The Silver Sword Questions and Answers
by Ian Serraillier

Start Your Free Trial

What are the main events that happen in the novel "The Silver Sword"?

Expert Answers info

Reuben Lindsey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2005

write1,774 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Business

Joseph Balicki is arrested by the Nazis.  After a year, he escapes adn returns to Warsaw.  His old house was destroyed.   He finds out that his wife was arrested and that his children have never been found.  In his old house, Joseph finds a boy sitting among the ruins with a black cat.  The boy, Jan, has a letter opener called the Silver Sword.  Jan helps Joseph find a train to go to Switzerland, where his wife has family.   

The three children had escaped from the Nazis and managed to survive together.  Edek managed to steal food and clothes for his sisters.  He was captured by the Nazis.  Ruth and Bronia manage to stay alive until Warsaw is liberated in 1944.  They meet Jan and take him as a part of the family.  A Russian sentry helps Ruth, and is able to find out that Edek escaped is in Posen.  The three children go find him. 

They all travel to Berlin.  Edek, who has tuberculosis, and Jan are arrested for stealing food.  Edek is cleard, but Jan spends a week in detention.  A farmer then takes them in.  A Burgomaster realizes the children are Polish and demand they be returned.  The farmer helps them escape.  After a scary boat trip during a storm, the children are reunited with their parents, who adopt Jan.  They live happily in Switzerland. 

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

katherinejarrett16 | Student

What is the style of the Silver sword

coolemily1 | Student

read the book.... :D and what she said ^


shenieta | Student


The story centres round the Balicki family set against the bleak landscape of war-torn Warsaw and the wreck that is post war Germany. The Balicki family are slowly separated and torn apart before the glimmer of hope of reaching Switzerland and reuniting is reached. First to be separated from his family is Joseph Bilicki taken off and incarcerated in a bleak prison camp. Although he escapes he returns to find his house bombed by the Nazis and his family gone. Unsure whether or not they are dead, he leaves a paper silver sword with Jan, a street urchin who survives by his wits alone. The sword is a token to show his children that he is still alive and heading for Switzerland. After telling Jan to look out for his children he makes good his escape to neutral Switzerland.

Although Jan eventually meets the children in Warsaw, it is a long time after his meeting with Joseph Balicki and understandably he has completely forgotten it. It is only after the children discover the silver sword that Jan's memory is stirred. So after enduring the hardships of wartime Warsaw the three children and Jan, who Ruth now in her late teens adopts, begin the long and arduous journey through Germany to Switzerland with the faint hope of reuniting with their parents which they all cling to.


Literary: Those looking for dialogue-heavy books typical of the later 20th century will probably not find fulfillment with this book. The book is very much a semi-classic, typical of its era in that it is not particularly racy and is rich with desciptive narrative. Despite this, however the book is very well written and very engaging. The author's talent lies in that he makes the incredible hardships and trial that WWII presented very real to the child of this age. Appreciation of the context of this book is essential to understanding it and Seraillier allows this appreciation to the fullest extent. The interspersing of the children's experiences with those of their father Joseph also makes for interesting reading.

Family: Family and its importance is central to this story. We encounter this on several levels; Joseph's unconditional, self-sacrifing love for his family, the fact that he is prepared to risk everything simply to be reunited with them. We also witness Ruth gentle caring and maternal attitude to her siblings and to Jan, who she essentially adopts on the journey to Switzerland, all this is far beyond her years and truly heartwarming to experience. At the same time Edek is prepared to make sacrifices similar to his father's, despite his youth. Despite all the separation and hardships the family undergos they still come out of it stronger and still united. War: The author does not shirk away from the realities of war or a wartime situation and the book is certainly all the better for it, it also makes the fact that the family never give up all the more important.

This book can simply not be adequately experienced by reading a review and must be experienced first hand. It is definitely well worth a read.

jackchanel | Student

The family was split up by the world war 2. Joseph then was caught by the Nazis soldiers. On the other hand, the children, together with their mother were discovered by some soldiers. Luckily, only the mother was being arrested. Joseph escaped at the same time.

Joseph returned to his old house, which was seriously destroyed. He met a ragged boy - Jan. Joseph gave the silver sword to him, hoping that Jan could find his children. The sword became the hope. Joseph later went to Switzerland to find his wife.

The children met Jan in a kitchen when Bronia saw Jan lying on the floor. Ruth gave food and drinks to Jan and asked for his name. However, Jan refused, but later he said. Jan showed the silver sword to the children. The children knew their father and mother were still alive. This encouraged them to go the Switzerland. Edek was founded.  

Time passed, they crossed through the Russian zone. Jan became  a train-wrecker who used to steal things from the train. At last, he was sent to a detention for a week.

Later, the children hid in a farm which belonged to a farmer. The farmer discovered them and adopted them as his children. The farmer was both good and bad to the children. He reminded the children that the Burgomaster was going to send the Polish children back to Poland. The farmer gave them a canoe to escape.

Finally, the children reunited with their parents and lived happily in Switzerland.