These reviews are taken from Amazon.co.uk and elsewhere. All included up to 21st April 2013.
***** 5 stars AMAZING!!, 19 April 2012 By laradupreez
This is not a book I would normally read but I am so glad I did. Urszula’s story is incredibly inspirational and it will stay with me for the rest of my life. I could not put this book down and would recommend it to everybody. An amazing story written by an amazing woman.
Robert Daley – best-selling American writer
‘Urszula was a gifted writer, whether she knew it or not, and by that I mean she knew what to put in and what to leave out, and with descriptions that leave the reader in a state of amazement and admiration. … If books are important, this is one of the most important. To have lost it would have been a tragedy.’
***** 5 stars The Long Bridge – Urszula Muskus, 4 Sep 2011 By Tina
Some books make us laugh, some make us cry, some are thought-provoking, and some are page-turners. Rarely do all these features come together in one book, and surely not in a book about one of the most horrific prison systems the world has seen. But it’s true. Urszula comes across as a truly remarkable woman, quick-witted and capable. She takes you with her to meet all the people she met during her extensive incarceration in the Gulags. You quickly learn to trust her judgment, look forward to her descriptions of the environment, see the people in your own mind. She does not hide the suffering from you, but although it is a central theme, it is not her message. She tells you what some people will do to other people, yet she is able to avoid dwelling on it. Instead, her message is one of survival through love, hope, and that it is possible to find beauty no matter how fleeting or how small it might be.
Urszula has made her story extraordinarily accessible. Her book needs to be widely read. Buy it, read it and tell your friends to do the same.
***** 5 stars An extraordinary story by an extraordinary woman, 23 May 2012 By S M Fraser
When I first heard of this book I thought the subject might make it difficult to read – infact it was impossible to put down. It was a privilege to have been allowed into this inspiring woman’s life. The author takes you through her incredibly difficult life with the ease of a compassionate observer. History is brought to life through her words recalling the heart wrenching circumstances in which she found herself and how through her own compassion and ingenuity she survived. An inspiring read.
***** 5 stars To any potential reader…, 26 April 2012 By Justyna
If you are considering reading this book, then don’t hesitate any longer. It is brilliant!!!
I was brought up in Poland and made to read a number of books on people’s horrible experiences of war. When a friend recommended ‘The Long Bridge’ I wasn’t expecting it to be so different from the others of that kind.
Urszula’s story touched and inspired me. It really amazed me how much optimism she was able to find in captivity and share it with the reader. I highly recommend!
***** 5.0 out of 5 stars An incredible journey into light, 1 Nov 2010 By Deep Reader
The Long Bridge is the story of Urszula Muskus, a Polish woman who was taken into the Soviet prison system where she survived for sixteen years. She saw out World War Two there, gradually travelling eastwards through prison and labour camps until she was eventually ‘freed’ in Siberia. In her case freedom meant ‘eternal exile’. She writes about political prisoners, ‘bandit molls’, guards, and movingly of a woman sentenced wrongly to death whom she spoke with through a hole in the prison wall. In addition to all this she writes beautifully of a hostile landscape in which she somehow found a sort of release. Urszula’s story will both excite her readers and move them to tears. Do read this story; it is one you will never forget.
***** 5.0 out of 5 stars Recent history comes alive, 12 Oct 2011 By Hugh
Fascinating book which I couldn’t put down. Excellently written. Full of human detail while at the same time enlightening the reader of the huge difficulties many people had to go through in the recent past. Dealing with horrific circumstances, never the less remains uplifting through Ursula’s ability to keep looking out for the ‘good’ in life.
***** 5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended, 20 April 2012 By sarah
This is an incredibly moving book written by a hugely courageous, insightful and sensitive woman. I read the type-written manuscript whilst on the Trans-Siberian trainline in midwinter which made the book even more poignant. It is beautifully written and Urszula’s depth of spirit and passion shine through.
***** 5.0 out of 5 stars Crossing the Bridge, 28 Jan 2012 By Sharon Parkin
The Long Bridge really is a “must read” list for anyone interested in the human spirit and its never-failing ability to triumph over adversity. I felt almost guilty in saying how much I “enjoyed” reading this story of how one woman was suddenly torn from her young family and transported for weeks on end in cattle trains before a 16 year incarceration in the gulags and transportation to Siberia. However, in taking this journey with Urszula I felt protected from the horrors by her inner strength, bravery and resilience. As Urszula describes, in her own unique style, the day to day life of the prisoners; the freezing temperatures, daily starvation, cruelty, death and disease, it is clear that she has an impenetrable survival instinct and compassion which enables her not only to endure the trials, but to carry-along many of her fellow prisoners. Urszula introduces us to the many characters she encounters, each with their own story and, it is clear that, although her own suffering was great, her concern was always for others around her. A truly remarkable woman with a story which should never be forgotten.
***** 5.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational, 22 Jan 2012 By Juice of BoA
Thrown into the most extreme circumstances and forced to endure man’s lowest and most cruel treatment of his fellow beings Urszulas amazing strength of spirit shines through in this book. The qualities of compassion, tolerance and forgiveness she exhibits through her ordeal are truly inspirational. I found The Long Bridge a harrowing read and yet paradoxically came away from it with a very positive feeling of hope in the potential of the human spirit….Thank you Urszula….thank you Peter.
***** 5.0 out of 5 stars totally uplifting, 18 Jan 2012 By Seibranz
What can I say? I have now read “The Long Bridge” for the second time and again found it totally uplifting. The way Urszula deals with whatever life hands to her is simply incredible. She always stays involved, in the moment, notices beauty in even the direst circumstances. This is what she has taught me. And should I need reminding “The Long Bridge” is there for me to read again. This is a book to keep, it works magic for me.
How I would have loved to meet Urszula!
***** 5.0 out of 5 stars Disappeared in the USSR, 23 Dec 2011 By Anne of Reigate
When I first heard of Urszula in 1945 it was thought that she was dead. She was the mother of my cousin’s new boyfriend. What had happened to her? Where was she? Alive or dead?
This book gives the answer. Now that an English translation is available, we can all meet a very courageous, resourceful and resilient woman. When I met her in 1963, on a family holiday in Cornwall, I was amazed at her enthusiasm for life and interest in all around her. This is a book by a very remarkable lady.
***** 5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible book, 16 Dec 2011 By Fi V
The Long Bridge leaves a lasting impression. To have such a detailed account of these events is amazing; to have the account written by such an inspirational and talented woman is incredible. Educational, moving, breathtaking and heartbreaking all at once, this autobiography is in a league of its own.
***** 5.0 out of 5 stars My “Book of the Year”., 12 Dec 2011 By AP Nairn
Please do not get this book confused with The Long Walk. I read them both this year and one makes compelling reading while the other makes for incredulity. Yet it is the less believable of the two that has been given the cinema treatment.
The Long Bridge was a herculean task to publish it seems but that is nothing compared to Urszula Muskus’s feat in surviving The Gulags. The words “inspiring” and “humbling” appear often in the reviews and the book is indeed inspiring and humbling.
I was encouraged to read One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich when I was at school and I would recommend that The Long Bridge be on all school reading lists. Despite the cruelty and suffering depicted it is an uplifting book thanks to Urszula’s writing. I would urge everybody to read this remarkable book and pass it on. Wherever you read it, whether on the daily commute, on the beach or in bed you will be reluctant to put it down.
