The Long Walk: A long story without an ending

The Long Walk by Slavomir Rawicz is an epic story of human survival. A Polish prisoner of war escapes a WWII Soviet Gulag labor camp in 1941 and walks, with a few other escapees, 4,000 miles across the Siberian arctic, Gobi Desert, and Himalayan mountains to safety in British India.

It's an amazing story, and when I first read it more than a decade ago I was thoroughly enthralled and inspired. (If you had chanced to talk to me at the time, I would have told you that you had to read this book. I might have even given you a copy.)

So I was disappointed when allegations were raised that Rawicz's tale of escape was fabricated. Then, in 2006, the BBC released reports proving that Rawicz (who died in 2004) was released from the camp in 1942 and transferred to a refugee camp in Persia/Iran. His famous trek was never made.

But then, another plot twist. In May 2009, Witold Gliński came forward and claimed the story was really his own. He'd known about Rawicz's bestselling book, but had kept quiet, wanting to forget the war and move on.

So, did Rawicz read official papers in London's Polish embassy recounting Gliński's escape? Is The Long Walk reborn as a truly epic, inspiring story, but with a name change? The story of this story goes on.

This year three Polish men retraced the journey. From May through November 11, Tomasz Grzywaczewski, Bartosz Malinowski, and Filip Droszdz floated 2,200 kilometers down the Lena River, trekked 1,000 kilometers along Baikal Lake, rode horses 300 kilometers, and rode bikes 4,500 kilometers through the Gobi Desert to reach Calcutta, India.

"Our aim was to show that the real hero of the Great Escape was a Polish man named Witold Gliński," Grzywaczewski told ExplorersWeb. "Not Slavomir Rawicz. And to prove that it had happened."

To keep the debate going, The Way Back, a movie based on the original Rawicz story, will be released in January 2011.

Read Witold Gliński's claim in "The Greatest Escape - war hero who walked 4,000 miles from Siberian death camp" on PolishNews.com and "The Long Walk to Freedom" on ExplorersWeb.com

via The Outside Blog


Filed under: People & Organizations

Comments

thetentman
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December 1, 2010 at 1:00 p.m. (EST)

Yes too bad it's a fake but it is a fake. Did it really happen to the other guy? Maybe but there are passages that are downright unbelievible no matter what. Weeks in the desert with nary a drop of water or seeing a couple of Yeti in the Himalaya's. It is a good read if you can suspend reality while you read it.

alan
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December 1, 2010 at 1:56 p.m. (EST)

I also read the book about a decade ago and the book is a very compelling read.  Sad the story is not true.

trouthunter
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December 2, 2010 at 9:29 p.m. (EST)

I haven't read the book, I'll probably watch the movie.

I do however have a friend who defected from Czechoslovakia years ago and made his way to Austria, where he was granted political asylum, by walking and getting rides when he could. He eventually gained American citizen status.

He just wanted to be free. Now he is.

Alicia
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December 3, 2010 at 12:39 p.m. (EST)

I haven't read the book, I'll probably watch the movie.

I do however have a friend who defected from Czechoslovakia years ago and made his way to Austria, where he was granted political asylum, by walking and getting rides when he could. He eventually gained American citizen status.

He just wanted to be free. Now he is.

That sounds like a very interesting personal story. I imagine he has a strong will and character.

mimi1949
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December 7, 2010 at 5:40 p.m. (EST)

I found the book fascinating a decade ago as well and I am now very disappointed to have been duped.  It makes you wonder if editors and publishers make any effort to corroborate the stories they publish as nonfiction.  Would I have enjoyed the book if I thought I was reading fiction at the time? I'll never know.

FromSagetoSnow
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December 7, 2010 at 7:10 p.m. (EST)

I liked The Long Walk short story by Stephen King, under the name of Bachman.

Alicia
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December 8, 2010 at 12:40 p.m. (EST)

Would I have enjoyed the book if I thought I was reading fiction at the time? I'll never know.

I wondered the same thing. Probably not in the same way.

I liked The Long Walk short story by Stephen King, under the name of Bachman.

That story sounded interesting too (and in this case, we know it's fiction!).

I don't tend to read Stephen King much, despite living in Maine, but I liked The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, which deals with a girl lost during a hike in Maine.

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