Slavomir Rawicz chapter released…

Slavomir Rawicz who died on 5 April 2004
Slavomir Rawicz died on 5 April 2004. Artwork from Issue 2.

Our first chapter is released today to mark the tenth anniversary of the death of Slavomir Rawicz who passed away on 5 April 2004 at the age of 88. Rawicz was a Polish Army lieutenant who was imprisoned by the Russian NKVD after the German-Soviet invasion of Poland. He was sentenced to 25 years hard labour for ‘spying’, despite having a mother who was Russian, and consequently the ‘great stone fortress prison of Kharkov opened its grim gates to me in April 1940.’ It was here that Rawicz encountered chief interrogator The Bull, who ‘ran his interrogation sessions like an eminent surgeon, always showing off his skill before a changing crowd of junior officers.’ The Bull revelled in sadism, forcing prisoners to excrete while chained up and whose interrogations were so frequent it soon became impossible for prisoners to distinguish between day and night. The Bull was particularly proud of showing off his Cossack knife which he used with ‘dexterity and ingenuity’ in an attempt to force a false confession from his victims.

Things got slightly better when Rawicz was transferred to the notorious Lubyanka prison in Moscow but the torture continued. At one point he was strapped to the now familiar ‘operation table’ where tar was poured on his body. Rawicz commented that it was a variation on torture that would have made even the Bull envious.

Rawicz incredible journey across the Himalayas is drawn by artist John Stuart Clark
Rawicz incredible journey across the Himalayas is drawn by artist John Stuart Clark. Artwork from Issue 2.

From here Rawicz was transported, in cramped cattle trucks, to the sub-zero temperatures of Siberia. Many ‘died without a whisper in the long nights’ when their turn came to stand out of the warmth of the truck on a scheduled stop. ‘They had no graves, the ground was iron-hard and impossible to dig. They were taken away and snow heaped on them’.

The cramped conditions meant prisoners quickly got to know each other, not through name but by character. ‘There were leaders, those determined not to die, others whom the spark of hope had already been crushed’. But for Rawicz it was the jokers that helped people pull through, offering humour and temporary relief from the horrifying inhumane conditions. When the train eventually arrived at Irkutsk the men were chained together and marched hundreds of miles to Camp 303 – where, on arrival, the survivors had to build their own accommodation from scratch.

Rawicz worked for a short while at Nottingham Trent Polytechnic as a technician.
Rawicz worked for a short while at Nottingham Trent Polytechnic as a technician. Artwork from Issue 2.

Rawicz eventually managed to escape the Gulag in 1941 where he fought through the blizzards of Siberia and the blistering heat of the Gobi desert on his long walk home to freedom. So incredible is Rawicz’s story that some critics have suggested he embellished certain events, issues which are addressed by political cartoonist John ‘Brick’ Clark in his chapter published today.

My Long Walk with Slav is released on 8 April 2014 and can be downloaded from our official website.

We are tweeting The Long Walk until 8 April 2015. Please follow @SlavomirRawicz

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A Second Class Return to Dottingham, Please

Nottingham’s had a fair few labels over the years. In 1811 we were a rebel city thanks to the exploits of the mythological Ned Ludd and the Frame Breakers which led to an impassioned maiden speech in the House of Lords by Lord Byron. In 1984 we were known as Scab City on account of some our miners refusing to come out on strike. If you want to learn more about the truth of this particular event then read Look Back In Anger by Harry Paterson. In 2006 we were voted Worst City in Britain by some random media poll and gained some imaginative punnage as Nottingun and Shottingham. This led to my all-time favourite LeftLion front cover when we went for the headline ‘Another Shooting in Nottingham’. We were referring to our thriving film industry rather than sporadic urban shootings.

But for those of us who actually live in the Queen of the Midlands, we lovingly refer to ourselves as Dottingham after a 1980s television advert for the cough sweet Tunes. In this, the actor Peter Cleall attempts to buy a train ticket with a blocked up nose and delivers the immortal line ‘I’d like a second class return to Dottingham, please.’

To celebrate Peter Cleall’s 70th birthday (he was born on 16 March 1944) I’ve brought this advert back to life and given it a books related twist. This has been uploaded to our YouTube channel and will feature as embedded content in our opening chapter when Dawn of the Unread will be made available as an iPad, iPhone or Android download on 8 April.

The video was edited together by Loops who are a student company based at Confetti Institute of Technology. I’d recommend them for anyone who needs any video editing or similar work as they charge roughly 1/10th of commercial prices. This is a massive saving for anyone working on a tight budget while also supporting a new start-up trying to bridge the gap between study and work.
I did contact the Wrigley Company who own Tunes to make them aware of what I was doing but never heard back from them. I’ve taken the view that as our project is educational and the comic is available as a free download then the adaptation falls under ‘fair use’ and so shouldn’t invoke copyright issues. If they do get the hump then we’ll just have to take it down.

William Booth buys his ticket out of the after life
William Booth buys his ticket out of the after life in Issue 1.

The ‘Dottingham’ reference also features in our opening chapter which is written by myself and drawn by Mike White. William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, is buying a ticket out of the afterlife to come and see what we’re doing and, as you’d expect from a workaholic evangelical, isn’t best impressed by our intentions. You’ll just have to download the chapter to find out why.

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