into the Polish forces, one of the many problems is that he claimed in a letter to the Spectator in the 1950s that he returned to the Soviet Union in 1942 and re-joined the polish forces on Soivet soil. What British and polish records exist are consistant with him arriving in the middle east during Stalin's mass release of poles and then making his way eventually to Palestine.
As regards what he "knew" of mongolia, India and Tibet. The first problem is that he did not write the words that appear in the book. The book is ghostwritten by Ronald Dowling. The second problem is that in the 1950s experts in asia were brought together and the universal opinion was that his account of the countries was not consistant with the actual countries. His encounter with British troops on the frontier of India is false. There were no soliders of the type he describes in the area he claims to have arrived in. One of the things armies do during a war is carefully track where units are and they were not where Rawicz claims. In the 1950s, Peter Fleming who was an authority in the areas he claimed to have been in wrote as to why his account was wrong. There was also a BBC program around the time of publication where several noted experts questioned the story's geographical and cultural accuracy in great detail. They noted as examples the absurdity of crossing the Gobi as described and the fact that the book doesn't mention the large east-west road the travellers would have had to cross. The geographical and cultural details of the book have historically been its weakest point. Defenders have in the past put these flaws down to translation or bad memory. Its ironic that they would now be raised in defense of the book. And there is the problem of his "boat trip" from Calcutta to the middle east which almost certainly did not happen as no troopships or convoys moved from Calcutta to the middle east in the period where the Japanese dominated the bay of bengal in the spring of 1942. The convoy records for the war are also very complete.
As far as the soviet records, the entry documents in his own handwriting for his transit to the middle east are difficult to question. The other records (which I think came out of Belerus) concerning his "crimes" are easier to challenge and I dont think anyone is as certain of those as the other records. And the nature of the government in Belerus makes research very risky if not impossible.
As far as your characterization of the BBC broadcast as "anti-Rawicz", I dont think thats fair. Some of the people involved spent years of their lives trying to prove the story was true but then being convinced otherwise by the facts.
susan posts on 8/23/2007 3:21:43 AM
I have just finished reading this book and have to say I found it a good read.I didn't realise there was documentary evidence available,although I did listen to he BBC programme.Can anyone tell me where I can access these documents.
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