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396 of 427 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Story You'll Never Forget.
Although The Long Walk is well written, that has nothing to do with why it's a good book. People should read this book because it chronicles perhaps the most extraordinary true story of human endurance in recorded history.
Slavomir Rawicz is unjustly imprisoned by the Communist Russians early in World War II. He is confined to a cell so small that he literally cannot...
Published on December 11, 2000 by Christopher B. Jonnes

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394 of 448 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars WARNING - THIS IS A WORK OF FICTION
I am an avid reader of non-fiction adventure stories. Based on the positive reviews of The Long Walk, I was anxious to get my hands on a copy and dig in. Now that I have read it, I must say that it was a real disappointment. This book is not for any objective reader expecting an authentic non-fiction adventure story. If you're just interested in distracting yourself with...
Published on March 7, 2010 by Mr. Scrubbins


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396 of 427 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Story You'll Never Forget., December 11, 2000
By 
Christopher B. Jonnes (Stillwater, MN United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Although The Long Walk is well written, that has nothing to do with why it's a good book. People should read this book because it chronicles perhaps the most extraordinary true story of human endurance in recorded history.
Slavomir Rawicz is unjustly imprisoned by the Communist Russians early in World War II. He is confined to a cell so small that he literally cannot sit, but must sleep by collapsing with his knees against the wall and his feet steeped in his own waste. He is later transported to Siberia by train, and then marched through the cold countryside to a Soviet Gulag, witnessing the death by exposure and exhaustion of other unfortunate captives along the way. In the prison camp he is set in forced labor, kept in horrendous conditions, over-worked, and underfed.
Near the end of his rope, Rawicz and a handful of companions orchestrate a daring and desperate escape, and then proceed to run for their lives, on foot, toward freedom in India--4,000 miles away. Then the fun begins. They must conquer the frozen Siberian tundra, the Gobi desert, the Himalayan Mountains, starvation, the Soviets, and their own inner demons.
Slavomir's ordeal overshadows every other survival tale I've every read, including Admiral Scott's Polar expedition and Krakauer's Everest disaster. This is up there with the Donner Expedition in terms of grim conditions and the indomitable human spirit. Trust me. If you've got a teenager who's complaining because they think they have it rough, let 'em read this one. --Christopher Bonn Jonnes, author of Wake Up Dead.
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171 of 190 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Story of Endurance and Quest for Liberty, May 12, 2003
By 
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The story in a nutshell: A Polish Army officer is captured by the Soviets after they have joined Hitler in dismembering his country. Rawicz (the officer) is tortured in the Soviet prison system and sent to the Gulags. Faced with misery in Siberia and probable death, he and a band of others escape and undertake a two thousand-mile long journey from the snows of Siberia through Mongolia, the Gobi Desert, and across the Himalayas toward British India and freedom.
This is a great story. The author describes the mindless torture under the Soviet system in a manner that should persuade any reader of the evil of totalitarianism. The description of his train journey, hundred-mile winter hike through a Siberian winter to his gulag and life in the camp is fascinating. His will to survive amidst degradation, the elements and overwhelming odds are a testament to the human thirst for freedom and liberty.
As other reviewers have stated, there are some parts of the book that invite skepticism. His befriending by the camp commandant's wife seems as improbable as it is crucial to his ability to escape. The escapees journey across the Gobi Desert where his group went for many days without water beyond what I understood a person could tolerate. Without any climbing tools, his party went across the Himalayas to India -- a feat that seems fantastic. Also his brief description of spotting what could only be described as the elusive Yetti in the Himalayas stretches credibility (unless it does actually exist).
That being said, this story is exhilarating and I found it believable and enthralling. It is a wonderful adventure story and describes the limits of what the human spirit and mind can endure to survive in freedom. This book has been around for almost fifty years and was given wide play when first introduced. I'm going to assume the lack of anything debunking this widely told tale (or, anything that I could find) argues for the author's veracity -- certainly that frame of mind allows one to enjoy a stirring story.
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394 of 448 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars WARNING - THIS IS A WORK OF FICTION, March 7, 2010
I am an avid reader of non-fiction adventure stories. Based on the positive reviews of The Long Walk, I was anxious to get my hands on a copy and dig in. Now that I have read it, I must say that it was a real disappointment. This book is not for any objective reader expecting an authentic non-fiction adventure story. If you're just interested in distracting yourself with a bizarre adventure fantasy, and are willing to forget reason and ignore the outright lies, then you might like it. But it is definitely not a true account of the author's experiences as trumpeted in the subtitle and text.