***** 5.0 out of 5 stars impressed and inspired, 9 Dec 2011 By Viktoria
After I started reading this book, it was impossible to put it away again. During reading I felt like sitting next to Urszula and listening to her story about a tragic part of her life. With emotionally moving episodes, which let tears appear in my eyes and episodes, which show a powerful and strong woman trying to survive and to get back to her children. Most impressing, for me, is that Urszula tells this story without any condemnation against the people, the prisoners and the guards, and tries to make the reader understand why the people behaved like that during this time. Thank you Urszula for sharing your experiences with us! I am a Russian who has lived in Germany for many years.
***** 5.0 out of 5 stars The Long Bridge, 26 Nov 2011 By JM
This is my great-grandmother’s story, a story that I had no desire to read when I was younger thinking it would be boring. Eventually I told my father that I would read it when he got it published and 12 years later he finally managed it so I had to fulfill my promise! And I have to say I was surprised, surprised at just how much I enjoyed it and further, just how much my friends and others have received and enjoyed it also. Her story and the way she has written it is incredible, most incredible is how selfless and positive she remains throughout, even though the kind of things she experiences are ones that most of us cannot even contemplate, let alone survive. If I was not aware I was reading a true life story I would find some parts very hard to believe, the fact that they are true only makes it an even more impressive read!
***** 5.0 out of 5 stars “…A tiny, very bright light.” From Urszulas dream., 6 Nov 2011 By Abi
Who is Urszula Muskus? On one level it doesnt matter. She never names her husband or children, and rarely herself. Her journey becomes Every womans journey, whether through Stalinist Russia or a more recent regime. And yet her particular perspective, experience and background is unique. There is no past or future: living in the moment is necessary to survival. The tough spirit shines through; that unbroached kernel of self that can surmount all obstacles, however dangerous or horrific.
Through eighteen traumatic years, we meet the whole spectrum of humanity, many of whom tell their own stories; we experience their despair and survival techniques, their strength and courage. The brutality of the system is imposed on everything, the dehumanisation, cruelty and torture: “… all this was done with premeditation, to break our spirits and instil fear in our hearts.” (p.219)
Urszula balances this with beautiful descriptions of the changing seasonal landscapes and the skies, particularly at night. “… Lost in delighted admiration, I looked at the constellations majestically sweeping across the heavens…” (p.153)
The shared experiences of the women living together in overcrowded unimaginable conditions are detailed and memorable. “… we lived openly and in all sincerity, the mask of hypocrisy had been removed and there was nothing to hide.” (p.252)
From one place to another, Urszula met some extraordinary people and survived to tell her story. Read any single chapter in this book and experience the full range of human emotion and experience.
Come from this book more aware, and in awe of human potential and strength of spirit. As Urszula says: “Painful and dramatic changes in ones life bring forth energies which we do not realise are latent within us.” (p.308.)
***** 5.0 out of 5 stars a must read., 1 Nov 2011 By christine oates
To read this book is a humbling and inspirational experience. This courageous and beautiful woman appears to be personally telling her incredible story to the reader. Despite Urzsula’s dire situation, she saw the beauty in everything and everybody. I have read this book twice and so will read it many more times.
***** 5.0 out of 5 stars The Long Bridge, 24 Oct 2011 By Betsy van der Lee
I have just finished reading the Long Bridge by Uruzula Muskus which I found absolutely riveting. What an extraordinary story. What a noble soul. It is a story which truly deserves to be told, juxtaposing so eloquently as it does both the extreme cruelty and extraordinary love of which humanity is capable and that noble middle path of detached, accepting compassion and equanimity that lies between.
It is an important story not just for the light it sheds on the historical facts of what actually happened in the gulag during those years but also because, I think, this story is still alive and happening in other parts of our world today. What this story underlines is that in spite of the horror, in terms of the human soul there is real hope. I have been deeply moved and inspired.
***** 5.0 out of 5 stars Strong and positive, 19 Oct 2011 By A Boranbayeva (London)
I was touched by the story when I found it on the internet when I was doing my own research on similar subject about two years ago. I was fascinated by the story but there was only some part of it. Later I’ve read the book and was deeply moved by it. I’ve read several books before about Gulag, but this one is a “very special one”. Why? Because of writer’s attitude towards these events and the way she told her story. Despite all of the evil and misery she remained a strong and positive character. She spent 16 years in Soviet camps but she was not broken. She is kind towards people around her and describe all events with details so that reader can feel the atmosphere. I definitely learnt from the book. It is not only about the history, but also relationships and remaining a humane being no matter what.
***** 5.0 out of 5 stars an inspiration, 5 Oct 2011 By M. Geernaert (Scotland)
I started reading The Long Bridge when my son was only a few weeks old. I read while breastfeeding. Each feed would take about an hour and I remember looking forward to the next feed so I could read more, even during the night : I was moved to tears several times and felt very inspired. I would have loved to have met Urszula Muskus. If you are still wondering whether or not to read her story, please do, you won’t regret it :
***** 5.0 out of 5 stars Astonishing story, 17 Aug 2011 By Allison E
Just finished reading this amazing book, am ashamed to say I had very little knowledge of the history of Stalin’s Russia and the gulags. That people could be imprisoned for years and years for reading a poem or merely recounting a dream they had one night is truly appalling. This book is an astonishing tale of the dreadful conditions and extreme hardships so many went through. Urszula tells her story so calmly without the indulgence of despair and hatred, instead her courage and compassion are very clear to see. I was very glad to read that she got to enjoy some precious family times in beautiful areas of the UK after finally being freed and reunited with her children.
***** 5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant in every way, 30 Mar 2011 By Tony K “TonyKinUK” (High Wycombe, Bucks United Kingdom)
I don’t want to duplicate what the other reviewers have written, but would ask that you read this book thoughtfully, for it is not what is said in parts that moves the soul, but what is not said. Little is said of the suffering that had to be endured; the crushing of the personality; the agony of perpetual hunger; the uncomfortable surfaces on which to sleep. It goes on, for a lot was hinted at, without embellishment.
As others have said – this is a remarkable book for its historical perspective and its triumph of the spirit over oppressive forces of evil. Urszula Muskus was a remarkable woman – and that is an understatement.
Read it and see why.
***** 5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book of the human spirit, 26 Nov 2010 By Eilidh Smith (UK)
This book really reminded my of Viktor E Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning” – showing us how even in the harshest, most soul destroying of situations people can maintain their humanity, act with kindness and even find compassion for their supposed enemies. Urszula was clearly a lady of great strength, though this is only revealed through her descriptions of journeys, the people she meets and the stories she tells of what happened in the various labour camps she was sent to. Many of the scenes in this book will remain with me forever, making me think it would also make a wonderful film.
***** 5.0 out of 5 stars the Long Bridge, 4 Dec 2011 By nick molnar
This book gives an amazing personal account of one woman’s determination to survive her deportation to the Gulag with dignity and humanity. Objectively Urszula Muskus is just a statistic amongst the millions of victims of this great crime but subjectively she reveals herself as a wonderful example of how, through simple wisdom, inner equanimity and acts of kindness, the human spirit can fly above all trial and tribulation so that the victim becomes the victor. That this book is published in association with Amnesty International remind us that in the 21st century there are still people in many countries living through terrible situations who must not be forgotten by us.
***** 5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating, 1 Dec 2011 By mcfoothenoo
The long bridge is a book of many qualities and journeys. Urszula seems to take the reader on journey of the soul, as well as one of the mind and the physical journey through the places that form the basis of her story.
The detail of the memories of the often harrowing journeys although vivid are brushed aside to make way for the telling of the story of the people. Somehow it is possible to see and feel the journeys but not be distracted by them. But instead feel the plight of the very personal tales of human life pushed to the very edge of existence. It is this sharing of the life of the many inhabitants of the world of the long bridge that makes this book so remarkable.
