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on 30 July 2001
From page one this is a gripping and absorbing read. We start off with the capture and imprisonment of Polish cavalry officer Slavomir Rawicz, an ordeal that Franz Kafka would have been proud to have written. Accused of spying on the Russians, Slavomir is brutually tortured and beaten before being given a farcical trail that ends up with him being given the sentence of 25 years in a Siberian forced labour camp, on the basis of no evidence and a forged confession. It is here that the action begins to kick in to a more gung-ho spirit. Loaded into freezing cold railway cars and then slowly "chugged" across Russia, almost four thousand miles, to what was thought to be the prison. More agony is piled onto the men as they are chained together and frog marched hundreds of miles through bitter winds and biting snow blizzards until many weeks and many deaths later, prisoners and guards alike, the men finally arrive at their destination. It is a tribute to the writer that while writing of his tribulations he never once seems to feel bitter outrage or acrimony against his Siberian jailers, rather he feels an apathy for them as it seems to be indicated that even the guards here are victims of some small fault against the Russian mother state. Once the prison camp is reached, fans of great escape stories will become gripped as allegiances are formed and slowly an escape plan is hatched. To write too much would be to give too much away, but surfice to say that the team of seven men escape with some help from a very unexpected source and the escape is well and truly underway. From the freezing savage Siberian snow plains to the complete opposite but perhaps more unbearable searing heat of the Gobi, with only a couple of sticks and a tin mug between them, the story will simultaneously make you cry, laugh and occasionally feel proud to be human as the better sides of a man's personality and being are brought to light in a truly touching way. The end of the book comes all too soon, and one feels saddened that we do not learn more of our heros, but perhaps the story needs to finish there as perhaps to learn too much of what happened later might take some of the power from the story; and although part of me would like to know for certain the eventual fate of our intrepid adventurers, I feel they are given a more mythical stature by only existing up to the point of thier journeys completion. Forget trashy, clever, oh so chic summer novels about marketing executives trying to find their Mister Right whilst obsessing about everything they possibly can and lose yourself in a good old fashioned ripping yarn that deserves to go down as one of the greatest stories ever told.
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on 25 May 2008
There was a huge wave of disappointment when I realised that this story was pure fiction. I later read Anne Applebaum's Gulag where Slavomir's tale is exposed as being a rehash of Rudyard Kiplings short story The Man Who Was. The point I tumbled it was when the camp comandant's wife decided to aid our hero's escape, its 1941 and Stalins Great Terror was in full swing for goodness sake!not the time for helping out a bunch of prisoners and earning you and your husband a few grams of lead behind your ears. Then there was the incident of the elfin Polish girl bumps into them as they are wandering around Lake Baikal and joins their quest only to die in the Gobi desert after melting their hearts and becoming a mascot for them all. The group then miss out a desert and spot some yeti before arriving somewhat smaller in number into the hands of the British.
It is however a well written, gripping adventure of the Boys Own variety. Know it for what it is though, fiction.
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on 24 December 2010
Wish I'd read the negative reviews before purchasing this book. I haven't started to read it and am now not sure I'm going to bother. It may be well written and incredibly inspiring and exciting....but if it's all a fraud then what's the point? I could write a book tomorrow about how I swam the Pacific, dodging sharks all the way and it would be no less valid. The whole point of this book is that it's portrayed as a 'true' story and actually happened. If it didn't happen to the author, then the book becomes no more than spare toilet paper. Even if it is true, there will always be doubts, which removes all enjoyment from reading it.

I feel cheated and, had I purchased an actual paper book I would have returned it for a refund, however I downloaded it on Kindle so don't have that possibility available. Surely, if this book is untrue, it should be withdrawn from sale as a breach of the Trades Descriptions Act.
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on 4 May 2009
"In 2006 BBc discovered the document in Rawicz's own hand showing that he was with the Polish army in Persia when the book said he was crossing the Himalayas. A radio 4 programme declared the book to be a fraud"

