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The Long Bridge: Out Of The Gulags Paperback – 29 Oct 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Sandstone Press (29 Oct. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1905207557
  • ISBN-13: 978-1905207558
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 13 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (158 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 229,636 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Urszula Muskus was a 37 year old housewife living in a small town in eastern Poland when events of the Second World War tore her from a comfortable middle class life. Following the arrest of her husband she was deported with her 10 and 13 year old children east across the Urals into Soviet controlled Kazakhstan. She was later imprisoned on the pretext of espionage, served 10 years in the gulags, and sent to Siberia. The enormous and death defying challenges she was forced to face showed her to be an exceptionally resourceful, kind, strong, courageous and compassionate woman.

In 1957, after 16 years of extraordinary experiences her story finishes when she is reunited with her now grown up children in England. A naturally eloquent writer, she wrote her memoir over 14 years before she died in 1972 at the age of 69.

Her family and friends financed the printing of the Polish original Dlugi Most soon after her death and copies were smuggled into Soviet occupied Poland and read on Radio Free Poland. A rough translation into english lay in the family home for many years until her grandson determined to find a publisher. This took 10 years and, after correcting the translation, he added some explanation and maps.

Peter Muskus can be contacted at

Product Description


This book is truly inspirational reading. I have never been so deeply moved by any book. I couldn't put it down. Donald Wilson - journalist/writer.

Urszula was a gifted writer, whether she knew it or not, and by that I mean she knew what to put in and what to leave out, and with descriptions that leave the reader in a state of amazement and admiration. ... If books are important, this is one of the most important. To have lost it would have been a tragedy. Robert Daley best-selling American writer.

The Long Bridge is a wonderful book, much more than another retelling of the horrors of the gulag. It is, of course, a historical document, but it is also a psychological study, a development of a philosophy, and an inspiration. I recommend it highly. Irene Tomaszewski Polish/Canadian writer, recipient of the Lech Walesa Media Award 2011.

The book is an absolute gem...not only for telling the story of what went on in Stalin s Russia but also and primarily for showing how Urszula coped with it all. And not only coped with it but seemed to have come out of it with true wisdom and spiritual insight...most inspiring, enlightening and uplifting! Hugh Nowlan - teacher.

The Long Bridge is a wonderful, and dreadful, insight into conditions in the gulag. And what an inspiring and beautiful character your grandmother was. I hope she becomes as well known as Anne Frank. Sister Maria Edith, diocesan hermit of the diocese of Argyll and the Isles.

It is an extraordinary story. Somehow Urszula makes it positive with her descriptions of the continual acts of kindness that made camp life bearable and her vivid picture of the landscapes and skies. Lokeshvara chairman Padmaloka Buddhist Centre.

Over the years I've assessed quite a few memoirs in manuscript by elderly European émigrés who survived the Second World War. Naturally, I can't remember them all, but I'm pretty sure that this one is the best I've ever read - in many ways the most informative, the most gripping, the most harrowing, the most poignant and the best written. Robert Lambolle literary editor.

The Long Bridge is the story of a woman of great courage and determination, in an exceptionally eloquent account of extreme hardship and hope. It speaks to the profound and ongoing relevance of human rights. Indeed, eight years after Urszula Muskus arbitrary arrest, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted as nations tried to avert any recurrence of the atrocities of the Second World War. The UDHR was the first document to agree common terms for what we know to be right and just and is the bedrock of Amnesty International. Yet it was to be fully another eight years before Urszula was released. Sadly, it remains the case that where wars erupt, suffering and hardship invariably follow. Conflict is the breeding ground for mass violations of human rights including unlawful killings, torture, forced displacement and starvation. Urszula witnessed or experienced all of these, and yet one of the most striking and moving aspects of The Long Bridge is its revelawyerlation of an indomitable human spirit. As she says, oppression cannot imprison thought. --Kate Allen, Director, Amnesty International UK --Various

