Talk:Sławomir Rawicz

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
WikiProject Biography (Rated Start-class)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Biography, a collaborative effort to create, develop and organize Wikipedia's articles about people. All interested editors are invited to join the project and contribute to the discussion. For instructions on how to use this banner, please refer to the documentation.
Start-Class article Start  This article has been rated as Start-Class on the project's quality scale.
WikiProject Poland (Rated Start-class, Low-importance)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Poland, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of Poland on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
Start-Class article Start  This article has been rated as Start-Class on the project's quality scale.
 Low  This article has been rated as Low-importance on the project's importance scale.

New material from the BBC broadcast (October 2006)[edit]

The BBC broadcast revealed a great deal of new material about Rawicz. While there is a mention of it in The Times, quoted toward the end of this page, there is a much more detailed overview of the evidence at [[1]].

The BBC broadcast seems to have depended quite a bit on the work of Linda Willis. It's not mentioned in the BBC material, but Linda started out researching these matters almost desperately trying to prove that he was telling the truth. She has investigated and contacted just about every possible person/archive involved in this subject.

She found the smoking gun in the form of an account of Rawicz being part of the general amnesty for Polish soldiers in 1941/1942. The documents are in Rawicz's own hand and tell a far different story from the long walk. There are also additional documents that claim that Rawicz actually killed an NKVD officer. Tim Whewell dug up information on his early life from the former Soviet Union.

I'm going to hold off rewriting the article until more information appears, but I'm going to remove some of the cautionary statements about the parts of his life that are now documented. 22:05, 6 November 2006 (UTC)

So the same Soviet NKVD that had murdered tens of thousands of Polish officers for the "crime" of being educated Poles---burying their victims at Katyn and other mass graves---spared the life of a Polish officer who had allegedly killed an NKVD officer? And then released him to travel to the West and join the Free Polish forces? The same Free Polish forces that, when they rose against the German troops in Warsaw as the Red Army approached, were left to be slaughtered on Stalin's orders?
Rawicz's allegedly hand-written account of being amnestied reeks of Soviet disinformation intended to undermine the account of an anti-Soviet survivor. Rawicz's account of his escape is unlikely? But somehow documentation from Soviet archives---from a regime that was notorious for forging documents to fit its agenda---is trustworthy?
Stunningly naive. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:12, 25 June 2012 (UTC)
I must agree with — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:13, 20 August 2012 (UTC)
Even minus any NKVD source, his story has been conclusively proved false with no doubts left at all. When presented in the 1950s with proof that he had come out of the Soviet Union as part of the general Polish amnesty, he (Rawicz) claimed in a published letter that shortly after escaping the Soviet Union, he decided to return to the Soviet Union. Nothing Rawicz said ever added up. Not one fact could be independently verified. Those facts that did exist (including his own statements and his military records) say that the journey never happened. (talk) 20:51, 19 February 2014 (UTC)

"The Guardian seems to support it"[edit]

The Guardian obituary was written by a friend of Rawicz', and is therefore not NPOV, and should not be used to argue the veracity of The Long Walk, IMO.

'After the centre closed, in the early 1970s he became my technician - I was a lecturer - on the architectural ceramics course at Trent Polytechnic (now Nottingham Trent University) school of art and design. Our friendship developed across the ensuing decades, but a heart attack forced him into early retirement in the mid-1970s.'[2]

Econrad 01:53, 23 July 2005 (UTC)

separating the proven from the alleged[edit]

Slavomir Rawicz made a great many claims about his life and his book is controversial because many of his claims cannot be proven other than by his word. I have tried by editing the page to separate out what can be supported by hard facts from what is claimed.

For example, I know of no documentation that suggests General Anders or Colonel Luzinski knew of or recommended Rawicz for anything. If the family has such documentation, it's well past time to make it public. As far as I know, a service record for Slavomir Rawicz has still not been located among the records of the free Polish forces to even confirm his enlistment. I know of no statements by Anders or Luzinski during their lives supporting the stories told by Rawicz.

In future, anyone editing the page should be careful to separate out those things which are proven by more than one source from those things for which the only source is Rawicz himself, his friends or his family.