Rawicz (through his tabloid journalist ghost writer, Ronald Downing) makes countless outlandish claims that are not supported by any witnesses, documentation, or even detailed descriptions on his part. Moreover, his assertions often defy the laws of science and common sense. Here are but a few examples:

- reaching his destination after wandering a year through 4,000 miles of wilderness with no maps, supplies?
- trekking 12 days across a torrid stretch of the Gobi desert in mid summer with no water or food?
- crossing the Himalayas, summiting mtn after mtn in only worn moccasins and a few ragged articles of clothing?
- encountering a yeti and taunting it like those guys in the beef jerky commercial (no joke-it's in the book!)?
- Rawicz's inability to provide the most basic details about his ordeal such as the first name of one of his closest companions on the trek (the American, "Mr. Smith"!) or where he was finally picked up by the British Army or the hospital he claimed to recover in?

the list goes on and on...

The BBC did an investigation into Rawicz's story and also concluded it was a fraud. They found gov't documents showing that Rawicz was sent to the Siberian gulag for murder (which may or may not be true, but why would he lie?), not trumped-up spying charges as he claims. Soviet documentation also shows that Rawicz was released from the prison camp under Amnesty (along with other Polish prisoners) granted by Stalin in 1942 - so that these prisoners could be used to fight the Germans in the Middle East instead of chopping wood in Siberia. In a letter to the BBC, even Rawicz's own children appear to concede that his account was fictional. I want to emphasize here that my intent is not to diminish the true stories of those who may have survived or escaped from Siberian prison camps during WWII, but this fabrication does more to cast doubt on actual survival stories than legitimize them.