Urszula manages to validate and give evidence to the existence of people who were erased. Mostly average people who’s lives changed and vanished, for some literally overnight. She does this with humility and empathy of shared experience, but somehow manages to do this without ever sounding like she minded or that indeed she was any braver or stronger than anyone else.
This book is a must read now more than ever in a time when it easy to forget that such terrible times did exist.
***** 5.0 out of 5 stars Compulsory read, 24 Nov 2011 By Petri
Wow what an inspirational and humbling read this book is. I have read it twice through already and know I will go back to it in the future.
A must read for all.
Should be a compulsory read throughout all secondary schools.
***** 5.0 out of 5 stars A moving and important record, of historical importance, 5 Jun 2012 By Andrew from Kintessack
This book is both uplifting and harrowing. It is so good that I bought multiple copies to share with friends, and it is true to say that some were unable to finish it because they were upset by the images portrayed. However most were as impressed as I was by the quality of the writing and the unshakeable positivity demonstrated by the author.
I echo some of the other reviews by recommending this to young people who are not so aware of the tragic history of Russia in relatively recent times.
***** 5.0 out of 5 stars to survive you need compassion, 30 April 2012 By Jane
This is a beautifully written account of the brutal and cruel world of the POW camps
in Russia. This sounds a contradiction but Urszula takes you with her on her horrendous journey. She does not spare you the worst but also shares with you the compassion and insight she had for other people she encountered along the way. These characters live on in her writing. It is all the more poignant knowing that she died when the story was complete and whilst working on the tidying up sequencing the events. Almost like saying ‘Ah, job done’. This is a book that must not be forgotten.
***** 5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible in so many ways!, 23 Dec 2010 By EdHart
This book is unlike any others in the genre. Beautiful is how I would describe the quality of storytelling. Passionate and heartfelt this book will be re-read many times.
***** 5.0 out of 5 stars an extra-ordinary woman’s story…, 9 Nov 2010 By emoyeni
The Long Bridge is Urszula Muskus’s story of hardship, cruelty, kindness and courage told with the eye and heart of a keen observer of people. I first came across this book in its pre-publication form in her grandson`s holiday cottage in the North East of Scotland and was riveted, as was my husband who read it from cover to cover while I dipped in and out unable to stay too long with the horror of her experiences as a woman, wife and mother. Since publication, I have returned to complete my reading of her story written in the fourteen years after her sixteen years of harrowing, horrendous and heart-5warming experiences in captivity. The book is outstanding in its flowing prose and skilful translation.
Urszula Muskus wrote from memory, vivid with detail and insights, with warmth and humanity that inspired others and seemed to fuel her own resolve to endure and transcend hardship. She reached out to others, her ‘companions in misfortune’, making a difference wherever she was, and indeed comments on how she surprised herself with her energy. It is these discoveries and descriptions, and her remarkable story-telling, that make this painful but inspiring book so readable – this and her details of joy and vitality whether of stars or starvation – all described and written in fluid and intimate prose. She has the gift of the storyteller, to carry the reader along with her on her journey, and the tenderness and generosity of her reflections at the end of the book are as applicable now as then – she was a woman of our time.
Urszula Muskus had determination and so did her grandson, Peter, who, like Amnesty International, recognized the extraordinary qualities of a story she had to tell so that we can read it and know more.
***** 5.0 out of 5 stars The Long Bridge, 1 Jan 2012 By James
Reading ‘The Long Bridge: out of the Gulags’ reminded me of Primo Levi, one of the few Auschwitz survivors rescued by the Red Army during the liberation of the camp on January 27th, 1945. Published posthumously half a century after Primo Levi’s first and most famous novel, ‘If this is a Man’, Urszula’s story proclaims the same timeless message: “mere oppression cannot imprison thought.”
While Urszula’s tone is uncompromising and candid in its portrayal of the brutality and terror of gulag life, like Levi, it is absent of hatefulness towards the perpetrators of her sixteen year imprisonment. In the final pages of ‘The Long Bridge’ she states: “Every person is capable of friendship and providing help. I have not met evil people in my life.” She goes on to provide examples of NKVD officers and guards who during their own holidays risked severe punishment and loss of position to relay messages onto the family members of the prisoners they guarded. It is Urszula’s selflessness and belief in the power of the human spirit that makes The Long Bridge so deeply powerful and moving. That a person can endure so much and still harbour a faith in the goodness of humanity will truly astound the reader.
As a primary source, ‘The Long Bridge’ is invaluable. It provides the reader with a detailed insight into the organisation, penal code, and make-up of the Soviet gulag system, and introduces us to a world of bandit molls, wild criminals, kara katorga, sectarians, Russian witticism and the communal power of the much desired Mahorka; all of which makes for the most gripping reading. Furthermore, Urszula regularly provides us with fond and vivid accounts of the many female prisoners she mets. Such fascinating accounts ensure their names are never lost and their courage, strength and personalities are never forgotten.
Urszula’s book is an important addition to a long list of accounts, many of which still remain hidden by the Kremlin, that bring to light the failings, hypocrisy, and turmoil of life in Stalinist USSR. One can only hope for the day when these hard truths are fully incorporated into the Russian education system and taught to school children across the country.
Of all of The Long Bridge’s many facets, by far the most encapsulating in my view is Urszula’s descriptions of the natural world around her. Blending Poetry with her own philosophy and religion she brings to life the sunsets beyond the camp, the harsh burans of Kazakhstan, the light of the aurora borealis, and colours of the Eurasian Steppe. Her ability to celebrate such beauty after freezing and gruelling days spent toiling outside is almost beyond comprehension. Despite the constant efforts of the Soviet machine to crush it, her artistic sensibility and love for the beauty of life never once waivers. What a truly remarkable woman!
***** 5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring and heartwarming, 19 Oct 2011 By Johanna
Whenever i tread near the thin waters of complaining or bemoaning things in my life that I would like different, this book serves to bring me up short and stop! It left me full of hope that the human spirit can prevail against all odds – and the odds all seemed to be against Ursula in her imprisonment in the Gulags and then Siberia. How could she survive shovelling deep snow out in the fields in the depths of winter with just mainly newspaper and rags round her feet?! Yet she did, what an amazing woman. It was heartening to hear about her brightness of spirit that visited her during this difficult time, and still fired up again when playing with her grandchildren when she was finally freed and came to live with her children in England. It was thought provoking in its historic detail, and its consideration of what makes survivors the survivors? Well worth reading and absorbing.
***** 5.0 out of 5 stars C, 22 Aug 2011 By Trish Fenton
I read it in 4 days !
Totally astonishing – I didn’t know a quarter of what went on – absolutely nuts!
– The following paragraph particularly struck me with regard to the ongoing way humanity relates to itself –
These currents still flow through the enormous sea of humanity, sanctioned in brutality, carried along by its imperialistic lust with utter disregard for the millions of victims it produces. All in vain! In the depths, there is still the human heart, good and noble souls, and there must win the final victory. Page 312.
I love Urszula’s hope, and the connection she had with the natural rythym of the world – I was deeply touched by that.
Its a story well worth sharing- I’m grateful to Urszula for writing her story so beautifully and to myself that I took the time to read it 🙂 I highly recommend it
***** 5.0 out of 5 stars A testimony to the power of the human spirit, 12 May 2011 By mildbrewer
There are a number of reasons why accounts of suffering through imprisonment make for powerful reading material. For the majority of the readers, leaving in freedom and relative prosperity, well fed, adequately housed and clothed, it is a reminder that we should be grateful for these basic human rights. Secondly, those who survive such ordeals as Urszula Muskus went through, and are willing to share their story, are a testimony to the power of the human spirit. They show us that it is possible to live through the worst kind of systematic brutality and still hold on to one’s dignity and self-belief.
