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386 of 417 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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385 of 438 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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386 of 417 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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166 of 185 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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385 of 438 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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65 of 75 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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247 of 301 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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30 of 34 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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57 of 68 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars a journey that never happened, June 9, 2004
By A Customer
There is nothing true about the story told in the book.
It belongs in the same scrap-heap as tales of UFO abductions.
The book was produced originally by a british reporter
hungry for Yeti-stories and a polish refugee who called
himself Slavimor Rawicz. The credible parts of it contain
bits and pieces of the experiences of REAL polish refugees
who suffered in the soviet union at the time, but the bulk
of the story is made up. It may even be the case that he
actually might have been in the USSR and did escape, as others
did through Afghanistan or Persia. Though among those who
did escape for real, no one remembered him or knew him in
the 1950s.
It is strongly suspected that the british "translator" (or
in reality co-author) created the path of his journey out
through Tibet and India so he could insert the material about
the snowman sighting for his own purposes.
In the 1950s when the story was fresh, British Officials in
India were found and asked about it. The polish exile records
were searched. Nothing was found. Again, when the soviet
and polish records opened up, nothing was there. The journey
itself as described makes no sense and doesn't line up with
the real geography.
Slavimor Rawicz may have actually
had a real story to tell, but since publication of this book
whatever that real story was has been lost behind a whole
tapestry of lies that is "the long walk".
Even more tragic is the bodyguard of liars and fanatics who
have promoted these made-up stories. The stories of real poles
who suffered during the same period are ignored in favor of
pulp trash like this.
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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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101 of 124 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A great "story," but unfortunately it's only a story, December 18, 2005
By 
A. Courie "Treb" (Freedom's Fortress) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
In The Long Walk, Slavomir Rawicz tells the story of his escape from a WWII Soviet prison camp and his long walk to freedom. The story is gripping, even painful at times; but it has one major problem: it is probably not a true story.

This book's genesis came when a British reporter in the 1950s was doing research on Yeti sightings and came across Slavomir Rawicz, who claimed to have seen an unidentified "monster" after escaping from a Soviet prison camp. After meeting with Rawicz, the reporter realized that the story of Rawicz's escape is a much better story and helps Rawicz write the story of the escape and long trek.

Although the impetus of the story should raise some doubts with the reader (a Yeti sighting), because the book is billed as "the True Story of a Trek to Freedom," the reader quickly becomes engrossed in the story. Rawicz was a Polish Army officer captured by the Germans at the beginning of World War II and sent to a work camp deep in Siberia. Rawicz and some companions engineered an escape, and for the next year they traveled southward trying to escape Soviet Russia. At times they were at the verge of starvation, and the reader cannot help but feel real pain when Rawicz tells of the companions who died along the trip, but they persevered through the cold of Siberia and the heat of the Gobi desert before finally meeting some British soldiers in India.

It's a real triumph - but, it's likely not true. As Anne Applebaum points out in her Pulitzer Prize-winning history Gulag, most experts who have examined this story find it "unconvincing." No one has been able to locate any records from Rawicz's time as a prisoner, and one of the leading Russian historians of the Gulag carried on correspondence with Rawicz and does not believe his story. [EDIT: In October 2006, the BBC found some records that show that Rawicz was a prisoner in the Gulag but was released by the NKVD and sent to a refugee camp in Iran. He did not escape and flee with a small band of ex-prisoners through the frozen wastelands of Siberia or through the Gobi Desert en route to India.] The fact that many want to believe this inspiring story shouldn't overcome the fact that experts who have corresponded with the author, who have searched for his records, and who have seriously considered the details of his escape, do not believe this story.

This book's power lies in the premise that it's a true story; but if you take that away, it's just a hoax that has been played on generations of readers.
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The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom
The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom by Slavomir Rawicz (Paperback - April 1, 2006)
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