There is an interesting article in Reader's Digest (May2009) by John Dison wheter this book is fraud or true story. Author of this article found Mr Witold Glinsky's son who is declaring that it was Witold who did the long walk and his story was stolen by Rawizc who found the report in Polish embassy in London during the war. The article is worth reading and make your mind up wheter to believe it or not. John Dison met Mr Witold Glinsky who retold the story and described how some men drunk their own urine when they were crossing the desert. He described how difficult it was to walk so many miles and the health complications they had on their way (swelling legs, blood dribbled from their mouth so they puled their teeth out-scurvy etc.) He also mentioned the women they met on a way (her foot infected by gangrene) not very excited, they took her with them "She has to come. She is one of your own people" was the advice from somebody mentioned as Smith.
There is no hard evidence to support his story so wheter to believe it or not is up to the reader.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 6 June 2010
Initially taking this tale at face value, I felt that I should take a positive view of it out of respect for the courage of the escaped political prisoners who showed such resourcefulness and persistence in their determination to survive. However, although it was relatively short and easy to read, I found the book all too easy to put down. This was partly because the incidents which would have been full of tensions and mishaps in a self-confessed adventure story were so straightforward: the escapees scaled prison walls without attracting notice, no dogs pursued them, everyone they met was friendly and gave them food, when hunger drove them to steal and slaughter an animal it all went without a hitch, and so on. Admittedly half the group died on the way, but I am not introducing a spoiler here: the author removes all suspense by telling us in the completely unnecessary chapter headings listed in the contents page how many people died and where. "Five By-Pass Lhasa" reminded me of a kind of "Enid Blyton meets Biggles" approach to it all. The characters were all somewhat two dimensional, and the rapid deaths without much warning or build up left me less moved than I should have been.

It could be argued that the lack of real action and personal drama reflected the fact we are dealing with a true story. However, consulting Amazon half-way through my reading, I found comments on the strong evidence that this tale is a pastiche of the story of another man's escape. I have no idea whether this is true or not, but it supported the doubts which had already arisen quite independently. My two first major queries arose over the fact that the narrator was able to repair the camp commandant's radio purely on the happily coincidental basis of having had the same model at home. This gave him convenient access to the commandant's wife, who not only spoke to him with the most surprising informality, but virtually incited him to escape, advised him on how to do so, and contributed to equipping him and his colleages to boot! As other reviewers have commented, the subsequent amazing capacity to cross the Gobi Desert without water, and the sight of the Abominable Snowmen were the final nails in the coffin of my belief. Out of all the characters, Kristina seemed to me to be the least convincing. I wondered if she was created to add a little more drama and was not surprised that she was the first to be eliminated from the tale.

I am sorry if I am misjudging this book.
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on 12 March 2012
In 1939 Slavomir Rawicz, a young Pole (like many Poles) had a chilling and brutal encounter with the USSR State machinery,at the time when Germany and Russia had a neutrality towards each other, but both saw Poland as a place to slake territorial hunger.