Separate book page?[edit]

Maybe there should be a separate page about the book The Long Walk, while this page lightens up on story-line and focuses on the controversy? The page comes across as very POVish, and I think it would be an improvement to move the story line of the book away from the how-much-of-this-really-happened debate. --Astronouth7303 03:14, 5 January 2006 (UTC)

Even if there is a separate page for the book, the controversy is going to have to be mentioned. Rather than being POVish, the page is attempting to explicitly separate facts versus the claims which depend on Rawicz. The reason that this is done is that the debate is often twisted or reduced to the events of his 1942 alleged journey which are the hardest to prove. Rather than push the debate into those narrow terms, everything needs to be put on the table.
I agree there should be a separate page for the book. The book is of more general interest than the author. That seems true regardless of the controversy. Especially as this article only lists one book he wrote, and movies have been at least loosely based on it, and discussed as such. If you don't know about the author or the book, and are reading another article that links here, it is almost guaranteed to be talking about the book, and that is the primary thing to want more information about. Links to here are not talking about the author, where the book he is famous for is an aside; the book is the topic. With no link. So you have to click through to the author, looking for a link to the book, and you still won't find one. (talk) 04:43, 11 February 2014 (UTC)

This article seems a bit biased[edit]

I don't know anything about the subject, but every paragraph in this entry seems to end with the line "There is no evidence to support [what was recounted in the paragraph]."

However, there are no cited sources to back up any of the factual objections. The only sources cited are the Guardian Obit and Dave Anderson's page. I am not partisan either way on the veracity of his story, but if you're going to write an article that unabashedly asserts that an author is a liar, shouldn't you provide some evidence, either to scholarship or articles that reference the lack of evidence suggested?

The article walks a fine line in pointing out carefully what in Rawicz's life can be verified and what cannot. There are no "factual" objections because there is nothing other than the personal account of Rawicz as told to Dowling in the book that exists. There are no "facts" against his account, only the absence of any facts to support it. There is not a single record of a "Slavomir Rawicz" anywhere prior to many years after the war. People who get exposed to the book tend to think the controversy is strictly about his journey. It isn't. As far as scholarship or articles, the bulk of that goes back to the 1950s when the book was published. It is also very difficult to do scholarship or articles about a "lack" of facts. I don't know who would accept an article which said "I went to the free Polish archives/British Library/Russian archives/etc and found nothing about Slavomir Rawicz". And a "lack" of facts is all that can be presented in this case. The Guardian Obit isn't a really a "Guardian" Obit, it was written by his associates/supporters. If you or anyone else thinks there are facts beyond the text of "the long walk" that support Rawicz, please cite those sources before asking the critics to come up with citations for a lack of facts.

Suggestion for restructuring[edit]

I'm no expert on Rawicz, so I don't want to jump into an edit here, but I have a suggestion for removing the appearance of bias. I suggest one section that gives Rawicz's version of events, without any editorial comment except perhaps an introductory note to say the veracity of the account is disputed and more information is given regarding the dispute later in the article. A second section would then go through all the points made about the lack of corroboration.

I also think you need citations to back up "no records have been found"; a citation of a news story where a journalist relates a failed attempt to locate some such records, for example.Mike Christie 02:42, 19 May 2006 (UTC)

I'm concerned that any restructure of the article is going to lead to a more biased version. There are no records of any kind on Slavomir Rawicz prior to years after the second world war. There is no factual or evidence based case that can be made in favor of the book. There is no controversy about that. I would be in favor of a restructure that removed the entire (long) detailed account of the book in favor of a very brief summary followed by a material detailing the total lack of any evidence. But the idea of a restructure where the Rawicz story is told in long form as if it were truth followed by criticism seems itself biased. The most helpful thing for the page would be for someone to make a case why the story is believable or supported by evidence. 20:30, 23 May 2006 (UTC)
I'm prepared to believe you, but I'd like to know what the sources are for your comments about the lack of evidence. Has there been, for example, any documentary book done reviewing Rawicz's claims? Or any newspaper articles that could be referenced? Mike Christie 22:34, 23 May 2006 (UTC)
A source that comes to mind is the comments in Anne Applebaum's Gulag: a History which I believe won a pulitzer prize. I think the book contained notes to the effect that the book was discounted by most serious people. I dont have the book in front of me to provide the quotes. 02:56, 24 May 2006 (UTC)
The Applebaum book cites the respected researcher/director of the St. Petersburg gulag memorial (Veniamin Loffe) as saying that he had researched the records of the gulag looking for conformation of the story (he found none). The book then says that he engaged in correspondance/conversation with Rawicz and found his whole story unconvincing. Applebaum also claims "the Long Walk" bears a distinct resemblance to the Rudyard Kipling story "the man who was". 19:31, 2 June 2006 (UTC)
This is a good start; I would suggest that you add a reference to this at the appropriate place in the article. The "unconvincing" cite is marginal, but the story of the research failing to turn up confirmation is very much worth citing. Mike Christie 19:42, 2 June 2006 (UTC)
A second source is Hugh Richardson's 1957 review of the book for the Himalayan Journal. Hugh Richardson was stationed in Tibet for many years (including during the war). In his article, he goes point by point after the errors with regard to the India/Tibet portions of the journey. Hugh Richardson was a top British official and expert on the affairs of Tibet for many years. Beyond the factual problems he points out with the book, he had never heard of the man or the story before the publication of "the long walk". If anyone would have heard the story in India, it would be expected that Hugh Richardson would have heard it. I'm working on a full citation for the source, but I suspect it will require a trip to London. There are other 1950s sources but they will also take time to locate. As far as Loffe, the actual cite would be that Loffe worked directly with Rawicz to help prove the story and walked away, as one of the foremost Russian experts in the gulag, with the impression that Rawicz had never been in the system. 22:24, 5 June 2006 (UTC)
Hugh Richardson's just-mentioned 1957 review of The Long Walk in the Himalayan Journal is available online at: Wsjacobs (talk) 03:21, 12 March 2014 (UTC)WJacobs

