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Monday, 20 February 2012

Return to The Long Walk.

Sketch by Zoologist Dr. Wladimir Tschernezky
from Slavomir Rawicz’s description

Last time I reviewed this story I had tentatively come to the conclusion that the story of The Long Walk was a composite of several Polish men's WWII experiences and that it would not be necessary for Rawicz to have actually gone on the Long Walk for him to have witnessed two large "Snowman" creatures in Tibet/crossing over the Himalayas into India. Since all that is really pertinent for Cryptozoologists would be that part alone, the question becomes "COULD Rawicz have seen the creatures in 1942 as he said he did?" and the circumstantial evidence (partly as supporting statements from his family) seems to be, oddly enough, yes he could have seen the creatures in 1942, he seems to have really believed it and what is more, his description includes many anatomical features which would not be commonly recognised in reports of such creatures at the time the book was published, nor indeed really established for another decade following that publication date.

I DO think that the ghost writer combined accounts from several individuals to make the story of The Long Walk, in order to make a better story. And that is part of the problem, because the different men actually experienced different parts of the composite story and not others. Hence it makes sense to me if one man told parts of the long and arduous journey across Asia, but not the "Snowman" part, while on the other hand Rawicz legitimately told of a "Snowman" encounter separately.
The account includes the description:
"At close range they defied facile description. There was something both of the bear and the ape about the general shape, but they could not be mistaken for either. The color was a rusty kind of brown. They appeared to be covered by two distinct kinds of hair - -the reddish hair which gave them their characteristic color forming a tight close fur against the body, mingling with which were long loose straight hairs hanging downwards, which had a slight grayish tinge as the light caught them. They were doing nothing but moving around slowly together, occasionally stopping to look around them like people admiring a view. Their heads turned towards us now and again but their interest in us seemed to be of the slightest. I looked back and the pair was standing still, arms swinging slightly as though listening intently."
Now my comment is this: Rawicz's description strongly resembles the Patterson-Gimlin female creature but the film was made TEN YEARS AFTER RAWICZ'S BOOK WAS PUBLISHED. Rawicz could NOT have been "copying  stories of the Abominable Snowmen and/or Sasquatches" because at the time he dictated his part of the book no such comparable descriptions or graphic representations actually existed.

The described actions of the "Snowmen" also match the actions that can be seen to occur in the Patterson-Gimlin film exactly. And their body fur has the "grizzled" effect that Sanderson remarks upon, although I suspect that would have been on the larger one rather than on both of them.

And my assertion following this is that the mere fact that we have such a situation tends to reinforce either observation as probably independantly viewing representatives of the same species of creature in two of its major known ranges: The NW Coast area of North America and in Tibet.

Because we have this rather peculiar situation involved in the documentation of Rawicz's report, I shall include the Wikipedia entry reproduced below.

Sławomir Rawicz

Sławomir Rawicz (1915–2004) was a Polish Army lieutenant who was imprisoned by the Soviets after the German-Soviet invasion of Poland. In a ghost-written book called The Long Walk, he claimed that in 1941 he and six others had escaped from a Siberian Gulag camp and walked over 6,500 km (4,000 mi) south, through the Gobi Desert, Tibet, and the Himalayas to finally reach British India in the winter of 1942. In 2006, BBC released a report based on former Soviet records, including "statements" allegedly written by Rawicz himself, showing that Rawicz had been released as part of the 1942 general amnesty of Poles in the USSR and subsequently transported across the Caspian Sea to a refugee camp in Iran and that his escape to India never occurred.[1]
In May 2009, Witold Gliński, a Polish WWII veteran living in the UK, came forward to claim that the story of Rawicz was true, but was actually an account of what happened to him, not Rawicz. Gliński's claims have been questioned by various sources, most notably his employees at the marmalade factory he managed throughout the period in question.[2][3]

