Slavomir Rawicz
March 17, 2006 12:58 PM   Subscribe

Slavomir Rawicz was a Polish calvary officer, who was imprisoned by the Soviets and eventually taken to a prison in Siberia. With 7 companions, including one mysterious american, he escaped and journeyed to the south, crossing Mongolia, the Gobi Desert and Tibet before making it to British India. Or at least this is what he claims in his book "The Long Walk." Nobody has ever found evidence that he was ever in russia or that any of his companions ever existed. Oh and he also claims to have seen Yetis.
posted by afu (21 comments total)
I'm sure this book contains the essential truth of Rawicz's story.
posted by xmutex at 1:12 PM on March 17, 2006

I've been seeing more and more links on the blue lately.

Just an idle observation.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 1:20 PM on March 17, 2006

Hopefully Oprah doesn't hear about this book.
posted by Meaney at 1:51 PM on March 17, 2006

I recommend the book highly, one of my favourites. They walked from Lake Baikal to India after escaping a gulag, via the Gobi and the Himalaya.
posted by hardcode at 1:59 PM on March 17, 2006

He's also lying if he claims to have been a "calvary" officer.
posted by schmedeman at 2:03 PM on March 17, 2006

No, he was there when they crucified our Lord.
posted by languagehat at 3:08 PM on March 17, 2006

They walked from Lake Baikal to India after escaping a gulag, via the Gobi and the Himalaya.

Except they probably didn't.
posted by xmutex at 3:23 PM on March 17, 2006

Seriously, it's extremely odd that intensive research has failed to turn up the slightest evidence to support his story. A Gulag Binjamin Wilkomirski?
posted by languagehat at 3:24 PM on March 17, 2006

I read The Long Walk years ago as a teen and it's a fascinating and exciting read, regardless of it's veracity. I can well understand why there's been almost continual debate since it was published. As that wikipedia page stresses, there seems to be barely any primary source corroboration of the story and the book itself glosses over some very long stretches of the walk in few words. I was also skeptical of the physical accomplishment, given the geographical difficulties overcome combined with descriptions of extreme hunger. They must have been incredibly tough men if it's at all true.
posted by normy at 3:33 PM on March 17, 2006

I read The Long Walk, and like Life of Pi, I choose to believe it. Otherwise it was a waste of my time to read it, and I'd rather not believe that.
posted by stbalbach at 3:58 PM on March 17, 2006

Take a good look at this map which represents the supposed route taken by Rawicz. That's one hell of a loooooong trip. And through inhospitable terrain too. Combine that with the lack of corroboration of Mr. Rawicz's adventure and I have to conclude that it's all baloney.

I don't know why Rawicz made it up -- but I'll bet my money that it's a total fabrication. People do odd things sometimes.
posted by bim at 6:17 PM on March 17, 2006

What a great read that story was! And I have to agree that it is fiction. The Yeti sighting, the fact that they went around Lhasa (probably because this would leave a real trail if the story were true), and then the part climbing over the Himalayas where there was no trail is just too much to believe.

And the old herder in the cave in the snowy mountains with his sheep waiting for spring???
posted by stirfry at 6:38 PM on March 17, 2006

He was a neighbor of some good friends of mine in England, and I met him a few times - having talked to him quite a bit, and read his book, it seems to me that his tale is probably about 5% true, but he definitely tells a good story.
posted by pdb at 6:57 PM on March 17, 2006

Read the book on my (Polish) grandmother's recommendation. I enjoyed it and didn't really care if it was real or not.

Life of Pi, mentioned above, was magnitudes better, though.
posted by pmbuko at 8:47 PM on March 17, 2006

As others have mentioned, it's a great read. Who cares if it's true?
posted by smeger at 10:07 PM on March 17, 2006

He's also lying if he claims to have been a "calvary" officer.

Why? There's a reason Poland fell to Hitler so easily, y'know...
posted by anarcation at 11:18 PM on March 17, 2006

I was going to run with a theory that he was recruited as an NKVD agent and assisted getting to India, but since it appears that not only isn't his repatriation in India documented, but none of his early life in Poland, I'm gonna go with a strong intuition here -- that he was a deserter from the Wehrmacht, possibly even a war criminal.

He's also lying if he claims to have been a "calvary" officer.

Why? There's a reason Poland fell to Hitler so easily, y'know...

The joke is about the mis-spelling calvary. As to the "so easily" bit, see Myths of the Polish September Campaign. The fall of Poland was due to three factors, overwhelming in combination: a Polish plan to defend the borders as opposed to a strategic fallback; an expectation that Poland's allies in the West would intervene offensively, as they had pledged; and the final blow of the Soviet invasion. The Polish military was at least as modern as any random European military, and its troops fought bravely and hard. In its own way, the "poor Poland" myth was intended as anti-German propaganda, but it has not served its subjects well.
posted by dhartung at 11:45 PM on March 17, 2006

I guess my "crucified our Lord" joke was too subtle.
posted by languagehat at 4:29 AM on March 18, 2006

A Calvary officer? Wrong hill!
posted by atchafalaya at 6:36 AM on March 18, 2006

Yeah, you want this Hill.
posted by languagehat at 8:41 AM on March 18, 2006

He was an officer in british palestine, so him being a Calvary officer isn't too far of a stretch... (ok half the comments in this thread about a typo, watch the spell check more closely next time.)

The strangest part about the book was his inclusion of the american character in the book. He must of known that if he wrote the book in English people would start asking questions and the first place they would go would be to find the american. Maybe that's why he didn't give his first name.
posted by afu at 6:51 AM on March 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

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