Rawicz letter to The Spectator[edit]

Rawicz wrote a letter to the magazine 'The Spectator' in 1956, that had run a critical review of his book by "Strix" (Peter Fleming), where he addressed the criticism of his book & the claim (given in the Strix review) that records placed him in Iraq on April 10th,1942.Here is the full text of that letter:

Sir,-In reply to the article "The Long Bow" by Strix in the issue of the Spectator of July 13, I emphatically state that all I have said in my book 'The Long Walk' is true, and I do not retract one word of it. I have never anywhere stated that I know exactly where we were, or which exact route we took. I tried with Ronald Downing to re-plot my journey, but I could not then and I cannot now state precisely where we went. I would remind everyone that we were not an expedition of exploration: we were starved fugitives fleeing from a terror that only those who have suffered under Communism can understand. I do not remember what roads or mountains we crossed -we never knew the names of most of them and had no maps or previous knowledge.

I do not know how the information about my entry into the Polish Army records has been obtained, but I was not in Iraq on April 10, 1942. I was there in the middle of June. I crossed from India to the Middle East in an ex-German boat from the First World War, converted into a carrier for British troops. No Polish office or any other records office took particulars from me then. I re-entered Russia for reasons of my own at the end of June. When the right time comes I will tell that story and explain my actions. I have in my possession an identity card in three languages stating that I rejoined the Polish Army on July 24 at Kermini in the USSR. From Kermini I eventually came back to Iraq with the Polish troops.

Strix suggests that I am suffering from an hallucination. Fourteen years is a hell of a long time in which to harbour an hallucination, of which I bear the scars both physically and mentally. - Yours faithfully,

SLAVOMIR RAWICZ c/o Constable & Co. Ltd. [address given]

Did Rawicz ever explain his re-entry into the USSR? (unsigned)

