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Escape from Siberia

Siberia is notorious for its hardship and extreme conditions. Long cold winters and short hot summers. Many communities cannot be reached by road. Siberia is an almost uninhabited area – three people per square kilometer. Siberia is inhospitable – it always has been. Crossing it today is little different from a 100 years ago when Lajos Petho escaped a Siberian POW camp to walk home to Budapest.

A century later, French-Australian grandson Ludovic Petho walks in his grandfather’s footsteps in a year-long adventure to connect with a grandfather he never met. His walk through modern Siberia is more than an adventure, it is our window to the monumental events of WWI.

Lajos was one of two million prisoners held in Siberia during WWI, but one of very few men who chose freedom, no matter what the cost. Once on the road Lajos was a free man but on the run, often having to sleep outside in the bitter cold, desperate for food and fearful of the notorious Cossacks hunting down escapees. How did he survive? What obstacles did he face? Did he reach home on just luck?

For the contemporary trek, Ludovic will walk and hitch as his grandfather did, using the setting sun as his compass west to Budapest. In video diary style, he will mix adventure and detective work, as he searches for evidence of his grandfather and of other men who did the same.

Lajos returned home in 1918 shortly before the end of WWI, his “Russian Promenade”, as he called it was over and he could rebuild his life.

Through the personal stories we will tell the big story that shaped these men’s lives, the Great War that sent them to Siberia and the Russian Revolution they walked through on their way home.

Ludovic will not only rely on historians expertise as he walks home, but by the guidance of diaries, artefacts, photographs and oral accounts that are shared by other families of escapees.

A documentary by Lou Petho & Christian Popp

Written by Lou Petho & Jean Boué

Length: 90/52 minutes
Completed: 2014

Produced by YUZU Productions in co-production with DOCDAYS Productions and Découpages
in co-production with ARTE GEIE. Developed with support of the MEDIA Programme of the European Union and of the Robert-Bosch Foundation.