"A house without books is like a room without windows." -Horace Mann

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Long Walk

by Slavomir Rawicz

There are no words that do justice to the true story of this man's walk to freedom, except his own.  I have read this book before, but found myself just as involved through my second reading.  Rawicz describes the journey from being captured and tortured (not horribly graphic, but plenty to make the point) as a Polish prisoner in a Russian prison, then shipped like cattle to Siberia, and finally sent on a forced march to a gulag, or work camp.  He and six other men plan an escape which entails walking south from Siberia, all the way to India.  This "walk" not only cover approximately 4000 miles, but involved walking through the Russian winter snowstorms, crossing the Gobi Desert, and the Himalayas.  It is also somewhat unique because along the way this group of men befriend a female escapee and she travels with them.

It is a harrowing journey to read, and makes you very tense until the end, wondering if they really are going to make it.  You laugh a few times, cry some, and gasp at what these men, with hardly any supplies except their friendship and pure resolve, are able to do.  It is an important read for detailing many of the unjust, cruel, and inhumane ways these people were treated.  The book also has a very unique voice to it, one of straightforward and honest details, without going too far into melodrama. 

What is especially wonderful about this book is that for all the horrible treatment these men receive at the beginning of their experience, the story chronicles many good and generous people who help them along their way, who literally saved their lives time and time again.  Some of the stories of "poor" Mongolian and Tibetan people who give of their small means in such generous ways are true examples of the goodness of humanity.  It makes up, in some part, for the terrible things that were done to them.  And finally, it again reminds me and hopefully you of the greatness of the freedoms we so readily enjoy.  To what lengths would you or I be willing to go to for freedom?

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