The Silver Sword, by Ian Serraillier ISBN 9780590437158
Five out of five stars
While the family depicted in this book is fictional, their story is one that was mostly true for millions of people. Unfortunately, in most cases, there was no happy ending with a joyful reunion. It is the story of the Balicki family, Poles caught up in the Second World War with the deaths and displacements.
Joseph is the father and he is sent to a prison camp shortly after the Germans invaded and conquered Poland. Determined not to let the Germans decide his fate, he manages to escape and flee to Switzerland. Along the way he is helped by an orphan boy named Jan and Joseph gives him a small silver sword as a memento.
When their mother Ruth commits a transgression against the Germans, Storm Troopers come in the night to whisk her away and their son Edek shoots one of them. Knowing that the Germans will be back in force and that they will destroy their house, the three children flee over the rooftops wearing only coats over their bedclothes. Forced to fend for themselves, they encounter Jan and they recognize the silver sword that Joseph gave him.
This begins what can be described as an incredible journey as the children of the Balicki family travel the hundreds of miles from Poland, through Germany until they are reunited with their father in Switzerland. The war front passes through their area and then they must move through the war devastated areas of Poland and Germany. It is a challenging journey that is an engaging story. It is also one where parts of it can be used to describe the war experiences of millions of people in Eastern Europe. Most of which do not end with all family members surviving the war.
I first read this book in the Scholastic Books version with the title, “Escape From Warsaw.” It is an excellent book for young people as it introduces them to a chapter of history that must be remembered and continues to be repeated in many regions of the world. At this time, this story can be told with the term “Poles” being replaced by “Kurds.”