Many stories of imprisonment are inward looking and filled with the minutiae of a monotous life. “The Long Bridge” however stands out as being an account not just of incarceration but an adventure-filled journey through different stages of imprisonment and exile in the Soviet Union. The author dwells little on herself but fills the pages with observant accounts of the many colourful characters she encounters: hardened criminals, sadistic prison guards, resistant political prisoners, fiery bandit molls, simple peasant folk, ordinary people caught up in the madness of a political system which has lost any sense of reason, brave prisoners willing to risk their own safety by smuggling a scrap of food to a comrade.
This is a truly inspiring story. It is also a true history lesson about the insanity of the hard labour prisons and resettlement policies promoted by Stalin. It shows us what can happen when daily life is governed by fear, suspicion and paranoia and how some people are broken by the system under which they are forced to live, whilst others have the inner strength to survive.
***** 5 stars The Long Bridge, Urszula Muskus, 14 Mar 2011 By Elaine
A must read. This book graphically describes man’s inhumanity to man and I certainly learned a lot about the incarceration of innocent people (allegedly ‘political prisoners’) in the Gulags. I had no idea that it was still going on until 1956.
Urszula Muskus writes in such a way that one is completely immersed in the story, and indeed at times,
I felt I was almost sharing her pain and suffering. I would thoroughly recommend this book.
***** 5 stars Be inspired by the strength of her human spirit!, 5 May 2012 By Judith Dasilva (Sunshine Coast, B.C. Canada)
How proud must descendants of Urszula Muskus feel, knowing that in their veins runs the selfless blood of this woman. Her refusal to hate, to recriminate, to feel self-pity (it seemed never even to occur to her) and still to see goodness everywhere gives a reminder of the standard human beings are capable of reaching, even in the direst, darkest of circumstances. Thank you Peter for arranging for this translation. I have bought copies for friends and family… Disseminate, disseminate the good news!
***** 5 stars The Long Bridge, 3 Jan 2012 By Bruce Clark
Well, what more can i say that other reviewers haven’t already covered? , this book is a touching account showing Urzulas’s great humanity towards others, given the hardships she had to endure.
I had heard about the Russian Gulags before but didn’t realise the utter despair that human life had to endure during that dark period. Last year we were fortunate enough to be able to visit the beautiful town of Rzeszow in Poland and visited the Auschwitz and Birkenau Nazi concentration camps, the horrors of what went on in these camps should never be forgotten and Peter Muskus should be commended on the great work he has done in getting this account of ability over adversity and human suffering published.
This is a beautiful and well written book and Peter is an inspiration to others for bringing these past injustices to the worlds attention.
***** 5 stars powerful, 15 Dec 2011 By Susie NAIRN
I found this book very inspiring despite the harrowing scenes, which are not dwelt upon. I am amazed how Urszula uses the power of knitting (showing how a hand craft can ease the soul) to ‘knit’ people together. I have passed this book to several friends who were all as inspired as
***** 5 stars A true eye-opener, an amazing journey: 19 Nov 2011 By Liam JM Findlay
Urszula Muskus was no ordinary church attendant but became an active Servant of God when she found herself caring and loving the broken, lost and hurting around her. She fulfilled much of what Isaiah and Jesus spoke of in the bible in Isaiah 58 and Matthew 25 vs 37-40.
It has been a privilege and inspiration to have read such an account of a woman who loved those around her through a purity of heart, without any hint of religious duty or obligation.
***** 5 stars very inspiring, 17 Jun 2012 By Allie Kwong
A very inspiring book. The author is a remarkably tough, clam and kind hearted lady. It reviews the history from the perspective of a female. As one may read from the book and probably other text, men and women were so segregated during that time their experiences may be distinctively different. It also reviews how a European female viewed environment and people of totally different cultural background during the time. A glimpse of history from quite an alternative point of view.
***** 5 stars Urszula’s story of hope beyond hope, 11 Jun 2012 By jonnybarton
I felt that the voice of Urszula in her book reminded me again how so many private lives were thoroughly devastated and thrown to the four winds by war, politics and governments’ sinister dealings.
I was even more riveted than when I read Solzhenitsyn’s books.
Urszula Muskus is another crucial witness so that all humanity keeps remembering the unjust mass detentions and the further brutal abuses that followed.
Happily her tale also showed nobility of human spirit and some sheer good luck which urges us never to give up hope.
***** 5 stars a thought provoking read, 6 Jun 2012 By rammymac
This book is not only inspirational and wonderfully written, but is also a very important subject that people need to know about. With emotional and upsetting circumstances, The Long Bridge was very thought provoking. I learned so much from this book and am so glad I read it, and sincerely hope others do too.
***** 5 stars Tales of hardship and triumph, 30 April 2012 By Chraymo
Having read this book I feel that I have filled in a huge blank in my knowledge of a very important period in European History of the 20th century but even more valuably I have a deeper understanding of human nature and a sense of connection with the remarkable author of this book.
***** 5 stars READ, 26 April 2012 By Mr. Klein Martin (london)
A Great book. It was a mind opener to other events that took place around WW1.
You feel an incredible amount of anger build up as you read on, realising how badly the NKVD treated innocent prisoners, torn away from their families, from all over the world.
Read this book, you will begin to understand how much of a brave and kind hearted woman Urszula Muskus is, to be able to survive 15 years of brutality, in some of the toughest labour camps.
***** 5 stars Review of Urszula Muskus’s The Long Bridge, 21 Nov 2010 By MS
Urszula Muskus’s The Long Bridge is both her testimony of a great evil endured and a deeply affecting affirmation of life. With the book’s posthumous publication this year another strong and eloquent voice is added to the great chorus that shouted from the laga and the Gulag: “I am still here. I endure as myself despite what you do. Nor am I alone.” The strength to somehow remain intact as both human and humane marks all these voices, as does an astonishing ability to take an interest in the lives of others. As with comparable books by Shalamov, Levi, Solzhenitsyn and Hautzig, The Long Bridge is rich and vivid in its evocation of the people who lived alongside the author in the insane world of Stalin’s Gulag. For although Urszula had all the qualities needed for personal survival, she retained a lively and compassionate interest in the lives of others, often endangering herself to help those less able to cope in a world where terror and despair had displaced reason. Equally at ease in the company of hardened criminals, prostitutes, intellectuals, peasants, bandit molls and transvestites,Urszula gained the respect, and often the love, of all who shared her suffering. Published originally in Polish in 1975 by the Lwow Citizens Association, Family and Friends, The Long Bridge was known only to a small number of people. Now, thanks to the efforts of her grand-son and literary guardian Peter Muskus, Urszula’s story can reach a world-wide audience.
Thinking about this remarkable woman and many of the people she encountered, I am reminded of lines from George Orwell’s poem about an Italian militiaman he met for only a few moments during the Spanish Civil War: “What I saw in his face, no power can disinherit/No bomb that ever burst shatters the crystal spirit.”
The cover of the book was an inspired choice. It shows a detail from the Gulag memorial in the Sculpture Park of the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. Crushed behind bars and barbed wire, tumbled together, faces Stalin sought to reduce to hard core ballast for his road to nowhere look upon us as individuals: testimony as enduring as the stones they are carved into.
***** 5 stars Beauty in ugliness, 27 Feb 2012 By vajratara
Amazing story written by a women who spent 18 years in the Gulags. Instead of being a grim testiment to the horrors of which humanity are capable, it is actually an inspiring account of someone’s faith in human nature that survives, or even grows, despite the odds. Urszula really does ‘find heaven in hells despair’.