Rawicz, living near the border with Russia, and son of a Russian mother, and therefore fluent in Russian, was arrested as an anti-Communist agent. Imprisoned and tortured in the infamous Lubyanka prison, he was sentenced to 25 years hard labour in a prison camp in Siberia. Helped by the camp Commandant's wife, he and a group of other prisoners escaped and, suffering enormous danger and deprivation as they walked across desolate landscapes including Siberia itself in a particularly cold winter, the arid wastes of the Gobi desert, and the harshness of the Himalayas, reaching India and freedom with the Allies. Later, Rawicz moved to this country, and married an English woman. He died in 2004. An astonishing story, well written by a ghost writer. But this book, originally published in 1956, hit the best seller lists precisely because it purports to be 'The TRUE Story of a Trek to Freedom' Unfortunately later research appears to suggest the story is not completely true - or, if it is, that it may not be Rawicz's story at all, but the story of another modest Pole, who also settled in this country, Witold Glinski. A 2006 BBC documentary challenged Rawicz's claims offering Glinski as the real hero; however there have been other investigations which have since challenged Glinski's veracity as well. Does this all matter? Well, yes. However interesting a story I did not set out to read this as a novel. I read it as an account , if you like, of heroism, of strength, of the refusal of the human spirit to be crushed. In other words, to remind myself of the best, as well as the worst, we are capable of. But if the story is fake, only pretending to be true - than the book only reminds me of the worst. If it is a story, or a partial story, or a cobbled together story from several real and several imagined stories, then it is a metaphor or a pointer or a reminder of what the best and the worst might be, but is not the thing itself. I could have read it as The Long Walk BASED on a True Story, with great enjoyment, and given it 5 stars. It is absolutely true that many Poles suffered dreadfully from the historical relationship with their two rapacious totalitarian neighbours. It is absolutely true that the state machinery of both countries dealt appallingly, brutally, inhumanely with those it considered its enemies. Its undoubtedly true that some of those who were so brutally dealt with resisted and overcame, escaped, showing extraordinary strength, resilience, integrity and courage. And its important we know those people's stories, to remind us of what the best of being human might be But if we are sold something as true, and it is a lie, that matters. My sense is someone may have done this journey, or part of this journey, it may even have been Rawicz himself. But was it exactly as he lays out? Hmm much more difficult to believe, sack sewing Commandant's wife, Abominable Snowmen and 13 days in the Gobi desert between waterholes and with only 1 tin cup as a water carrying container between 8 people, and all.
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on 21 February 2014
Like a number of other reviewers I have doubts about the overall veracity of this escape story's particular content. As long ago as 1967 I bought and read 'AS FAR AS MY FEET WILL CARRY ME', by Josef Martin Bauer (pub. Mayflower-Dell). It was translated (by Lawrence Wilson) from Bauer's original German account (actually the account of a WW2 German paratroop officer who insisted on anonymity), published in 1957 of his astonishing escape as a POW of the Soviet Union from Siberia to Germany - - an walking escape that took over a 3 year period (1949 - 1952) to accomplish. I am not saying The Long Walk is the identical or even resembling story, only that Rawicz's tale seems to have come so late in the long and distinguished annals of 'great escapes', I am left wondering, "how come?" And I think other readers may feel the same.
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on 9 January 2011
This story starts out well, but quickly starts to go down hill. The distances walked every day, the insufficient shelter in extremes of climate, the insufficient food and the long periods without water -- make one realise they are having their Leg Pulled !
How long can a Human survive in a Desert with No Water? A number of hours, possibly a day. Not for 10 days, and definitely not a number days while walking 30 miles per day. As this books continues, the "Facts" given make this story ludicrous.
Benedict Allen reviewed this Book - Did he read it?
Many People have made remarkable journeys, most have not written their stories.
This Author did not make this journey - Because he would not have survived.
What a disappointment.
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on 1 April 2016
This is the tale of 'Slav' a former member of the Polish army who returns from fighting the Nazi's at the start of WWII, gets married and then gets arrested by the Russians. The charge of being a spy is based on the fact that he speaks Russian and lives in Poland near the Russian border. The sentence: 25 years in a Siberian Gulag. The book contains details of the torture inflicted to try and obtain a confession and, whilst the details are/not to graphic, they're not for the overly squemish. Slavomir joins hundreds of other prisoners on a train journey to the depths of Siberia with a fair chance that he won't survive. 7 men decide to try and escape and with virtually no resources and little hope set of on a walk to freedom. What follows next is a tale of incredible human endurance and a will to survive that almost defies belief. Spoiler alert,not all of the escapees make it but the journey and the battle against the elements on starvation rations is astonishing. The story flows at a good pace with a nice light touch on the dialogue throughout. I do have one problem with this story and that is the ending. Obviously Slavomir survives as he is the author and he is not alone. but what happens next. does he find his wife? Does he meet up again with the other survivors? The story finishes a bit abruptly and it would have been nice to have a paragraph or two just to finish the story off. Maybe I`m being picky because the tale is about the walk to freedom but it would have been nice to know. This is a fairly minor gripe and really doesn't detract from a cracking story
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on 12 November 2010
A documentary broadcast by the BBC in 2006, supported by papers written by Rawicz himself, suggest that this book should be categorised as fiction. Far from escaping and trekking to India Rawicz was in fact released in 1942 by the Soviets. But why let a bit of truth get in the way of a good story?
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