About 2 years ago I read the book The Long Walk by Slavomir Rawicz. To refresh my memory, last night I watched the movie, The Way Back. I was fascinated by this story of survival. There is a great deal of debate as to whether or not this trek really happened and to whom, but one thing I am convinced of and that is the plausibility of an escape similar to this. Those of us who spend our days in air conditioned homes with clean water flowing from the kitchen sink are quite incapable of knowing what the human mind and body can really endure. The will to survive can be so strong as to overpower many physical necessities of the body. Every time I find myself complaining of being “starving” I realize how little I know of physical pain. To be starving in 2011 America is not the same as to be starving in 1942 Siberia. The same can be said for being hot and cold. When learning about difficult periods of time, like the 1940’s, I often wonder how I would personally handle being in an enslaved situation. Would I be strong and determined to survive or would I give up and welcome a peaceful grave. In the movie, Mr. Smith talks about kindness being a sure way to a short life, but these men proved otherwise. I enjoyed this excerpt:
… I called for a check on food. All seven sacks were opened up, and rolled-up skins set on one side and the food brought out. We were, as we feared, badly off. There remained perhaps a couple of pounds between the lot of us of barley, a little flour, some salt and a few pounds of almost black deer meat. We decided on strict rationing to one small meal a day until we could replenish our stocks. Probably each one of us had, in addition to the communal food openly displayed, at least one piece of hard, dried bread, stuffed deep down in his long jacket. I know I had one, and there was evidence later that the others also had this tiny personal cache. There was nothing dishonest or anti-social about it. To hide away breat was a prisoner reflex, a symptom of captivity. A prisoner holding one crust of bread felt that he still had a hold on life, as a man in civilised surroundings will carry round with him a lucky coin to insure that he will never be penniless. It was a measure of the great affection we developed for this waif Polish girl that later on one and another of us would dig out this last piece of bread to allay her hunger.
When I was younger I read a book called “Down River” about a woman who escaped from some Indians… I left The Long Walk with a similar feeling of profound respect for the human body. Looking at a map of the 4,000 mile journey I am convinced our bodies are the most incredible creations of all eternity.