***** 5 stars Raw, Horrifying, Beautiful, 1 Feb 2012 By I. Ward (Cambridge, England)
The publication of this book was the culmination of several decades of work, not just on the part of Urszula, but also her son and grandson, who translated the work and were determined to find a publisher. I received this book from a friend very close to the Muskus family, and I have been grateful for the gift. Urszula’s account of her experiences in the Soviet gulags from 1940 to 1952 and ‘external exile’ in Siberia from 1952 to 1955 is utterly enthralling. She relates her memories with an admirable objectivity–she blames most atrocities on the NKVD ‘system’ rather than the people who performed them–but depicts the hopelessness, death, and occasional happiness of the prisoners with great vigour. Endlessly shifted from one settlement or camp to another, the imprisoned managed to forge a kind of society for themselves, which despite the inescapable cruelty of conditions preserved their humanity.
Despite occasional editing errors, ‘The Long Bridge’ is a satisfying and inspiring, if still troubling, read. I would certainly recommend it for all who wish to know more about the millions of people kept in shadowy oblivion by the brutal Soviet regime.
***** 5 stars Urszula’s story, 12 Jan 2012 By Ruth
I came across this book through a friend and was fortunate enough to make the acquaintance of Urszula’s grand daughter – herself an extra-ordinary woman. It was an important connection back through the ages for me and I could not put this bookdown once I opened the pages. A wonderful read – full of stories of uplifting human experience under the most difficult conditions. I most enjoyed the stories of interaction with animals – some reduced me to tears. Reminiscent of Viktor Frankl – with a feminine touch.
***** 5 stars A brave woman, 25 Dec 2011 By atsea
The Long Bridge by Urszula Muskus’s, translated by Peter Muskus, is a true and some times disturbing story about man’s inhumanity to his fellow man. It is educational and gives the reader a true insight into the life led by by a young female prisoner in a Russian Gulag. Urszula was without doubt a brave and courageous woman and her story is well worth reading.
***** 5 stars The Long Bridge, 17 Oct 2011 By LM
What a tour de force! It is heartbreaking, but at the same time it is heart warming. Many thanks Peter, for your perseverance in getting your grandmother’s words published.
***** 5 stars The Long Bridge, 17 Oct 2011 By Mrs. Lena Newlands “Brodie”
As a friend of the author Peter Muskus, I was invited to the launch of ‘The Long Bridge’ in Nairn. I had no idea that it would turn out to be such a moving and inspirational evening and I couldn’t wait to read ‘The Long Bridge’. It was one of the most interesting, moving and graphic books I have read. Ursula Muskus was a woman of tremendous fortitude, and the more I read the book, the more I was moved by the courage of this lady. I fully recommend that you read this book as I found it totally unputdownable!![ I know there is no such word], but I can’t bring to mind a better adjective to describe ‘The Long Bridge’
***** 5 stars The Long Bridge, 20 April 2012 By Susan H
Its 1939, you are a woman with a husband and young children you dearly love. You have a normal life in a quiet country town. Your husband has a good job. Overnight, everything changes. Bombs and war come to your town. One day there is a knock at the door, your husband is arrested and sent away. He has committed no crime. Soon after this, in the middle of the night, you too are arrested. You have committed no crime. With your children and just a few belongings, you are bundled onto a goods train, 50 people to a wagon. Destination, Siberia………….
This happened to Ursula, along with thousands of others. Ursula tells the story from her personal perspective. Her story, but more important for her, the story of the other people she encountered. From the book you can tell that Ursula was a strong, resilient, resourceful, intelligent, caring woman. She was thrust into an often violent and alien world which she describes in all its detail. It was her intention that that world, the people inhabiting it, and their stories, should not be forgotten. She writes as only a person who has experienced these things can write and she writes very well. The book opened my eyes to a period in our recent history that I knew very few details of and I was grateful to have this opportunity to learn about it from such a personal and insightful perspective. Much better than a third party, dry history book. This is a real book about real people. The book is harrowing at times of course, but Ursula writes from a very positive perspective, always seeing the best in people and situations, incredible, in the circumstances.
I was one of many people who encouraged Peter, her grandson, to do all he could to get this inspiring book published. I now encourage you to read it.
**** 4 stars Inspiring, 16 Jun 2012 By Goff, Cambs (East Anglia)
An unforgettable book based on the diaries of Ursula Muskus, a Polish woman who spent 16 years in the Soviet prison system during the Second World War.
I was shocked to discover how many unjust mass detentions there were during that time, and that furthermore how it was that many of the prisoners were detained for several years after the end of the war. An inspirational and humbling read.
***** 5 stars. Amazing woman, 13 Dec 2012 Princess Lovely
I was amazed how brave and strong Urszula was. While we remember the soldiers in the war we never think about people like Urszula who tried to help and change peoples lives amid the horror that was her life. She was a truly amazing woman.
***** 5 stars. Inspiring, 18 Jan 2013 jojo
As soon I had started reading Ursula’s account I was hooked. She writes with strength and compassion about her and others experiences in a way that was incredibly down to earth and inspiring. I bought this book for two other people straight after reading it, thank you Peter for working to get her story heard.
***** 5 stars. Sad, but true, 4 Feb 2013 Bea
My granny comes from the same area as Urszula, lots of people she knew were taken to gulags. I had heard many Siberian facts before reading “The long bridge”, but this book is a diary; detailed, documentary, realistic, you can feel like being there with Urszula, absorbing the dramatic atmosphere of the camps she was forced to live and work for so long. This impressed me more than already heard stories and helped to understand the real day-to-day misery of their life. Despite the fatality and extremity of their circumstances Urszula’s fortitude did not let her to complain too much – she was rather an action, commonsense and matter-of-fact person, so it is you, who generate emotions reading through the book so you are left under the deep impression even longer.
‘An excellent read’ John Watson, Programme Director, Amnesty International Scotland.
‘The remarkable thing about this book is that it is such a powerful social history. The focus is on the individual stories of those affected by the Gulags rather than on any historical overview of the system – so that this is a book about the people affected by the Gulag system rather than the system itself. This tells us so much more about the human condition than figures, map and dates can.
The Long Bridge reminds me of Solzhenitsyn’s analogy of the various camps as being a string of isolated islands, in that it clearly portrays the isolation of those in the camps and the way that the prisoners are forced in on each other, resulting mostly in mutual support but sometimes in conflict. And through it all, Urszula sustains a remarkably humanitarian voice. Despite years of ghastly treatment she actually has very little complaint about her own situation, choosing instead to focus on the difficulties experienced by those around her. This belief in humanity (and celebration of it, warts and all) never seems to leave her. One lovely – and unexpected – friendship that develops, for example, is between Urszula and a German army officer.
From a human rights perspective it is also interesting to see the numerous stories that illustrate how the political prisoners are treated much more harshly than the “regular” criminals. It is clear who the regime saw as the real threat. And of course this is not merely history – just look at China’s long-term political prisoner Shi Tao, who is currently experiencing years of hard labour in prison because he sent an email to a Chinese pro-democracy website. Urszula’s story is still of utmost relevance.
Irene Tomaszewski, writer and recipient of the Lech Walesa Media Award 2011
“The Long Bridge is a wonderful book, much more than another retelling of the horrors of the gulag. It is, of course, a historical document, but it is also a psychological study, a development of a philosophy, and an inspiration. I recommend it highly.”
***** 5 stars Moving account by a gulag survivor, 19 Feb 2013 By Floflumpit
Having recently read ‘The Long Bridge’, I would thoroughly recommend it to all who are interested in the history of Poland, the Soviet Union and Central Asia. Urzula Muskus endured the most appalling injustices and privations, and managed to come through it all without apparent bitterness and with huge compassion and wisdom. She gives a vivid and moving account of life in the gulag for political prisoners. As an expat resident of Kazakhstan, I found it interesting to know more of the area during the dark years of Stalin, and it has given me greater insight into the forces which have shaped the country to date.