Early life and army career

Sławomir Rawicz was born on 1 September 1915 in Warsaw, the son of a landowner. He received private primary education and went on to study architecture in 1932. In 1937 he joined the Polish Army Reserve and underwent the cadet officer school. In July 1939 he married Vera, his first wife. She went missing during WWII.
According to his account, when Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union defeated Poland, Rawicz returned home, where the NKVD arrested him on November 19, 1939. He was taken to Minsk, then sent to Kharkov for interrogation, then to the Lubyanka prison in Moscow, where he was put on rigged trial. He was tortured to make him confess to being a spy which initially was unsuccessful. He was sentenced to 25 years of hard labour in a Siberian prison camp, ostensibly for espionage as were thousands of others. Though the researchers for the BBC Radio program The Long Walk in 2006 unearthed documents indicating that the charge against Rawicz may have been for killing, in the defence of his country, a Russian NKVD officer.[4]

The Long Walk - Escape from the Gulag camp and walk to India

According to the account in the book, Rawicz was transported, alongside thousands of others, to Irkutsk and made to walk to the Gulag Camp 303, which was 650 km south of the Arctic Circle. His labour duties in the camp included the construction of the prisoners' barracks, the manufacture of skis for the Russian army, and the repair and operation of the camp commandant's radio.
In The Long Walk, Rawicz describes how he and six companions escaped from the camp in the middle of a blizzard in 1941 and headed south, avoiding towns.[5] The fugitive party included three Polish soldiers, a Latvian landowner, a Lithuanian architect, and an enigmatic US metro engineer called "Mr. Smith"; they were later joined by a 17-year-old Polish girl, Krystyna.[6][7] They journeyed from Siberia to India crossing the Gobi Desert and Himalayas. Four of the group died, two in the Gobi, two in the Himalayas.[8][9] The book also mentions the spotting of a pair of yeti-like creatures in the Himalayas.
According to the book, four survivors of the 11-month trek reached British India around March 1942 and stumbled upon a Gurkha patrol.[10] They were taken to a hospital in Calcutta. Once released from the hospital, the survivors went their own ways. Some were still permanently sick from the torture they had faced at the Russian camp.

WWII activities after imprisonment

According to Rawicz, he moved from India to Iraq, then re-entered the Soviet Union in June 1942 and rejoined the Polish Army on July 24, 1942 at Kermini. He then returned to Iraq with Polish troops and moved on to Palestine, where he spent time recovering in a hospital and teaching in a military school. He claimed that General Władysław Anders had recommended his transfer to Britain for training as a pilot of the Polish Air Forces in Great Britain.

Historical records

Soviet records confirm that Rawicz was a Polish soldier imprisoned in the USSR, but differ from The Long Walk in detail on the reasons for his arrest and the exact places of imprisonment. Polish Army records show that Rawicz left the USSR directly for Iran in 1942, which contradicts the book's storyline. Aside from matters concerning his health, his arrival in Palestine is verified by the records. The story of the escape to India comes from Rawicz himself. The BBC report does mention the account of Captain Rupert Mayne, an intelligence officer in Calcutta, who - years after the war - said that in 1942 he had debriefed three emaciated men claiming to have escaped from a Siberian Gulag camp.[1]  [It is also not unusual for Gulag records to have been falsified-DD]

Postwar life

After the war he settled in Sandiacre, Nottingham, England and worked at the Nottingham Design Centre. He married Marjorie Gregory née Needham in 1947; they had five children. In the early 1970s he became a technician at the Architectural Ceramics course at Nottingham Trent University School of Art and Design. A heart attack forced him into early retirement in 1975. He lived a quiet life with his family, giving public talks and answering fan mail, until his death on 5 April 2004.

The Long Walk

The Long Walk was ghost-written by Ronald Downing based on conversations with Rawicz. It was released in the UK in 1956 and has sold over half a million copies worldwide and has been translated into 25 languages.[1] The film, The Way Back, directed by Peter Weir was inspired by the story and released in late 2010.[11]
Over the years, critics of the book's accuracy have included Peter Fleming (the brother of Ian Fleming), Eric Shipton and Hugh E. Richardson, a British diplomat stationed in Lhasa.[12]


