on 6 July 2005
As I'm dyslexic I'm a slow reader so hopefully this review will be of use to anyone in a similar position.
I found this book to be an utterly compelling read. The title really does not prepare you for Janusz adventures in both Poland and Russia.
The harrowing description of the Gulags really is only half the story. Details of the author's life before and during the Nazi occupation of Poland, and his incredible journey including time spent in the Russian army makes fascinating reading.
This book is an excellent insight into how some people can adapt to deal with the most intolerable circumstances. Janusz paces the action very well, although this may be more down to the fact, his story really is so incredibly interesting and he has so much fascinating material.
If I absolutely had to find a negative I was a little disappointed with how the book fizzles out. It's a true story, so the authors can't be blamed. This did very (and I mean very) slightly diminish my reading experience.
An excellent story. You will NOT be disappointed!!!
on 22 March 2007
This is an outstanding book taking us through a most remarkable life, of a man I'd never heard of, but who survived the inhumanities of Stalin's Russia and brought hope and comfort to many after he came through his ordeal. We see the young Janusz Bardach of the Red Army facing first execution and then a totally unjust sentence to labour in the gulag ; his long and horrendous train journey to the camp ; the brutality of camp existence and his will to survive intact ; and (briefly)his eventual release and the start of a new and distinguished career (just put his name in a search engine) transforming many people's lives. The brutalities of the Stalinist regime, and the human will to survive it, have rarely been detailed so well, and I can recommend this book without reservation.
Having read several accounts of the experiences of victims sucked into the monstrous machine that was the Soviet GULag, Janusz Bardach's account stands out for its unflinching personal honesty. It is not for the faint-hearted, as Bardach never glosses over the atrocities committed. But he never appears simply as a witness, or victim, since his account is a true autobiography - he also describes the effects his experiences had on his own character.
To the reviewer who felt the narrative 'petered out', I would recommend that they read Bardach's second volume "Surviving Freedom", which brings his personal history up to his emigration to the US. It also gives more detail about Bardach's youth, prior to his Soviet experiences. If you are interested in this remarkable man, rather than just his description of the GULag, then you should really read both books (he summarises the period covered by the first book in just a few pages of the latter).
on 28 September 2006
The fact that a close friend's parents were Polish Jews who survived the war gave this account added resonance. The book exposes the cruelty and inhumanity of the Soviet system, particularly when the authors home town is violently cleared by the Communists of all Polish men, women and children not demonstrably of the working class, who are then dispatched to the harsh conditions of the Siberian Gulag. The author's own often terrifying experience of the sheer awfulness of the brutal camps and vicious guards is vividly described, and yet his survival sends a message of hope and optimism, in light both of the friends he makes in Kolyma and of the tremendous contribution he makes with the rest of his life as a life changing surgeon.