The Silver Sword

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‘The Silver Sword’ is about a Polish family separated during the Second World War and trying to find each other again when the war is over. a simple enough story,. This is a fictionalised but apparently based on fact story suitable for upper primary students. The story opens with Joseph Balicki, the father, escaping from a prison camp in the Polish mountains. He was the headmaster of a primary school in Warsaw until the Nazis arrested him in 1940 for turning a picture of Hitler to the wall. He makes his way to Warsaw only to find his home in ruins. A neighbour tells him that one night in 1941 his wife was taken away by Nazi Storm Troopers; and that that same night the Nazis came back and blew the house up. His three children, Ruth, Edek and Bronia, have not been seen since and are presumed dead. Joseph cannot believe it. He returns to the rubble of his home and finds there the silver sword of the title, a paper-knife he had given his wife as a present. There, too, he finds Jan, owner of a scrawny cat and a small wooden "treasure" box, who expertly picks his pocket. Jan asks Joseph for the silver sword; and Joseph gives it to him on condition that, if he ever meets the children, he will tell them to head for their grandparents' home in Switzerland. That is the background. The main body of the story takes off from there. Ruth is 14 when we first meet her, Edek is 12 and Bronia is four. They are alone, fending for themselves, with bombs exploding around them. Ruth takes on the responsibilities of mother. (Children fending for themselves in hostile and potentially dangerous situations were a common theme in children’s literature when this book was written in thelast 50s. Refer Ivan Southall’s ‘Hills End’.) They set up home in a bombed cellar; Edek scrounges for food, stealing when necessary. Ruth protects Bronia from terrors, tells her stories, is careful not to transmit her own fears, and starts a school for other lost and orphaned children. Life gets harder for...
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