Witold GLINSKI

 

1st Polish Armoured Division

 

 

Witold Gliński, a veteran of the Polish Armed Forces in the West, told a British journalist, John Dyson, the story of an unusual escape from a Siberian labor camp through the Gobi Desert, Tibet and the Himalayas to India.

Gliński lived before the war in Głębokie in the Vilnius Region. After the outbreak of World War II, he was deported with his parents deep into Russia and was subsequently separated from them. He was imprisoned in the Moscow Lubyanka prison and, at the age of 17, sentenced to 25 years of hard forced labor.

He volunteered to work as a lumberjack. He marked the trees with a code known only to him, marking the direction to the south. The labour camp where he stayed was more than 2.5 thousand. km from the USSR border with China.

In February 1941, thanks to the help of the wife of the camp commander, who in return for repairing her radio, gave him shoes and warm clothes, he set off on a hiking trip through Mongolia, China and Tibet to India. He had escaped by digging under the camp fence during a blizzard.

Six fellow prisoners escaped with him: a mysterious American who at the time of his arrest worked as an engineer in Moscow - Batko, a Ukrainian, who was prosecuted in his country for murder - Zaro - the owner of a cafe in Yugoslavia - and three Poles who were former soldiers.

The route they traveled is nearly 6.5 thousand kilometers long, reaching their destination in January 1942. A Gurkha patrol found the escapees barely alive. Gliński was extremely exhausted, close to death. None of his three Polish companions had survived the march.

They marched up to 20 hours a day - through frost, blizzard, thin mountain air and scorching heat; they ate roots, mushrooms and snakes. In the Gobi Desert, where there are significant differences in temperature during the day and night, they quenched their thirst thanks to damp stones. Along the way, they did agricultural work in exchange for food.

From India, Gliński made his way to England, where he joined the 1st Polish Armoured Division, took part in the Allied landing in Normandy, and was wounded. In 1950 he married an English woman, settled in Cornwall, and worked on the construction of highways.

The story of Gliński's escape was appropriated by the former PSZ officer Sławomir Rawicz (1915-2004) when in 1955 he published the famous book "The Long Walk" about the march.

The book, translated into 25 languages, was exposed as plagiarism after Rawicz's death thanks to archival research, among others. at the Gen. Sikorski Institute in London. Then it turned out that Rawicz could not be a participant in the "Long March", because at that time he was serving in Persia.

Gliński knew for a long time that Rawicz appropriated the story of his escape. He believes that during the war he could have read it at the Polish Embassy in London. He never exposed plagiarism because he had a new life and wanted to forget about the war