One More Harrowing Diary: Tom Hargrove’s “Long March to Freedom”

Regular readers know that I have recently finished a volume of Victor Klemperer’s Nazi era diary (covering 1933-1941).  I am about to start the volume that covers four even more harrowing years in Dresden (1942-1945).  And I have just finished reading the diary kept by Tom Hargrove when he was kept as a FARC kidnapped prisoner in Columbia for 11 months in 1994-1995.  (Luckily I read Whitney Otto’s novel in the middle, which allowed me to smile a bit from time to time.)

This is another book where each page is more depressing and frightening than the last.  Hargrove, an American, was working as an agronomist for a United Nations sponsored organization when he was kidnapped at a FARC roadblock, apparently mistaken for both a ‘wealthy’ American, and a CIA operative, neither of which was the case.  He was moved to secret temporary camps high in the Andes not far from Cali, but largely inaccessible except by multi-day treacherous treks through wild and basically uninhabited country, and kept for the most part at very cold, very wet, very gray, very primitive camps and campsites as high as 9000 feet above sea level.  He was held for ransom – with contacts being made to his employer and his wife, in Cali.

The brutality, insensitivity, ignorance, poverty, poor nutrition,j lack of medicine, rain and cold, etc., etc., etc. are set forth in virtually daily diary entries that Hargrove (who had previously written a book on his experiences in Vietnam) was able to put together on scraps of paper, with purloined pens and pencils, and which he had to keep from his captors.  They tell the story of his captivity, of the FARC operatives who were charged with guarding him (as pretty much a full time task; if it were not for him, they would not have had to have spent so much time in such conditions) for so long, and of his unbelievably strong psychological make up (sure, he got depressed virtually every day, but constantly recovered and faced the next day fresh), which was to me, the most amazing thing of all.

If you can find this book, please do, and read as much of it as you can.  For so many reasons.

What a world (have I said that before?)!

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