***** 5 stars The Long Bridge, 19 Nov 2012 By Murray Firth
This is an amazing book because it shows how it is possible for some people to live in subhuman conditions and yet be able to maintain dignity and hope. The resourcefulness of Urszula, and her ability able to offer kindness to others, when she was suffering terribly, was astounding. I have never known hunger and Urszula focuses on the positive in this book so I can still barely imagine what it felt like for her.
***** 5 stars Everyone should read this book., 22 Oct 2012 By macdee
I began reading this amazing book whilst traveling in relative comfort on a long train journey and as the miles passed I realised that as Urszula and her children began their long train journey it felt like I was entering another world, in truth only 70 years ago, such were the hardships, the heart breaking separations, the enforced labour and the ever present cold. However, despite the hardships that Urszula had to endure, what I was left with was a strong impression of her faith in mankind and her unbroken spirit which enabled her to glean a quietude that helped her bear the years spent in a country that was not her own and apart from her children. She talks about the wonderful people that she met along the way, but you know for certain that if any of those people could now bear witness to that time that they would tell you a 100 stories each of the amazing Urszula Muskus.
***** 5 stars Better than one title can say, 8 Oct 2012 By Sunny
An amazing story about one of the probably most inhuman chapters of human history! Also a story of incredible strength and humanity in a time of so wide injustice that it is hard to accept it as being reality… If you had seen me reading “The Long Bridge”, you would have witnessed laughing and crying, sounds of surprise and sudden outbursts of protests. Urszula gives a very personal description of life in Russian imprisonment. But rather than making a complaint she tells in a simple but touching way what she and other prisoners actually made of it and I promise that will leave you hoping two things: First, that you will never be forced to live in similar circumstances. And second, that you would have a bit of Urszula’s strength if your life once confronted you with seemingly unbearable conditions!
This story is neither boring nor depressing. Don’t miss it- read it as soon as you can!
***** 5 stars The Long Bridge, 8 Oct 2012 By GMH
A wonderful book. Even more moving on a second read. Humbled by the enormity of Ursula’s suffering and patience throughout her ordeal.
***** 5 stars ARJC, 26 Aug 2012 By ARamage
Couldn’t put this down – even when I was reading it to my other half who has neither the patience nor the eyesight to persevere with books (It’s a very sociable way to read a book!). We were both impressed by this lady’s stoicism and bravery and the way she cared for her fellow inmates, never focussing entirely on her own problems and fears. We have already sent several copies to friends all over the UK and to family, and they couldn’t put it down either. We feel it should also be included in the school curriculum. We were at the book launch in Nairn and could have sworn that Urszula was there herself – it certainly felt like it! Please read and recommend to friends.
What a woman! Having read so many books about WWII, it was a revelation to read just how cruel the Russians could be, even to their own people, never mind other races. I was impressed by the way Urszula didn’t dwell on her own hardships but let us know about all her fellow prisoners’ problems and troubles, in a very caring way, and how they were dealt with. I would recommend this book as a “book that must be read” by all generations and it should also be recommended reading to secondary school pupils. An essential book for all to read. Her family must be extremely proud.
**** 4 stars Tribute to the human heart and spirit, 23 Aug 2012 By Ali Om
I’m not one who enjoys reading about the inhumanities perpetrated by some of our race. However, I found that this amazing story kept my attention throughout. It is written in such a way as to play down the atrocities while highlighting the amazing spirit of the book’s author throughout her life as a political prisoner. It quietly presents the horrific facts alongside touching details and anecdotes about Urzula Muscus herself and the many and varied individuals she met in her transit through the penal camps. If you want gory disciptions of human misery and debasement, you won’t find them graphically portrayed here. What you will find is a compassionate story written by a woman of great courage and vision. This is a truly inspiring read.
After reading The Long Bridge I was so moved about the sufferings of normal every day lives that were thrown into such turmoil, and the way Urszula not only had to survive herself, but the way she helped others not to give up hope. I feel a deep respect for Urszula for what she did and how she dealt with it all. It was a truly moving story and one I’m proud to have read.
The first time that I read this book I was in prison for a week for refusing to name others involved in protesting about the sowing of a GM crop in Scotland. It is a very interesting, very personal account, almost as if Urszula is speaking to one. The life of prisoners here in the UK is very different. Anyone who reads this book will have an indepth understanding of what it was like to be in Stalin’s prisons.
Hugh Nowlan – teacher.
‘The book is an absolute gem…not only for telling the story of what went on in Stalin’s Russia but also and primarily for showing how Urszula coped with it all. And not only coped with it but seemed to have come out of it with true wisdom and spiritual insight…most inspiring, enlightening and uplifting!’
Lokeshvara – chairman Padmaloka Buddhist Centre.
‘It is an extraordinary story. Somehow Urszula makes it positive with her descriptions of the continual acts of kindness that made camp life bearable and her vivid picture of the landscapes and skies.’
Kate Allen, Director, Amnesty International UK
The Long Bridge is the story of a woman of great courage and determination, in an exceptionally eloquent account of extreme hardship and hope. … One of the most striking and moving aspects of The Long Bridge is its revelation of an indomitable human spirit. As she says, ‘oppression cannot imprison thought’.
Sheana Griffiths – English teacher.
‘It is an extraordinary document: a profound testimony to the resilience of the human spirit, by a remarkable woman. I feel privileged to have read it.’
Victor Postnikov – Russian.
‘I’ve just finished reading the book that you kindly sent. Sorry, it took me longer than I thought. Often, I stopped and meditated on the book. For me it’s a very sad book. Immediately it echoes with what I’ve heard from other sources, from my late father, and mother, or grandmother. Most facts of horrible life in Soviet gulags were known to me. The concluding chapters bring some light into the overall dismal picture, especially bearing in mind that your grandma had lived up to see freedom and relatives in Britain.
For me, the most touching parts of the book were your grandmother’s notes on prisoners’ behavior in dire conditions, mutual help, and preservation of dignity.
The gulag system has had a heavy toll on all life traits in the former SU. Even now, after the collapse of communism, the pressure of the state is.
In 2006, to memorise the centenary of my father, I published a book of his (and my) recollections. (He was a professor of electrical engineering, taught at Leningrad Polytechnic, and had been under German’s siege of Leningrad in 1942-43). I’m sure this book could have been a bestseller in the west.
Stalin sent him and his family (I was born in 1949 in Leningrad) to Kiev in 1950, in order to boost the electrical engineering and higher education in Ukraine. I did my PhD in EE in Kiev Polytechnic in 1975.
After the collapse of the SU, my scientific career as well collapsed. Now, I’m interested mostly in ecology and poetry, and doing largely literary work as a writer, and moved away from orthodox science altogether.’
I am LOVING your grandmother’s book – a totally gripping story. Makes the rest of us look like sad whingeing wimps!!
‘What a fantastic book, haven’t got words to describe it. I rarely reread a book but will this one. This book should be on the schools compulsory reading list.’
‘A wonderful book on many levels. I read it in 2 days and am now taking it slowly, I rarely read a book twice.’
‘This really is an extraordinary book in depicting the daily lives of these lost people – and all the more convincing because your grandmother’s outlook is not one of unrelieved despair. A tribute to the indomitability of the human spirit and a marvelous read.’
Janet Gill – agricultural graduate.