No. The afterword of the 1997 was his new official post cold-war version of events and he was generally unwilling to elaborate let alone answer the questions left over from the 1950s. The story in the letter to the spectator is very much at odds with his 1997 version which is also at odds with the book. 03:15, 27 June 2006 (UTC)
Could you elaborate on how the 1997 Afterword is at odds with the original story and the Spectator letter? I find it interesting that there is at least some record of Rawicz's whereabouts during the war. I also found a mention in the Times Literary Supplement of his earliest British Air Force record. I will try to add it later.
The afterword says he went to Persia in 1942 (not Iraq). The afterword says that he went from Persia to Palestine were he recuperated for 18 months. The afterword conflicts with the book in terms of what contact Rawicz had with the other members of the party after his time in India. One says that heard the details of how the other members were fighting on different fronts of the war. The other suggests otherwise. The afterword specifically does not mention him re-entering the soviet union in 1942 nor does it mention him as rejoining the Polish Army at Kermini in the USSR. Do you have a publication date for the TLS piece? I'd like to take a look at it.
The next time I'm in London, I intend to go through the records looking for a convoy and a ship which matches his account in the Spectator letter. He gives enough detail that it should be possible to track down the ship and if the ship can be found, that should lead indirectly to the military units that were on the ship (he says troop carrier). And if a ship can't be found, that would be important too. 15:58, 29 June 2006 (UTC)
Thanks for the info on the different versions. The TLS piece is actually one review of the book and two letters to the editor.
The book review is by the famous novelist E.M. Forster (TLS, April 27,1956,pg.249) who notes that the "intense clarity" of the narrative begins to falter starting with the escape from the prison camp, that the complicity of the camp commandant's wife is a "blurred patch" and the character of Smith "never takes on substance at all". "The truth is, indeed, that nobody in the party ever comes to life", he writes. He describes the description of the trek, and ascribes to the author himself, as having "something of the quality of a dream." After a concise description of the group's journey, Forster ends his review asking: "Truly an astonishing experience, but is it possible that Mr. Rawicz, so long after the event, has not remembered the details of the escape as clearly as he remembers the march into captivity?"
The first letter to the editor (TLS, Friday, May 11,1956) reads: "Sir,- I am glad to find that your reviewer shares some of my doubts about 'The Long Walk'. Most other critics evidently do not: faced with this extraordinary story, which is confessedly a work of collaboration, they treat it as just another true adventure. Surely the natural thing would have been at least to check the evidence with the publisher-Rawicz himself being unwilling to let his true name and whereabouts be known-but I understand that nobody bothered. If they had they would have discovered that there is no confirmation for any of the incidents described. The author exists, and is known to have been an A/C2 in the R.A.F., but nobody else can be found who had even heard rumours of this particular escape. The rest of the party cannot be traced, and there is no record of their arrival in India. This incredible feat seems to have passed quite unnoticed.//For all that, it may well be true. But isn't it a little staggering to find this complete lack of elementary scepticism? I think critics must be getting a little punch-drunk. JOHN WILLETT."
The second letter to the editor (TLS, Friday, May 18, 1956) reads: "Sir,-Like your correspondent Mr. J. Willet, I find 'The Long Walk' very astonishing indeed, particularly after the party entered Tibet. According to the map and the text, the party by-passed Lhasa some miles to the west and continued south, helped by the hospitality and directions of the Tibetans. Faced with the Himalaya, they did some mountaineering which to trained, well-equipped and fit mountaineers would have been a formidable task: to five half starved and worn-out men suffering from deficiency diseases, it takes on the nature of a miracle. But the real question is, why do it? // The reader is led to believe that the Himalaya is a practically impassable barrier only to be surmounted with difficulty and great exertion: this is nonsense. From a point some miles west of Lhasa, going south, the party would be bound to converge on to the Lhasa-Kalimpong trade route. This well-defined route leads south across the Tibet-Sikkim frontier at the Jelep La; there is an alternative pass a few miles farther north, the Nathu La, which leads to Gangtok in Sikkim. Neither route calls for any mountaineering nor for any more exertion than would be used in climbing Snowdon by the footpath. // As your correspondent says, it may all be true but it is very, very odd. D. HENDERSON."
These items raise some questions: Who did the research on the background of the book that is referenced in the first letter? Where did it appear in print, if at all? What attempts were made at the time to trace Rawicz's fellow travellers? Is it a misapprehension by Willett to assume that 'Slavomir Rawicz' was a pseudonym? Did Rawicz initially refuse to publicly discuss the book as he seems to indicate? Strix mentions in his critical article that Rawicz appeared on a television show discussing the book and that another TV show was due to take it up the following week. On the first show Strix says that one of the panelists, mountaineer Eric Shipton, challenged Rawicz on details of his story. Shipton wrote a critical review of the book for the Geographical Journal. I will try to post resumes of this review and the two pieces by Strix later.
The first letter is really interesting. A couple other people I've talked to who have researched this have come to the conclusion that Slavomir Rawicz wasn't his real name. ("Rawicz himself being unwilling to let his true name...") Willett seems to be suggesting in the letter tha Rawicz was not his real name but at the same time he references him being an A/C2 in the R.A.F. As far as can be determined, there are no records on "Rawicz" in the RAF personnel files. From the letters (and from Peter Fleming's work) it almost seems like there was research into the story going on among some set of people and that not everything they knew was made public. Floating a theory, it could be that some of these people knew another name for Rawicz and their research was being done in the context of that name.
Investigating the story in India has always been difficult. Rawicz and company entered northeast India at the same time as refugees in similar condition were flooding overland out of Burma into exactly the same area because of the Japanese conquest. Rawicz and company would not have stood out necessarily to any hospital official in India. Given that Rawicz did not speak English at the time, his perceptions of events in the hospital might not be completely right.
To my knowledge, there is still no traceable public record for Rawicz before the postwar period. The 1950s material suggests that several people had access (somehow) to additional information, but so far there is no trail back into the public records to get what they had access to. I've not seen what Fleming presented with regard to the April 1942 in Iraq claim. But I'm guessing that he didn't provide enough information to pull the public records.
This is wandering in the dark. A book makes claims, but there is a lack of verification. Critics challenge claims, but their basis is "it may all be true but it is very, very odd" or "those who know find it implausible." Given reality's nature, Rawicz could probably lie and memory mash, have buried motives with pathological roots, yet still be telling big chucks of something like truth. We're left with a big uncertainty distribution, where absolute truth and absolute lie are at opposite ends.

