I walked 2,000km to trace my grandfather’s escape from a Russian gulag

My grandfather and his brother survived one harsh winter in a Soviet prisoner camp during the second world war before they made a daring escape to the relative safety of Poland.

It was a treacherous 2,200km journey which saw them separated from their friends during a military ambush, shot at and chased, and took more than three months to complete as they hitched rides on freight trains and dodged Russian troops.

My great uncle kept a record of their journey, taking notes on scraps of paper and drawing out landmarks as they travelled through Russia, Belarus and on to Lithuania and Poland.

  • V10_Rob

    Pffft. What a candy-ass.

    Trying keeping it together when you’ve been triggered by hurtful chalk messages, then tell me about your hardship and suffering.

    • Barbararnelligan2

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    • Lupus

      Sarcasm doesn’t translate well into print. May I suggest [/sarc] at the end of your comment? (just to make it clear)

      • Drunk_by_Noon

        Naaaa… It’s WAY BETTER this way.

        • Lupus

          OK fine. Some will take it the wrong way. At least I hope it can be taken the wrong way.

        • dance…dancetotheradio

          The Associates.
          Billy Rankine is a better vocalist than Freddie Mercury.

          • Who’s Freddie Mercury?

          • dance…dancetotheradio

            I’m not going to cite that band.
            I hate them.

    • Clink9

      One day, a brave director in Hollywood will document the plight of the Chalk People.

  • Very instructional. Could be useful information after they formally criminalize “Climate denial” and start putting people in jail. Where will they put us? Possibly re-education camps in the frozen North where they accuse us of melting all the ice — Canada’s future Gulag?

    • dance…dancetotheradio

      Well, I’ve applied to work in the frozen North.
      I will happily foment against them while I am cold.

      • You’re more desperate than me. Heard the pay’s good though.

        • dance…dancetotheradio

          You sign on the dotted line when you take the job.
          And expect that you are going to get forced somewhere.
          I love my wife and kids and will do whatever I have to feed them.

          • Probably a good break from the urban politics, on the bright side.

          • Is it fly-in and ice roads or is there a modicum of civilization?

          • dance…dancetotheradio

            Eleven hour drive but I’d prefer taking the flight.
            I hate driving.

          • I don’t blame you. It doesn’t make you an “elitist” — everybody flies in the North when they can, including the locals.

            I drove cab in the North — not the “far North”, but as far north as the roads would take you. When the pavement ended, we drove on gravel, when the gravel ended we drove on dirt — often through the bush and nothing more than logging roads. Twelve hour return trips were not unusual. One trip took me north of Central Patricia (Ont.) to a First Nations reserve in the middle of the bush, at which point the dirt roads ended. I felt like “Dr. Livingstone” exploring the heart of Africa in the 19th Century — seemed like all the children in village came out to greet the arrival of a taxi for the first time.

            Our fares were often railway workers, forestry, military, aboriginal people, hunters and fishermen, and fly-ins from more remote places. Wildlife everywhere — biggest hazard moose and deer in the road especially at night. I actually got to enjoy it — apart from being hyper-vigilant for wildlife it was generally a relaxing drive. Just crank up the music and enjoy the scenery.

          • dance…dancetotheradio

            Okay, this one is from a Moody Blues album released in the late sixties called In Search of the Lost Chord.
            I used to love driving when I was younger.
            Then, I had kids and found I’d get anxious in situations where previously I’d been fearless.
            And now, I have an eighty kilometre round trip every day for work that I have to drive regardless of the conditions.
            I don’t enjoy it.

          • Ha! You’re good.

            Of late my travelling theme-song is Dylan’s “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere”. The verse “we’ll climb that bridge after it’s gone, after we’re way past it” — I want to see if I can still cross bridges after I’m way past them. Or if I gettin too old for that stuff:


          • dance…dancetotheradio

            Could a young Bob Dylan exist today?
            I always felt sorry for him.
            Anyone who gets named the voice of a generation by the music press has been hamstrung.
            It’s like the Beatles.
            They were expected to do too much.
            It tore them apart.
            The Stones were just derivative and fashion followers.
            But, there was a whole bunch of bands who followed in their wake that really set the musical tapestry of the sixties.

          • Dylan seemed to stay clear of the mainstream longer than most — quite the hermit much of his life.
            I never liked the Beatles (nor the Stones for that matter) — except for their “Sergeant Pepper” era. Apart from that, no hippie worth his salt would be caught dead listening to them.
            Funny how the industry gins up the Beatles and Stones today like they were “counter-culture”. Makes me smile.
            I listened to people like Bert Jansch.


          • dance…dancetotheradio

            Sounds a lot like Nick Drake.
            And acoustic Yes.
            Have you ever listened to Stereolab?

          • Jansch was an amazing acoustic guitarist. There’s only one guitar in that piece — he’s solo but it sounds like two.
            I just looked him up on Wiki and apparently he influenced Nick Drake, I’ll have to check him out.
            Nope never heard Stereolab.

          • dance…dancetotheradio

            And this is The Lilac Time.
            Trumpets from Montparnasse.

  • mauser 98

    we are soft , lazy , weak now

  • ontario john

    Meanwhile Canada’s favorite prime minister is trying to get rid of the proposed monument to victims of communism. Guess it would upset his Cuban and Chinese buddies.

    • He’s insane. Has any Prime Minister in history done that before? — shown so much disdain for his predecessor that he reversed everything single thing, down to every dot and tittle?

      Harper made an honest effort to work with the other Parties, and I don’t remember him reversing anything from his Liberal predecessors. Yet he’s the one painted as the “mad-man dictator”.

      He appointed Gary Doer (NDP) as Canada’s Ambassador to Washington. He continued the Canadian military commitment to NATO in Afghanistan established by the Libs. His first appointments to the Supreme Court were progressive Judges. He didn’t try to abolish Gay marriage or mess with abortion law. I could go on and on…Harper compromised with the opposition on his Legislation, often accepting their amendments even when he had a majority.

      “Harper derangement syndrome” is not hyperbole, especially in reference to Justin. It honestly appears that there’s something wrong with this guy’s head.

      • Alain

        Harper’s biggest mistake was trying to play nice with his enemies and insisting on incrementalism instead of strong, decisive action.

      • dance…dancetotheradio

        I thought Harper appointing Doer was a master stroke.
        Got that bastard out of my town and gave him cover with the most socialist American admins in history.
        And I expect Trump to reverse every single one of Obama’s executive orders.

        • Doer seemed a softer NDP. But I’m sure he was in socialist paradise with Obama.

          Trump reversing Obama’s (non-democratic) executive orders makes sense.

    • dance…dancetotheradio

      Canada’s favourite Prime Minister is Sir John A. MacDonald.