War Escapes

Two books and two films about harrowing escapes during World War 2. One story is about Jan Baalsrud, a British-trained Norwegian commando, who escapes over snowy mountains (with the help of Norwegian resistance) from German-Occupied Norway to Sweden.

The other story is ghostwritten about Polish prisoner-of-war Slavomir Rawitz and 8 companions, who escape from Stalin's Soviet Gulag to India. Snow and mountains. deserts and death.

Jan Baalsrud, Norway to Sweden, 29 March to 1 June 1943

We Die Alone (book)

by David Howarth, 1955 and 1999 / Beaverton lib 940.5472 HOW

Operation Martin, leader Løytnant Sigurd Eskeland

ship MK Bratholm

Table on page 204 , many names do not translate

map by reader

March 31


April 3

Bjorneskar?? Mapcarta.com shows southern Norway

April 5

Knosen ?? by boat

April 5

Lynseidet ??

April 5 to 8

Lost in Lyngen Alps

April 8

Marius's farm in Furuflaten

April 12

Across Lyngen fjord

April 12 to 25

hut at Revdal

April 25

Ascent of Revdal

April 25 to May 12

in snow cave

May 1

Marius and Agnethe climb the plateau

May 2

Mandal men arrive, first attempt on frontier

May 9

Second attempt on frontier

May 22

Carried down to cave in Mandal

May 26

Carried up to plateau again

June 1

Crossed the Swedish border

The 12th Man (2018 Norwegian Harald Zwart film)

Beaverton lib DVD 12th

More Later

Slavomir Rawicz, USSR to Mongolia, Gobi Desert, China, Tibet, and India

The Long Walk (book)

The True Story of a Trek to Freedom

Slavomir Rawitz (London ghostwriter Ronald Downing) 1956 and 2006 / West Slope lib 940.5472 Rawicz

The Way Back (2010 English Peter Weir film)

A film is not a book, they adapt stories to different audiences (and must achieve different financial outcomes). That said, the film wonderfully captures the spirit and struggles that Slawomir Rawicz (and his English-adept ghost writer) described in his very moving book "The Long Walk".

The struggles and bravery of the female character were moving in both film and book. Her written story actually made me cry, and the film would have had I not already explored my feelings reading the book. See the film, read the book, enjoy both as masterpieces.

Another (perhaps neurotic) emigre claims the book was made up or plagiarized, and by implication the story of this film. That slander was thoroughly debunked by a New York Times investigative reporter, but slanders endure long past their rebuttal. Communism-as-slander (as opposed to voluntary, generous, collaborative economic production) endures today.

Memory is a trickster, and months of starvation followed by decades of verbal re-tellings will change any story. So, a real story actually happened, a misremembered story was written many years after the event, and a somewhat different story was filmed 65 years after the event. I am horrified that millions endured such stories in the gulag, but glad that the stories in the book and the film were both told so movingly.

I rate this 9 stars to acknowledge that there are many reasons other viewers would dislike it, and subtract only one because I care more about Rawicz and his companions and the book story and this movie story than I care about the unhappy viewers. :-P

I care most about the MILLIONS who suffered in the gulag (a friend spent his first 14 years there), and those suffering in modern equivalents.

Lastly, an ending "spoiler". In the film, the protagonists reach India, and are welcomed by a throng (in the book, a small British army patrol). Two of the protagonists are questioned and reply in English.

In the book, only the American "Smith" knows English, though the others know Russian and Polish and Ukrainian and German and French among them. The book continues with a hospital stay, followed by training for combat in the Polish legion of the British Army near the end of World War 2. The real-life protagonists arrived as walking skeletons, and needed months (and a few weeks comatose) to recover.

The hospital recovery ending makes for a better book, but a lousy film.

All that said

This BBC magazine article suggests there was a similar walk by 3 gulag escapees - but Rawicz wasn't one of them. He was imprisoned in the Gulag ... for killing an NKVD officer. He was released in 1942 to rejoin the Polish Army.


WarEscapes (last edited 2023-09-01 11:44:46 by KeithLofstrom)