Continuing with the long walk, I have read about 100 more pages since my last posting and I have to say that while I am enjoying the book I can see why some people question the validity of Rawicz’s book. I can’t help but think that everything has gone his way and, from his telling, it appears that hunger is the only major challenge he has faced. Though this isn’t to belittle the accomplishments of he and his party. I had initially thought to compare this book to A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich but this is doesn’t really work. After being left to freeze in the potato field, Rawicz and the other prisoners were then handcuffed to steel chains that were connected to enormous lorry trucks, and then they marched through the frozen Siberian plain to for weeks until reaching the gulag camp 303.
At the camp, Rawicz and the new arrivees are forced to build their own barracks and then they are placed in labor groups. However, Rawicz gets lucky as he is recruited with several other prisoners to work indoors and make skis for the Soviet army. This an especially beneficial position to have in the camp as he got to work indoors and received extra bread. It is in the ski shop that Rawicz begins to think of escape. Rawicz again turns out to be lucky. The commandant has a radio of German make called a telefunken which breaks and Rawicz happens to have had this type of radio back and Poland and volunteers to fix. In he commandants quarters, Rawicz plays at fixing the radio while speaking with the commandant and his wife. On his second attempt to fix the radio he finds what he thinks is the problem but does not want to fix he radio yet as this quite bonus for him. The third time he does fix the radio. While working on the radio Rawicz has built a relationship with the commandant’s wife and he is often called to keep her company. During one of their conversations the idea of escape comes up but Rawicz is hesitant to discuss this topic. Next time, he blatantly reveals that he does think of escape so he and the commandant’s wife discuss and plan how one would escape. Eventually this game becomes a reality as they become more serious in their discussions.
While not talking with the commandant’s wife, Rawicz begins recruiting healthy men and storing food for their escape. THey also begin saving supplies such as animal skins and tools. During a conversation with the wife, she tells Rawicz that the commandant will be away in April and that this would be a good time to escape. She also make six packs with food and supplies for Rawicz and the others. When the commandant leaves for a week, they make their break and escape into the open tundra of Siberia headed south. The journey south towards Mongolia goes well with little incident expect for the crossing of rivers. They also find a trapped elk which they kill. As the journey south continues, they stumble upon a girl – who happens to Polish and an escapee from a kolhoz. Her name is Kristina, ane with some debate, the men decided to add her to the party.
So far, while the book is a fun read, I find their journey and escape much to easy and everything just seems to go their way. Again I’m not saying that the book is not factual but it just seems too easy. Also, as I mentioned this is nothing like Solzhenitsyn because Rawicz spends almost no time in the camp and because he has a cushy job making skis.