‘Have just finished your grandmother’s book which I enjoyed immensely. She was a most remarkable woman and I am sure you feel privileged to be related to her. She bore her imprisonment with such dignity and stoicism – it was an honour to share her experiences and it surely makes us appreciate the freedoms we take for granted and puts one’s own trivial concerns into proper context. I was so impressed at the way she moved between prison camps and made the best of whatever situation she found herself in – no matter how dire – undoubtedly she was helped in this by the fact that she was a very resourceful woman. And to come out the other end with no trace of bitterness!! It seemed to me she took every day as it came along and no matter how hard the privations of the camps – the conditions were ameliorated by the comfort the women were able to draw from each other all sharing the same dreadful fate. What should have been a depressing book was in fact uplifting and inspirational – a triumph of the human spirit. I am truly in awe. I see a film – Emma Thompson as Babusia!’
‘I was very impressed by the lack of bitterness shown by Urszula and by the way she recognises the humanity of all the characters she describes, not only those with whom she is imprisoned but even those who operate the system which imprisons them. Although a number of Polish people have written about these events, and I have read accounts written by others, this I think is something that Urszula communicates better that anyone else that I have read.’
Sister Maria Edith, diocesan hermit of the diocese of Argyll and the Isles.
‘The Long Bridge is a wonderful, and dreadful, insight into conditions in the gulag. And what an inspiring and beautiful character your grandmother was. I hope she becomes as well known as Anne Frank.’
Ellen Tunstall, Bolton.
I am amazed at how brave and strong Urszula was. People remember soldiers in the war, but never think about people like Urszula who tried to help and change peoples lives amid the horror that was her life. She was a truly amazing woman.
Sibyl, Nova Scotia, Canada.
This book is a witness not only to the harsh and inhuman conditions on Stalinist collective farms in Kazakhstan and in gulags in Siberia, 1939-1955, but a testimony to the courage and determination, the resiliency and resourcefulness, and the deep faith of a woman in the face of loss and separation from whom she holds dear in life. This book is both an eye-opener and inspiration.
***** 5 stars CadoretteL, February 7, 2012 By L. Dennis (WA State)
Riveting, thoughtful, transcending, factual, historical, devastating, hopeful, difficult, delightful, sobering, insightful, a study of human behavior, courageous, honest, heartbreaking, joyful, challenging………an excellent read! You will never be the same. Recommended by a friend, the message of The Long Bridge will forever stay with me. Urszula’s writing style drew me in and kept me engaged. I will share this with my friends who will value her journey, message and this painful yet beautiful example of the indomitable human spirit! May we all rise to the occasion if presented with trials that pale when compared to Urszula’s story. Don’t miss this read! It will challenge your own life responses to adversity.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
***** 5 stars To the gulags and back, November 3, 2011 By north
Truthfully, I was a bit apprehensive about reading this book, as I was anticipating a very dark and heavy story. Once I jumped in, it took no time to realize that the author had the capacity, and used it to its fullest, to rise above an astonishingly horrible sixteen year ordeal. Her reportage is clear, clean and detailed. She never uttered a hint of self pity and her complaints were few. She almost had me convinced she was an observer rather than a victim. I came away from the book with a deeper understanding of WWII era history and a tremendous respect for Urszula, a woman whose strength of character is unimaginable to me.
Her eventual release from The Soviet Union in 1955 was an event I celebrated right along with her as I turned the pages.
***** 5 stars Urszula’s Tale, July 26, 2012 By BlueSandRobin
An extraordinary story that comes from one of the many many thousands of Polish people ‘evacuated’ to the Steppes by the occupying Russians in 1941. The Long Bridge reveals what it is like to have everything and everyone you know and love taken away in a very short space of time.
To suffer near starvation, exhaustion, disease and hypothermia over the course of many years and survive is incredible in itself, to write about these experiences without bitterness, hatred or rancour is truly the measure of the author. She showed such courage, ingenuity even curiosity in the face of intolerable hardship proving that perhaps when we think we truly have nothing there is still every reason to carry on.
I will read this book many times because without sermonising it shows above all else, that everything we need is here on the planet.
***** 5 stars The human spirit triumphs, June 12, 2012 By WVU Highlander
Urszula Muskus’ story is amazing in her ability to prevail and to maintain a positive attitude through years of inhumane treatment in the Russian Gulag. Her triumphs are truly incredible and her perspectives give us a different gauge against which to measure difficult times. An amazing story of a courageous women whose spirit never seemed to waiver.
Early on, Urszula comments that she did not want to write about that experience (the beginning of arbitrary arrests and deportations to Siberian “work camps,” separation from her husband and children …) Yet; Urszula survived to tell her story and did it masterfully. She and others packed like sardines into rail cars spoke of the “Mystery tour” they had embarked on. The tour unfolds with dramatic presentations of the full spectrum of cultures encountered in her long odyssey, along with stories that reveal the finest and ugliest sides of human nature. It is not a story of her triumph so much as it is one that reveals the triumphs of those oppressed. It is not a story of the human depravity that surrounded her and the other prisoners, but one filled with the buds of humanity that often blossomed in the harsh and inhumane conditions of their existence.
Whatever your level of familiarity with the terrible events of this era, you are sure to find a revealing personal account that – yes – brings to life horrors suffered, but also reveals the triumph of human spirit and ever-present hope. Her tails are also remarkable in that interconnections between the myriad characters she encountered are often surprisingly updated. At one point in time – left wondering – she may later reveal additional chapters in the lives of those she encountered.
During her 16 year ordeal, events often descended into the hopeless only to arise, once again, from disasters suffered. The story should give any reader courage and conviction to move forward through their own difficulties. Few of us will ever be able to share stories of triumph over such grave circumstances.
This book is a real prize and all who read it will find it uplifting in spite of the many difficulties faced by Urszula and the many others that suffered similar fate. Her account provides deep insights into human and spiritual interactions. Her stories are brought to life with rich perspective and remind us that life is often what we make of it – however it is doled out.
Sally aged 93.
Urszula was a wonderful woman. Her attitude to life would have been a lot of help to others and an example to many. Avery brave woman. Well worth reading.
Anne, Co Armagh
Having read and reread The Long Bridge I feel compelled to say how very moved I was by Urszula’s wonderful narration of her appalling experience of imprisonment and exile. I was amazed at how calmly and reflectively she was able to tell her story almost like a journal, tracing movement from one camp to another and recreating so vividly and poignantly the people and conditions in each, yet finally reassuring her reader of the enduring power of human friendship.
It was her courage and humanity which so moved me, never harboring hatred or desire for revenge, her understanding of and compassion for others who were suffering, and her ability to win the respect not only of the bullying ‘molls’ but of camp commandants too. I marveled at her capacity for endurance and her never-failing ability to improve a situation by initiative and effort – I think of how, in the moment of her arrest she had lifted the knitting needles and how, much later, they so brilliantly served her and others. She was fearless in her defiance of bullying or abusive officers and stoical in her acceptance of punishment.
She wrote of “the limitless world of thought” and I found when she speaks of ‘the armour’ of kindness, humanity and faith, and of her belief in the power we have within ourselves to seek the peace of trusting in a universal order, truly uplifting. It is a story that all the world should know, as well as a testimony to the faith, courage and goodness of a unique lady.
When I was given The Long Bridge for my birthday I put it on one side for a while – meanwhile my husband read and thoroughly enjoyed it, but I kept putting it off. When I started it I couldn’t put it down – I have been so moved and – maybe enchanted is the wrong word – and yet I was enchanted by the story of what the human spirit can endure and the humanity and humane-ness of Urszula’s story. so I’ve now bought 4 copies to give to friends for their birthdays and am sure the circle will grow.
Jacqueline, Vale of Glamorgan.