Shipton's review in The Geographical Journal[edit]

The well-known mountaineer Eric Shipton reviewed 'The Long Walk' in The Geographical Journal in 1956 (pp. 370-372). After summarizing the the story of the group's journey he writes: "Such a story should need no embellishment. A simple account of the facts could hardly fail to to absorb the interest of the most hardened armchair adventurer, to chill the heart of the least imaginative reader. The narrative is indeed presented with apparent restraint; its attractive modesty claims our sympathy and our tolerance. We are willing to make every allowance for memory clouded by time and suffering. Yet, throughout the book, there are so many improbable circumstances, so many geographical details which fail to match our knowledge of the areas travelled, that it is impossible to trace the boundary between fact and fantasy."

Here are the main issues Shipton discusses:

The journey between Tsangpo River and India: Shipton says that the Tsangpo, throughout its course, is never more than 100 miles from the main axis of the Himalayas and that the intervening country, being easy, can be crossed at any time and almost any place in six easy marches. However, in the book, where Rawicz says the group averaged 20 miles per day, it took them two months (end of January to end of March). Also, Shipton questions the claim that they encountered no inhabited areas during this time, declaiming any knowledge of such a wide uninhabited belt in the area.

The pass through which the Himalayan range was crossed is unidentifiable from the book's description. "Crossing the eastern Himalaya from north to south anywhere, one descends almost immediately, often in a matter of a few hours, into deep, heavily forested gorges." Shipton says that either they would have descended into very difficult territory that would have cut down their progress to 1 mile a day or they came down into an inhabited valley with a path and would have encountered some villages along the way to any motor road. Yet the book does not describe any contrast between an easy approach to the Himalayas with a descent into rugged territory, nor any striking change of scenery, nor any villages/habitation between crossing the pass and the encounter of the Indian troops on the road.

Water-deprivation: Shipton estimates that given the temperatures, humidity and physical activity of marching across the Gobi desert in summer a person would be incapacitated by 3 days and probably dead in 4 days without any water. Yet in the book the group marched 8 days with no water and some dried fish and all survived to reach an oasis, then marched 12 days with no water with two dying along the way which was followed by another 10 day, waterless march. The only extenuating circumstance being their eating of grilled snakes along the way.

Shipton also points out that if they had followed their original assumption of India being due south of Lake Baikal they would have reached the South China coast opposite Hainan, not India. However the book does not describe any deviations imposed on them by local obstacles that would have lead them to where they actually arrived.

He ends the review wondering how Rawicz and his fellow prisoners survived ill-clothed in the march to Irkutsk in freezing temperatures, how the group missed the important highway between Urumchi and Lanchow which they must have crossed into to highlands of Tibet and which would have been carrying heavy traffic in 1941 (or, if they avoided it, why they didn't notice any signs of civilization like telegraph poles), and why, when in the middle of Tibet, they didn't seek help or direction from the elderly European missionary they met and conversed with.

He finishes off with an apparently sarcastic paragraph (i) wondering how they could 'ruthlessly' hurl boulders directly into a gorge into which their friend had just fallen, (ii) saying that mountaineers would be interested in the 'novel' techniques they used to negotiate overhanging crags on their journey across the Tibetan plateau,(iii) how they could have not encountered the Tibetan staple 'tsampa' and (iv) ridiculing the yeti encounter.

I consider the entire route as shown in the book to be untrustworthy. I think its unliklely that they went through the Gobi because that would have been both foolish and certain death. There are however other desolate/arid regions they could have gone through. The excuse for not turning east in China has always been that they were afraid of being captured by the Chinese Communists and returned to the USSR. I find that difficult to accept in that none of the party would seem to have been worldly enough to know the facts of the civil war in China. I keep thinking that (if it happened) the sensible paths are all to the east of what the book shows. I don't think they came anywhere near Lhasa because the British carefully tracked every foreigner in Tibet and their presence would surely have been detected. 17:47, 6 July 2006 (UTC)
  • Is there on-line access to this material? It could add tremendously to the article, if properly sourced and cited. Ratagonia (talk) 21:32, 27 January 2009 (UTC)

More on Spectator Articles from 1956[edit]

I finally went over the Spectator articles from 1956 concerning Slavomir Rawicz. Peter Fleming (Strix) actually did a positive review in the April 13, 1956 Spectator. The only thing he questioned were the snow-creatures. But in the second article (July 13, 1956), he changed his mind. This was after a discussion between Rawicz and five others on a BBC program called "the travellers" the week before.