See also


  1. ^ a b c Levinson, Hugh (October 30, 2006). "Walking the talk?". BBC News, International version. BBC News. Retrieved Jan 18, 2009.
  2. ^ Dennis Ellam and Adam Lee Potter (16 May 2009). "The Greatest Escape - war hero who walked 4,000 miles from Siberian death camp".
  3. ^ Скрадзенае жыццё Вітальда Глінскага (Belarusian)
  4. ^ BBC Radio "The missing link came through documents discovered by an American researcher, Linda Willis, in Polish and Russian archives. One, in Rawicz's own hand described how he was released from the gulag in 1942, apparently as part of a general amnesty for Polish soldiers. These are backed up by his amnesty document and a permit to travel to rejoin the Polish Army. These papers make it almost impossible to believe that Rawicz escaped, unless there is a case of mistaken identity. However, the name and place and date of birth all match. The documents also show that rather than being imprisoned on trumped-up charges as he claimed, Rawicz was actually sent to the gulag for killing an officer with the NKVD, the forerunner of the Soviet secret police, the KGB." [This would have made him a War Hero for the Polish, of course-DD]
  5. ^ Amazing escapes: illustrated with photographs and prints Thomas G. Gunning - 1984 "On a snowy night in April of 1941 , Slav and six other prisoners — Sigmund Makowski, Anastazi Kolemenos, Anton Paluchowicz, Eugene Zaro, Zacharius Marchinkovas, and Smith, an American who never gave his first name — crept out of their ..."
  6. ^ Spectator 1956 "They were Smith (50), an American civil engineer; Paluchowicz (41), a sergeant in the Polish cavalry; Makowski (37), an officer of the Polish Frontier Force; Zaro (30), 'a Yugoslav, I think'; Marchinkovas (28), a Lithuanian architect;"
  7. ^ The Economist 1956 "Kolemenos, the fourteen stone Latvian landowner, " a kind and helpful giant of a man " ; Makowski, the precise Polish army captain, Paluchowicz, " tough, toothless, devout, old Paluchowicz," the sergeant of Polish cavalry ; Zaro, the Jugoslav clerk and resilient humorist of the party ; Marchinkovas, the Lithuanian architect"
  8. ^ The Spectator: 1956 "Rawicz, with the unflamboyant help of Mr. Ronald Downing, tells their astonishing story in The Long Walk,"... "The Lithuanian died in his sleep one night, and they lost the toothless, indomitable Paluchowicz down a crevasse."
  9. ^ The Long Walk "I saw Paluchowicz reach the end of the slope. I turned to Zaro and in that instant saw the rope jerk about the sticks and become slack ... But Paluchowicz had vanished. Like fools we stood there calling out his name. No one answered."
  10. ^ Life Is... p101 Ray Rouse - 2007 "That decision meant walking four thousand miles under extremely difficult conditions in order to gain freedom. Marchinkovas, Makowski, and Paluchowicz failed the test. Rawicz, Smith, Kolemenos, and Zaro passed it and lived."
  11. ^
  12. ^ Symmes, Patrick (January 2003). "To Tell the Truth Is it fact or is it fiction? The perplexing story behind The Long Walk.". Outside online - Canon Fodder. Mariah Media Inc.. Retrieved Dec 16, 2011.

Further reading

  • Freedom Trek Grigg, William Norman Apr 19, 2004 The New American [1]

External links

In 1941, Slavomir Rawicz escaped from a Soviet Union gulag (prison camp) with 6 other inmates. Over the next year they traveled on foot through the frozen tundra of Siberia, across the scorching Gobi desert and finally over the mountains of the Himalaya to India and freedom. Rawicz and his group had no supplies except for a knife, axe, the cloths on their backs and the determination that arises when there are no other options.
Later Rawicz published a book about his trek The Long Walk: A true story of a Trek to Freedom.
Many people questioned the validity of such an epic tale of survival and I wanted to see if such a journey was possible. On September 9, 2004 Lauren Ditolla, Ant Chapin and Keri Bean and I flew to Moscow to begin an 8,000-mile journey re-tracing the route taken by Slavomir Rawicz. We spent three months using various forms of transportation including our own feet, rickshaws, camels, horses, bicycles, hydrofoils, trains, planes and automobiles to re-trace Slavomir’s footsteps. In addition, we worked with Medicines Global (GB) providing medical supplies to remote communities along the way.
Despite extensive research before and during our expedition, we found no concrete evidence to support or deny Rawicz’s story. In the end, we compared the descriptions of the people and landscapes we encountered to what Rawicz described in the book and then asked the question, was it possible? The book was written by a ghost writer Ronald Downing. The author might have distorted the timeline and embellished some of the events to make the book a more exciting read. Our overall view is, with the help of the locals living in the region, it was possible that Rawicz and his companions might have able to travel through the difficult terrain described in the book.