For those interested in fascinating, true, and compelling adventure and survival stories, I recommend the following well-documented accounts: Don Starkell's `Paddle to the Amazon', `The Journals of Lewis and Clark' (edited by DeVoto), and `Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage'.
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66 of 76 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WWII Scholar Weighs In, December 4, 2003
By A Customer
I would like to add another voice to the "fake/nonfake" debate, especially because The Long Walk is truly an important historical contribution to WWII testimonies, and one that does not deserve to be discounted for its seemingly unbelievable tale. The trek from Siberia, which was made by many Poles who were captured in the late 1930s and early 1940s, is a well-documented phenomenon, and one might consider looking into further scholarship on the Polish Free Army if this book caught your interest. Their paths were not identical, but many of them ended up in the middle-east where they were later trained as combat soldiers or paratroopers by the British (particularly in Iraq). There are several documentary films that have been made on this trek, with supporting evidence, but the problem remains that most of them are in Polish. Moreover, the deeds of these Polish officers and soldiers are often passed over in favor of the stories of the official victors (America, Britain, France, Russia) or their victims (Japan, Germany).
The historical phenomenon is by no means false or untrue. I have interviewed too many survivors of these treks from Siberia and seen too much supporting documentation not to believe that these events occured.
That said, when reading any "survivor" account, one must keep in mind that memory itself is a construct that is pressured by several factors: duress, psychological state of mind, hunger and hallucination, the passage of time, loss of mnemonic capability as one ages, and political/historical/religious world view. No memory is "truth," per se, but the manner in which it is remembered tells us something about the event and the person who endured it. One must also keep in mind that "survival" has proven itself capable throughout history of inspiring deeds that seem unimaginable, and just because a story seems fantastical does not mean that it is fake. After all, this book is about the "memory of a long walk" and not a "nothing but the facts" account of a historical act. It is one man's story, which has immediate cultural, historical, and personal implications.
Denial of the historical merit (and honesty) of this book is truly a shame, and a step backwards in understanding the experience of Polish detainees during WWII, a generally forgotten history in the first place. I would encourage those with an interest in WWII to add this book to your shelf. This experience seriously scarred many of the men who endured (and survived) it. Their memory deserves our respect and not our denial of their suffering.
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248 of 303 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Patent Fabrication, May 27, 2003
By 
Steve Dunn (Boulder, CO USA) - See all my reviews
I am an avid outdoorsman with experience in long distance hiking and backcountry winter travel. I love TRUE survival stories, but this one is not only false but obviously so. It is simply not possible to bushwhack 20-30 miles a day through deep snow with almost no food and no water as recounted in the Northern part of the trek - and to make that distance in actual forward progress with no map.
He also claims to have gone 8 and then 12 days with no water in the Gobi desert in the heat of summer while walking miles and miles each day. This also is impossible as survival without water in these conditions is limited to a very few days at best.
It's also full of all kinds of "little" howlers like the idea that when they got to the Gobi desert between the eight of them they only pot or pan they had was a single mug they'd taken from the prison camp. They hadn't even managed to scavenge a tin can. Right.
I love the American, "Mr. Smith", who doesn't reveal his first name throughout the entire epic. Maybe he was really Agent K. Or was it J.
In the end, it's ever so convienient that he loses track of all of his fellow survivors so "coincidentally" there is no one to corroborate this absurd story.
I've really only scratched the surface.
If you want some incredible survival stories you can believe try "Endurance" - an account of the Shackleton Expedition, Touching The Void by Joe Simpson, or Adrift by Steven Callahan.
=Steve Dunn=
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing story, January 4, 1996
By A Customer
This review is from: The long walk (Paperback)
It is hard to imagine the hardships that Rawicz went through during WWII. He was a Polish soldier, newly married, and, along with a mysterious American, was captured and confined in a prison in Moscow. They were then sent by rail to a location south of Lake Baikal and forced to march hundreds of miles north where they had to build their own prison camp. He and others, including the American, escaped in the dead of winter so that the snow would cover their tracks. Always fearful of being captured by the Russians, they often walked at night. They marched south for about a year, crossing the Gobi desert and the Himalayan mountains (one chapter gives a quite credible account of seeing a pair of Abdominable snowmen). After reaching India and recovering in a hospital, the survivors went their separate ways. (Look at a map - they marched from northern Lake Baikal to India!!) The amount of suffering described is unimaginable.

The book ends there. However, I was so intrigued that I wrote the publisher (in early 1995) and received a nice letter from Rawicz, now living in Nottinghamshire, England! Unfortunately, none of the survivors of the long walk ever reunited again. The mysterious American has remained just that (Rawicz theorizes that he may have been an intelligence officer and thus maintained secrecy - he went by the name Mr. Smith). This book was orignally written in the early 1950s.
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How can you tell it is fake?, October 19, 2003
By A Customer
Well, I do not know if this particular story is true or not, but my own great grandfather made a trip from Vladyvostok to Poland in app. 1875. He was forced into Russian army after January Uprising of 1863-1865. He was 16 at that time. He spent 12 years in Russian army and tried to escape many times. Finally he succeded. Similarly millions of Poles were deported to Siberia from eighteen to twenieth century. Most of them perished. Some of them survived and returned to civilization, sometimes in extraordinary circumstances, via Japan, China, Persia etc. Their lives were absolutly amazing.
History of Poland may seem stranger than fiction. Most Americans have no clue about it. Their vision has been shaped by Polish jokes and Hollywood movies about WWII which are not that faithful in depiction of historical truth (The Pianist is an exeption). Just study the subject a little more before you judge something to be false (or true), as your knowledge of the outside world is surprizingly limited!
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Chronicle of escape from the Russian Gulag, conveniently uncorroborated, a cleverly contrived canard., December 16, 2010
*Note that this review contains spoilers*
Having read an above-average number of books about the Russian Gulag, I began this one with optimistic skepticism. The first part, in which the author recounts his capture, arrest, interrogation, trial (such as it was), transport to prison, and life in camp, sounds more similar than different to what I've read before. Unfortunately, that's where the credibility ends. Soon, the camp commandant's wife is: discussing escape with a prisoner, fashioning provision bags for prospective escapees, and informing the autobiographer of the date her husband will be away to increase his escape party's chance of success. Additionally, the guys planning the getaway all easily relocate to the same living quarters without arousing an ounce of suspicion. The escape goes off without a hitch, as if the camp is completely unguarded, and the men, no doubt emaciated (after surviving several months on a 400-500g bread ration), weak and cold, ford a large river and continue on, traveling 30 miles a day through the snow in Siberia. They survive thirteen days without water in the desert, traverse the foothills of the Himalayas with nothing more than a rope, and even spy a couple of eight-foot tall abominable snowmen. When it's all said and done, the survivors conveniently go their separate ways, never to see each other again.

