Russian History Escape from a Siberian Prison Part 2

About an escape from a Siberian prison in the early days of World War II, history and story of the jail break.

BUSTING LOOSE--INCREDIBLE ESCAPES

The Long Walk-1939

After 60 days and over 1,000 mi., the decimated convoy finally reached Camp No. 303, deep in the Siberian forest about 350 mi. south of the Arctic Circle. Slavomir Rawicz, assigned to a logging detail, immediately began plotting an escape. He volunteered for a job making wooden skis in return for increased rations-a chance to strengthen himself and to hoard supplies. After several months he volunteered to repair the commandant's radio, and was befriended by the commandant's wife. With her help he obtained better clothing and more food for himself and his friends, and on a snowy night in April seven men crawled under the barbed wire, eluded guard dogs, and climbed the stockade.

There was no hesitation on the part of the desperate group as to which way to go. It had been decided in advance, reasoned through the long, frosty nights of whispered plotting in the barracks. They could not go east to the Kamchatka Peninsula 600 mi. away. That route, though the shortest and easiest, was also the most obvious, and the risk of being apprehended would grow as they approached the heavily guarded and fortified Pacific coast. It was also certain capture or death to head back into the Siberian heartland and try to live out the war in hiding without the necessary working papers. So the treacherous southern route was the only alternative; south to Afghanistan or India and freedom.

Traveling by night and hiding by day, they avoided populated areas wherever possible. Near the great Lake Baikal they chanced upon a young Polish girl named Kristina, who had escaped from another labor camp, and she joined their party. In approximately 60 days, the group was some 1,200 mi. from Camp No. 303, across the border in Outer Mongolia.

In Outer Mongolia, the party traveled by day and mingled freely with the local populace, exchanging work for food. The Mongolians were hospitable even though the group was infested with lice. Still, they yearned for Allied territory and pressed forward toward India. After several weeks they entered the fearsome Gobi Desert-burning sun, long days without water, three weeks with only snakes for food. In the Gobi, Kristina and one of the men died.

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