I wish to say how inspiring I found Urszula’s story – a pure triumph of the human spirit. I was a baby at the end of the war, and so escaped the worst of it, but I have been connected with many people who suffered in similar way to Urszula, while working in a Sue Ryder Home – that I marvel at their courage – I think I would have lasted about a week in a concentration camp! All these stories make me realize that real life biographies are much richer and more interesting than fiction. I do hope that many people will read Urszula’s book and be as inspired as I was.
A hard read, a good read, an inspirational lady.
I have just finished reading The Long Bridge and I was terribly impressed. A remarkably compassionate and intensely human person who found the most important answer to the most important question – how to survive all with peace of soul? Solzhenitsyn is and deep and wide – but there is bitterness there – no wonder – but there is no bitterness with Urszula – a great wonder. We can only learn from people who have overcome or bitterness. The others will only leave us as we already are and that’s no progress. Urszula and her book are both wonderful.
One of the most powerful and moving books you will ever read.
Margaret, Dyke, Moray.
I am overwhelmed by Urszula’s story. What an inspirational lady, her inner strength puts all our worries into perspective.
***** 5 stars A must read for all…, 23 Mar 2013 By Heather.
What to say?… An inspirational book and woman with a beautiful heartfelt lesson to learn. A life struggle that was all too common and not nearly known enough about. This is a book that we should all read if only to learn some of the hidden truth behind what really happened during and after the second world war under Stalin’s rule.
***** 5 stars 25 Mar 2013 By LR, Poland.
As soon as I started reading I couldn’t wait until next time, until next page…I was reading it until late nights and during my short breaks at work to find out what happens next…
It definitely met my expectations and more… Very moving, emotional incredible story written by a woman with amazing spirit, character, strength and cleaver too! I am looking up to Urszula how she could precisely describe her dreadful journey shared with her children and many many people. She has shown humanity and respect regardless. I think the book should be widely introduced to inspire and educate about history and ancestry that we are part of…
Seven Learnings from The Long Bridge: Out of the Gulags by Urszula Muskus
***** 5 stars 06 Apr 2013 By Walt.
Urszula Muskus is an inspiring woman. I first read the story of her life on a mass of typed pages in a loose-leaf binder, while my wife and I were on holiday with our grandchildren at a croft in the north of Scotland. The binder was among the reading materials provided by the owner of the croft, Peter Muskus–who is Urszula’s grandson. I joined the many others encouraging Peter to get the book published.
Urszula Muskus spent 16 years as a prisoner in the gulags of Kazakhstan and Siberia. Based on my experience of reading and re-reading this story, I want to share seven things I have learned from Urszula Muskus.
- 1. Believe in something
Millions of people were sent to the gulags. Many died there. This is what Urszula says: “During the years that I spent in the camps I met many people who quickly broke down under the stress of their experiences and the first symptom was always their refusal to work. They fell into a state of apathy and losing their spiritual energy suffered a loss of physical energy at the same time . . . . Whoever harboured a firm faith in anything had a better chance of survival.”
- 2. Rely on yourself
Urszula describes the night that she and her two children were arrested: “As I hurriedly finished off my packing the realisation suddenly came on me that henceforth I could count only upon my own efforts.” She survived by combining her belief in something and her reliance on herself. “How often have I seen the so-called ‘strong’ types perish more quickly than the weak. It is not physical strength which endures but that tiny, unassuming spark of inner strength often contained within a weak body which, properly cherished, becomes a real power and works miracles.”
- 3. Take your tools
The packing was finished. “I looked around for the last time and saw my knitting needles lying on the table. I picked them up and put them into my handbag . . .they might be useful, I thought.” For years afterward, Urszula used those knitting needles to knit clothes for herself and for many others. She even organised groups of women to do this in some of the camps.
- 4. Absorb energy from the world
Despite the continuing horror of her situation, Urszula kept noticing glorious sunsets, quiet dawns across the steppes, and deep skies full of stars. “The stars there seemed larger, enormously greater than elsewhere and much nearer . . . .The experiences of these nights brought me a plenitude of energy and tranquillity.”
- 5. Absorb energy from others
Urszula tells of gift parcels that arrived from other countries. “I would like all those who donated clothing and other gifts for these poor people to know that not only did they warm us up, but that the kind words expressed in the short messages found in the pockets of the clothes gave encouragement and hope.” On one long journey, the guards gave people a choice: keep moving or be left to freeze to death. “I was at the end of my tether with exhaustion and pain. All I wanted to do was lie down on the snow and close my eyes for a moment. I was about to do so when some powerful current passed through me and I heard my little daughter’s voice, crying out ‘Mummy! Mummy!’ Strangely enough, at the same time I felt my strength returning with a surge and I rejoined the marching column, looking back at those left lying . . . . I went on like an automaton worked by the magic of my daughter’s voice.”
- 6. Focus energy on others
When Urszula heard her daughter’s voice on that freezing journey, she had been separated from her children for a long time. “My longing for my children was still very strong . . . . Every thought of them caused me real pain, and I felt that a continuation of this approach would certainly not help them, but harm me to the extent that I would never see them again. I made it a rule to extend my consciousness towards their upbringing, and made it a daily practice to ‘transmit’ to them all my solicitude and best wishes . . . . Only thus was it in my power to do something for them, as I called them up in my thoughts.”
- 7. Radiate energy to the world
When a prisoner who knew Urszula was released before her, he wrote a letter that eventurally reached her children. In his letter, he said, “I admired her energy, courage, and high spirit which never left her.” Urszula describes a fellow-prisoner in words that sound like a perfect description of Urszula’s own impact on the world. “She reminded me of a day well-washed by the rain, when the sky and air are so clean and the sun so bright . . . . Whether difficult or easy, whatever its nature, every day provided happiness and opportunities for helping others. This specific element of love gave her insight into all around, and in this understanding the firm conviction that every human being should bequeath his good deeds to posterity, and to eternity.”
Thank you, Urszula Muskus, for bequeathing your story and your good deeds to all of us.
**** 4.0 stars A GOOD READ, 13 April 2013 By david j upton
It was an eye opener into life in the Gulag. Written in simple English with a lot of thought. Highly recommended. Thank you.
***** 5 stars A very moving human story, 1 April 2013 By Mr. W. Spens
I am impressed with ‘The Long Bridge.’ It is one of those books that you feel a better person for having read. It is a remarkable story and one that needs to be told. It is important that what happened in Stalin’s gulags is not forgotten. It is book about what it means to be human in situations that really test your humanity to the full. I came away feeling that I would have liked to have known the author. She seems to have been a remarkable woman, she never lost her dignity or humanity or her empathy for others during 17 years in the gulags. I loved reading about her friendships and her almost mystical relationship with the beauty of nature. At the end of the book, Peter, her grandson, writes that she was ‘the youngest person’ he had ever met and I can see what he means, always open to new experiences, never loosing her enthusiasm and curiosity for life. A wonderful book.
***** 5 stars A must read, 17 April 2013 By Mrs. D. A. Bremner (Scotland)
This is a must read – a brilliant book – despite the undoubted hardships suffered in the Russian Gulags a story of survival & love emerges – don’t miss it – you won’t be able to put it down.
***** 5 Stars Remarkable, 18 April 2013 By Tootle
It is amazing that out of such hardship and suffering a person could survive never mind the commentary on how things affected her spiritually. A truly heartwarming book about a clearly indomitable lady.
**** 4 stars An eye opening read, 21 April 2013 By Peri
It isn’t that often that you can describe a book with such a shocking subject matter as wonderful but that is what this book is. Strangely poetic and moving, the sparse prose sometimes shocks more than any detailed graphic description would. It feels honest and real and at times it took my breath away at the suffering and injustice of it all. Read it.