In present western society daily life has been comfortized to such a degree that most people cannot imagine what Rawicz went through. Today even though modern explorers have a quiver of high tech tools at their disposal to aid in their conquests, they usually lack the most powerful motivation that Rawicz and his companions carried: succeed or die.

Latest News
Since I returned from this expedition there have been several articles and books challenging whether Rawicz really completed the Long Walk. In 2006, the BBC uncovered documents that placed Rawicz in other locations during the time period in which the Long Walk supposedly took place. Last year John Dyson contacted me about an upcoming article he was writing for Readers Digest in which he interviewed another Polish man living in England who claimed the Long Walk was based on his epic trek from Siberia to India. On Jan 21, 2011 a new Hollywood movie based on the Long Walk will premiere in theaters across the US and the interest in the Long Walk will certainly be piqued again! Explorer Mikael Strandberg is writing a series of articles on his website and at

Friday, December 3, 2010

Friday's Video: The Long Walk

What do you consider to be a long walk? A hike to Laurel Falls? Most would definitely say the Appalachian Trail would qualify. But what about a 4000-mile slog across the frozen Siberian tundra, the Gobi desert, through Tibet, and then over the Himalayan Mountains to British India to gain your freedom?

That's exactly what a couple of Polish escapees from a Soviet Gulag did in 1940.

The story became the subject of one of my all time favorite books; "
The Long Walk."

The book has now inspired a new movie, due out in January, called "The Way Back," starring Jim Sturgess, Colin Farrell, Ed Harris, and Saoirse Ronan (see the trailer below).
Ever since The Long Walk was published in 1956 its authenticity has been challenged. The protagonist of the story, Slavomir Rawicz, was never able to provide any documentation to prove his story. However, it does seem that the general consensus among most critics is that the story is mostly true, but, possibly embellished. It’s even possible that the embellishment occurred at the hand of his English speaking ghost-writer.

For an interesting perspective on the veracity of the story from someone who retraced the steps of Rawicz in 2004, and who came to believe the story to be true, check out Dave Anderson's
trip journal (see his final thoughts at the bottom of the page).

However, to throw a wrench into Mr. Anderson's conclusions, a Polish WWII veteran by the name of Witold Gliński apparently publicly claimed in 2009 that the story was true, but it had actually happened to him, not Rawicz. Moreover, the ExplorersWeb website has this nugget of information:

After Rawicz died in 2006, a BBC radio documentary uncovered proof that he was lying – military records showed that he was serving in Persia at the time of the escape. The best explanation is that Rawicz read Witold’s genuine account of the escape, in official papers that he found in the Polish Embassy in London during the war. Witold knew his story had been stolen. But he never protested because he wanted to forget the war and concentrate on his new life.

This piece of information was included as part of an interview with Tomasz Grzywaczewski, one of three Poles who recently retraced the escape route themselves, and have made it their mission to show the world that the real hero of the Great Escape was actually Witold Gliński. You can read that interview by
clicking here.

No matter who the story is about, or how much embellishment was involved, The Long Walk is still a great read and an incredible story.

One last tidbit: the story is also famous for the claim that the surviving escapees saw a pair of yetis while traversing the Himalayas.....

Here's the trailer from the movie:

"Until his death in 2004, Rawicz managed to avoid most of the critics, by either saying he had forgotten details, blamed the ghostwriter Downing for embellishing the truth or just by ignoring the questions which gathered more strength by the day. But, all along, he maintained that he had [told Downing a true account]"

1 comment:

  1. Hi Dale,

    Fascinating post as always. I was struck by his tragedy: he married in 1939 and his beloved one went missing. Vanished, never to be seen or heard from, again.

    Thousands of men, women and children suffered the same fate in WWII.

    Best regards,



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