About the Author

Born in Poland in 1903 Urszula Muskus died in 1972 at her daughter's home in Leicester with the many fragments of her story scattered at her feet.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Deep Reader VINE VOICE on 1 Nov. 2010
Format: Paperback
The Long Bridge is the story of Urszula Muskus, a Polish woman who was taken into the Soviet prison system where she survived for sixteen years. She saw out World War Two there, gradually travelling eastwards through prison and labour camps until she was eventually 'freed' in Siberia. In her case freedom meant 'eternal exile'. She writes about political prisoners, 'bandit molls', guards, and movingly of a woman sentenced wrongly to death whom she spoke with through a hole in the prison wall. In addition to all this she writes beautifully of a hostile landscape in which she somehow found a sort of release. Urszula's story will both excite her readers and move them to tears. Do read this story; it is one you will never forget.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By James on 1 Jan. 2012
Format: Paperback
Reading 'The Long Bridge: out of the Gulags' reminded me of Primo Levi, one of the few Auschwitz survivors rescued by the Red Army during the liberation of the camp on January 27th, 1945. Published posthumously half a century after Primo Levi's first and most famous novel, 'If this is a Man', Urszula's story proclaims the same timeless message: "mere oppression cannot imprison thought."

While Urszula's tone is uncompromising and candid in its portrayal of the brutality and terror of gulag life, like Levi, it is absent of hatefulness towards the perpetrators of her sixteen year imprisonment. In the final pages of 'The Long Bridge' she states: "Every person is capable of friendship and providing help. I have not met evil people in my life." She goes on to provide examples of NKVD officers and guards who during their own holidays risked severe punishment and loss of position to relay messages onto the family members of the prisoners they guarded. It is Urszula's selflessness and belief in the power of the human spirit that makes The Long Bridge so deeply powerful and moving. That a person can endure so much and still harbour a faith in the goodness of humanity will truly astound the reader.

As a primary source, 'The Long Bridge' is invaluable. It provides the reader with a detailed insight into the organisation, penal code, and make-up of the Soviet gulag system, and introduces us to a world of bandit molls, wild criminals, kara katorga, sectarians, Russian witticism and the communal power of the much desired Mahorka; all of which makes for the most gripping reading. Furthermore, Urszula regularly provides us with fond and vivid accounts of the many female prisoners she mets.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By EdHart on 23 Dec. 2010
Format: Paperback
This book is unlike any others in the genre. Beautiful is how I would describe the quality of storytelling. Passionate and heartfelt this book will will be re-read many times.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Johanna on 19 Oct. 2011
Format: Paperback
Whenever i tread near the thin waters of complaining or bemoaning things in my life that I would like different, this book serves to bring me up short and stop! It left me full of hope that the human spirit can prevail against all odds - and the odds all seemed to be against Ursula in her imprisonment in the Gulags and then Siberia. How could she survive shovelling deep snow out in the fields in the depths of winter with just mainly newspaper and rags round her feet?! Yet she did, what an amazing woman. It was heartening to hear about her brightness of spirit that visited her during this difficult time, and still fired up again when playing with her grandchildren when she was finally freed and came to live with her children in England. It was thought provoking in its historic detail, and its consideration of what makes survivors the survivors? Well worth reading and absorbing.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By emoyeni on 9 Nov. 2010
Format: Paperback
The Long Bridge is Urszula Muskus's story of hardship, cruelty, kindness and courage told with the eye and heart of a keen observer of people. I first came across this book in its pre-publication form in her grandson`s holiday cottage in the North East of Scotland and was riveted, as was my husband who read it from cover to cover while I dipped in and out unable to stay too long with the horror of her experiences as a woman, wife and mother. Since publication, I have returned to complete my reading of her story written in the fourteen years after her sixteen years of harrowing, horrendous and heart-warming experiences in captivity. The book is outstanding in its flowing prose and skilful translation.

Urszula Muskus wrote from memory, vivid with detail and insights, with warmth and humanity that inspired others and seemed to fuel her own resolve to endure and transcend hardship. She reached out to others, her 'companions in misfortune', making a difference wherever she was, and indeed comments on how she surprised herself with her energy. It is these discoveries and descriptions, and her remarkable story-telling, that make this painful but inspiring book so readable - this and her details of joy and vitality whether of stars or starvation - all described and written in fluid and intimate prose. She has the gift of the storyteller, to carry the reader along with her on her journey, and the tenderness and generosity of her reflections at the end of the book are as applicable now as then - she was a woman of our time.

Urszula Muskus had determination and so did her grandson, Peter, who, like Amnesty International, recognized the extraordinary qualities of a story she had to tell so that we can read it and know more.
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