The struggle of the Balicki children—Ruth, Edek, and Bronia—to survive on their own forms the basis for much of the action in Ian Serrailler's The Silver Sword. The youngsters have been forced to fend for themselves amid the harsh conditions of wartime and post-war Europe, a continent almost destroyed by years of conflict.
This is because the children's father was sent to a prison camp by the Germans and their mother was sent to Germany, where she was to be used and exploited as a slave worker. The Balickis are Polish and are therefore regarded by the Nazis as racially inferior. The Nazis believe that this gives them the right to treat Polish people however they please, irrespective of the immense suffering and death it causes.
Without their parents to care for them, the Balicki children are completely on their own. They must somehow draw upon their own resources of strength, courage, and cunning if they are to survive. At the same time, they must remain true to themselves, which in such an appalling environment is easier said than done.
Above all, this means maintaining a commitment to certain key moral values such as loyalty and self-sacrifice, which are very much at a premium in the midst of a continent scarred by conflict.