In spite of the fact that The Long Walk is fiction, the writing is pretty good and the story is, incredibility aside, entertaining. My advice, though, is to skip this book and spend your time (and money) on the real thing. Infinitely better: Coming Out of the Ice: An Unexpected Life by Victor Herman (get it in unabridged audio format or not at all), 11 Years in Soviet Prison Camps by Elinor Lipper and Man is Wolf to Man by Janusz Bardach.
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49 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most incredible book I ever read, December 10, 1999
By 
I first heard about the Long Walk in 1993 while I was recovering from a serious bicycle accident. I had shattered my left hip completely and after a total hip replacement, learned to walk again but the long term prognosis was not good. That's when I heard about Long Walk. I had to search a lot and finally located the publishers Lyons & Burford in New York. The original version was written by Ronald Downing of the London Daily Mail, who heard about Slav and contacted him to get verification about the Yeti.
The heroic tale of Slav,Kolemenos,Zaro and Smith finally reaching India has done more for me than any form of therapy. It motivated me and drove me to push myself. I have, since my accident, hiked in the Himalaya, both on the Indian and Nepalese sides, reaching elevations of 20,000 feet, trekked along the Great Wall in remote parts of China. I would like to hear from people that have corresponded with Slav. We need more heroes like Slav and Kolemenos today more than ever!
Ray Umashankar Rayu@u.arizona.edu
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There is no limit in what we can do, December 1, 1999
Today, Most of us have a soft, comfortable and safe life. We are confident that we are in control. It is most likely the people featured in this book felt the same way at one time. Yes, this is a true story about several innocent individuals leading normal lives until the Second World War came along. Then, through the toss of the dice, they found themselves together in a Russian prison camp in Siberia.
I felt they would perish many times over before they arrived at the prison compound. They not only survived up to this point in time, but after their escape, went on to suffer hardships many times greater than all previous. This is not a sob story about people feeling sorry for themselves. No, it is about determination, miracles, grit and attitude.
My Father introduced this book to me. I now have passed it along to my son. When I first read it, I could not put it down. I read through the day, into the evening and finally finished it in the early morning hours. I have never experienced this passion for a book. I wish a movie was made based on this hardship. The best part is that it is told by Slavomir Rawicz, who was one of the escapees. I feel certain that after this humbling and shattering life experience, he told it from deep within his soul. I do not feel there was any fluff added.
I liked it as I have never liked a book, ever. It was as if I got on board a roller coaster, strapped myself in, and took off on a scary but thrilling journey, completly safe, yet somtimes a little frightened at what I saw. I came away with the feeling that today, in America, there is truly no cause for anyone to complain about their petty problems. Relatively speaking, we have no problems. We are pampered. I used it as a learning experience. I tucked it away in my memory. For today we too, are comfortable, safe, and confident. Who knows what the dice hold in store for us?
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The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom: Movie Tie-In
The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom: Movie Tie-In by Slavomir Rawicz (Paperback - November 16, 2010)
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