He (and by implication the broadcast) raised against Rawicz the following issues:

1) None of the other survivors had come forward
2) None of the soldiers in the Calcutta Hospital at the time remember him
3) None of the medical staff remember him
4) The director of Military Intelligence (India) did not remember the Incident
5) The deputy director of Military Intelligence (India) did not remember the Incident
7) Rawicz did not remark about crossing the Lancow-Urumchi highway with its telegraph poles in the book. On the BBC program he was asked about this and said he did not remember crossing a road with telegraph poles.
8) He had also not remembered the 20,000 foot mountain barrier that has to be climbed to get up to the Tibetan plateau. While he didn't remember that, he remembered details about a shepherd and his knife.
9) Rawicz claimed in the BBC program to have crossed Tibet without seeing a lama or a lamasery.
10) He described a well-known large forest through which he would have to have passed as being an area with only a few stunted trees.
11) Polish Army records show that he joined a transit camp in Iraq on April 10, 1942 when he was supposedly in the Himalayas.
12) Rawicz claimed to have taken a troop transport from Calcutta to the middle east. Fleming finds this improbably as the Japanese Navy dominated the Bay of Bengal in 1942. While he can't rule it completely out, he thinks it unlikely that any troop transports would have left Calcutta for the middle east at that time.
13) Rawicz on the BBC broadcast denied all knowledge of Tsamba, the main food eaten in Tibet.

He wonders about the whole thing at the end. If Rawicz had been an ordinary impostor, he would have done a much better job in coming up with a story. And if he were making the story up, why did he mention other survivors at all? If he made himself the sole survivor of the trip, less questions would have been asked.

I came across another reference which I could not look up. Its Illustrated London News - May 19, 1956 if anyone is interested. 18:44, 5 September 2006 (UTC)

The Illustrated London News item is just a page-long resume of the story that does not critically look at Rawicz's account, as I recall. It does, however, have a photograph of Rawicz taken at the time the book was released. You may want to listen to this when it airs.:

Radio 4[edit]

A 30 minute documentary by Tim Whewell (formerly the BBC's Moscow correspondent) will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 at 8pm this evening, unsurprisingly titled "The Long Walk". BBC Radio programmes are usually downloadable from the website for a week after broadcast. [3]

There is also an article in today's Times - [4] - which says that "new evidence suggests that it is a work of fiction" ... "Records confirm that he was arrested in November 1939 but they also state that he was freed in 1941 under an amnesty given to Polish soldiers when the Soviet Union joined the Allies — and was healthy enough to re-enlist as a soldier the next day." -- ALoan (Talk) 11:22, 30 October 2006 (UTC)

updating the article[edit]

I've just updated the article to cover the new 2006 information on the subject. Afterward in looking at the article I think it could now be revamped in format. What I'm thinking about doing is separating out two sections for the period 1939 (after arrest) to 1942 (arrival in Palestine). One section would give the details of his life as per the Russian gulag records and the other would describe the account given in the long walk.

I would like to get any opinions on doing this before I actually revamp the article. I'll probably give it 2-4 weeks for comments. 23:05, 21 November 2006 (UTC)

  • Good work. The format sounds sensible - Skysmith 12:31, 22 November 2006 (UTC)

Escapee designation[edit]

I removed Rawicz from the escapee list because his story has now been proved by the BBC and others to have been fiction. The documentation from the soviet union clearly shows beyond any doubt that he was released as part of the general amnesty of poles in 1942. He did not escape. I see no basis for keeping his name on the list. 18:01, 4 December 2006 (UTC)

In my opinion, you are being far too strident. Old documents cannot show much of anything "beyond any doubt". Perhaps you expect the Soviets to have kept accurate and truthful records about everything they did? —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 08:51, 11 December 2006 (UTC).
In my opinion, there are people who no amount of facts will ever convince. If you start down the road of assuming that all government documents are inaccurate and untruthful, reason is out the window and your into conspiracy theory. 06:31, 19 December 2006 (UTC)
This should be in category:Escapees not Category:Fictional escapees , as the fictional refers to the character , not the escape. This can be seen as Category:Fictional escapees is under the tree from Category:Fictional characters by nature, clearly showing the nature of the category. For the record I totally agree about the dubious nature of the escape and agree that the article should highlight this GameKeeper 13:41, 7 February 2007 (UTC)
I put him in fictional escapees because the book is really fiction. Slavomir Rawicz, though listed as author, did not write the book. Nearly the entire story told in the book did not happen. If such a book cannot be catagorized as fiction, what is it? Is there a literary category separate from fiction for false biography or false stories attributed to real people.
I intend to drop him as an escapee as a resolution to the matter. The escapee list should be strictly for true stories. I know of no other person in that list whose story has been proven false or a case where a hoax is listed alongside real events. If this isn't acceptable to you, I'm willing to look at other compromises but I think it has to go beyond the article. 17:53, 8 February 2007 (UTC)
I do not totally agree with you. The idea of categorization is to help users find information, even if they don't know that it exists or what it's called. if someone was looking for the 'famous Polish escapee' but did not know his name they could not now find him using categories. The article clearly explains the strong doubt that he ever escaped. However he is still know as a real person that claimed to have escaped. As such I think he should be under category:Escapees. I will not revert it back as I do not feel that strongly about it but feel I should state my view in case you are convinced. GameKeeper 19:22, 8 February 2007 (UTC)
Thank you. I think this is a reasonable resolution to the issue. But to clarify on one small point, the article does not express strong doubt. The book and the story have been proven to be false and article reflects that. The ambiguity that existed for many years is gone and the man's story has been shown without a doubt to be a pack of lies. 16:15, 9 February 2007 (UTC)


