Chapters 20-22 Summary

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The children end up staying at the farm with Kurt Wolff and his wife for quite a while, primarily because the Burgomaster, who is in charge of the region, has been rounding up all suspected refugees and making them return to their home country. The children are careful to always stay out of sight when strangers are approaching and, at first, are able to avoid notice. One day, Jan asks about the photos of the two young men in the Wolffs’ living room. Frau Wolff tells him and the other children that the photos are of her and her husband’s children, both of whom died during the war. She tells Jan that although they were German soldiers, he would have liked them, especially Rudolf, because they both loved animals. The family dog, Ludwig, responds to Jan in the same way that he did to Rudolf. The next day, a passing car blows out a tire, and Edek, concerned that someone might be hurt, runs out to help. The man in the car is fine and Edek helps him to change the tire although he realizes that the man must be the Burgomaster. Since Edek speaks German, he is not too worried, but Jan and Bronia show up and Bronia speaks to Edek in Polish. Surprisingly, the Burgomaster appears not to notice and thanks them for their help before driving on down the road.

As Farmer Wolff is washing his face in the kitchen, the Burgomaster suddenly appears and begins to talk. Eventually, he tells the farmer that he knows there are refugees hiding on the farm. The following day is the last day for all refugees to be deported, and the Burgomaster says that the children must be sent back to Poland. Farmer Wolff tells him that the children are going to Switzerland because their parents are there and that they are not simply drifters. Although the Burgomaster is sympathetic, he says that there is nothing that can be done and that the Swiss are letting very few people across the border. Before leaving, he says that a truck will come the next day to pick up the children and warns them not to try to escape.

The farmer tries to think of a way for the children to continue to Switzerland. Finally, he decides that the best plan is for them to take his old canoes and to escape down the river. Both Edek and Ruth have done some canoeing before, and although the plan is risky, they agree that it is the best option. Early the next morning, the farmer and his wife bid them farewell, and the children set off down the river, with Ruth and Bronia in one canoe and Edek and Jan in the other. After they have been going for a bit, Jan realizes that something in one of their baskets of supplies is alive and wriggling. He reaches inside the basket and is excited to find that Ludwig, the dog, has stowed himself away and joined them on their journey.

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