I don't have the book with me, but I remember Rawicz saying that he was beaten by a guard (struck in the face with the butt of a pistol) and lost teeth in the sides of his mouth (I don't know the technical terms, but I mean the chewing surfaces). I've wondered but never heard anything about whether modern dental x-rays are available to show whether or not he was missing teeth in those areas. Tangentially related: he was supposed to have been burned on the backs of his hands by hot tar. Would it leave scars? Are there any photographs?

Continuing to check random things I recall from the book. Rawicz claims that he met a man with a watch, and that the watchmaker's name was Pavel Bure. Apparently the Bures did make expensive watches about the right time (up until about 1917) and the first 1914ish Bure watch I saw on the web clearly says "Pavel Bure" in Cyrillic. But, of course, he could have run into such a watch previously.

Other questions that come to my mind. Are there black snakes in the Gobi? Is the distinctive lower leg swelling symptom indicative of imminent death due to dehydration known? Are there any records of a captain (I think) Ushakov (I think) stationed at the prison camp in Siberia at the time?

There is no controversy over him being a prisoner in the soviet union during the war and there may be truth in some of the early parts of the long walk. So even if there were physical evidence of torture, it doesn't prove anything with regard to the journey.
The whole description of the Gobi and Tibet in the book has been controversial since the 1950s. Even Rawicz himself has said that the route published in the book is nothing more than a guess. From reconstructions based on the material in the book, the only way the journey makes sense is if his route was much further to the east than shown in the book.
Nobody has found a record of a Camp 303 as of yet. His history in the prison system is known now and its possible that a Ushakov may be found, but it might take a long time.
Beyond whats in the book, anyone who seriously looks into this has to deal with any number of additional conflicting statements made by Rawicz over the years. For example, he claimed in the 1950s in a letter to the Spectator that he returned to the Soviet Union in 1942 and re-joined the polish forces on Soviet soil. There are also private letters to various people which tell different stories. 06:56, 19 December 2006 (UTC)


Apparently 'The Long Walk' will be the main source for a film called "The Way Back" that will be written and directed by Peter Weir. [5] Lord of the Ping (talk) 22:56, 24 November 2008 (UTC)

The press releases are not quite telling the whole story. Peter Weir is using several different books as inspiration for his film and Weir is not taking a stand (so far) for the truthfulness of "the long walk". (talk) 10:09, 5 December 2008 (UTC)

Spelling of name[edit]

Can the name Slawomir be corrected, please?→ (talk) 20:22, 28 November 2008 (UTC)


I added a couple of articles I found. THe Outside one looks interesting. I haven't had a chance to look at it. The other one just seems to summarize the story. ChildofMidnight (talk) 06:04, 10 December 2008 (UTC)

Recent edits and standards for sources[edit]

Within the past month, the article was edited based on the claim that the work of the BBC on this topic constituted "weak evidence" and should therefore be discounted as "unproven". This is unacceptable for several reasons:

(1) No case is presented as to why the BBC material, which is sourced to physical documents in the Soviet Union and in the Polish Government in exile records in London, should be considered unreiable. Especially those written by Rawicz himself.

(2) There remains no proof in favor of the Rawicz story other than the words of the man himself in the book.

(3) The article should not take on a point of view that sourced and cited material from the BBC is false or not credible. (talk) 21:33, 26 January 2009 (UTC)

* Support Ratagonia (talk) 22:49, 26 January 2009 (UTC)

Polish sources?[edit]

Recently I re-read The Long Walk and was recommending it to a friend, when I decided to look up Sŀawomir Rawicz here. I was quite disappointed to learn that his book appears to have been mainly fictional.

A quick online search turned up a reference to Soviet records revealed in 2006 showing that Rawicz was released in 1941. But before I conclude that the book is fictional, I'd like to know if there are any Polish sources on this question. (I don't read Polish and can't check Polish Wiki myself.)

Djiękuje. Sca (talk) 16:38, 27 January 2009 (UTC)

The Polish sourcse I'm aware of are from the military records of the government in exile. Those records consist of Rawicz's 1942 and after service history and matters related to his exit from the Soviet Union. Those records also came to light in 2006. There are no records (not one) that support Rawicz' account of events in 1942. (talk) 01:32, 28 January 2009 (UTC)

Rather then fictional, it is best viewed as just factually incorrect as to the geography of the route taken, based on a number of factors such as fatigue, unfamiliarity with the territory covered, estimation of distances and number of days spent on certain sections of the route (again confusion due to hyperthermia/hypothermia/dehydration/starvation etc. The fact Slavomir escaped a gulag and took an immense journey is not in dispute, the route taken and certain aspects of who else was present and where they ended up is. (previous comment by )

    • Uh, no. The various sources point to it being a fabrication, possibly a 'synthesis' of other escape tales, but not in any sense 'a true story'. Ratagonia (talk) 23:22, 17 September 2009 (UTC)

Alternative Walker?[edit]

Is this account more credible? "the incredible story of Witold Glinski's escape from the Russians across the Gobi desert and through the Himalayas to freedom in India.. a journey that took him 11 months" —Preceding unsigned comment added by Newschapmj1 (talkcontribs) 16:11, 17 May 2009 (UTC)

The information so far released is utterly lacking in any detail. No proof beyond Glinski's claim that it happened has of yet been released. (talk) 18:57, 28 September 2009 (UTC)

Peter Weir film[edit]

Peter Weir has not said he intends to make a film based on the life of Rawicz. His statements have been that he intends to create a fictional work inspired by several people including Rawicz. I've corrected the article accordingly. (talk) 18:59, 28 September 2009 (UTC)

comments on one of the sources[edit]

"Hugh Levinson, "Walking the talk?" Monday, 30 October 2006, BBC News, UK"

This source is used to document the claims around Rupert Mayne. But it is incorrect. Rupert Mayne always carefully claimed that he interviewed three men in India in 1942 but he either was not aware or did not remember who their names were. The source claims that Mayne explicitly supported Rawicz' story which is not true. The BBC article presents no source in support and other sources do no support the claim either. Careful use should be made of this source in terms of making claims about what Mayne did or did not say. It would be better overall to find an earlier source for what he said. (talk) 04:59, 28 September 2014 (UTC)


There's a review of the book by Sir John Squire in The Illustrated London News 1956 May 19, pg 548. CFLeon (talk) 21:52, 3 February 2016 (UTC)

Assessment comment[edit]

The comment(s) below were originally left at Talk:Sławomir Rawicz/Comments, and are posted here for posterity. Following several discussions in past years, these subpages are now deprecated. The comments may be irrelevant or outdated; if so, please feel free to remove this section.

Last edited at 23:33, 23 February 2008 (UTC). Substituted at 07:31, 30 April 2016 (UTC)

Does the 1956 Spectator article not confirm he was in the Middle East before General Anders army?[edit]

It is mentioned here on the discussion page that an article from the Spectator in 1956 places him in Iraq on April 10, 1942. Would that not confirm that he was in the Middle East before General Anders army reached there, and thus presumably escaped? It was my understanding that General Anders army did not reach the Middle East until roughly June-August 1942. Or am I mistaken? Someone please clarify this. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Richard thayer (talkcontribs) 15:29, 15 May 2016 (UTC)

External links modified[edit]

Hello fellow Wikipedians,

I have just modified one external link on Sławomir Rawicz. Please take a moment to review my edit. If you have any questions, or need the bot to ignore the links, or the page altogether, please visit this simple FaQ for additional information. I made the following changes:

When you have finished reviewing my changes, you may follow the instructions on the template below to fix any issues with the URLs.

You may set the |checked=, on this template, to true or failed to let other editors know you reviewed the change. If you find any errors, please use the tools below to fix them or call an editor by setting |needhelp= to your help request.

  • If you have discovered URLs which were erroneously considered dead by the bot, you can report them with this tool.
  • If you found an error with any archives or the URLs themselves, you can fix them with this tool.

If you are unable to use these tools, you may set |needhelp=<your help request> on this template to request help from an experienced user. Please include details about your problem, to help other editors.

Cheers.—InternetArchiveBot (Report bug) 05:10, 20 December 2017 (UTC)