Chapters 23-25 Summary

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Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 636

At first, as the children navigate the river, things seem to be going well. The moon is hidden behind some clouds, and they hope they can pass by the village unnoticed. As they near the village, however, the moon comes out enough for them to see a field that has a number of trucks in it, and Ruth realizes these are the trucks that are meant to take refugees home. At the same time, the children are forced to navigate under a bridge where the river’s current seems particularly strong. Edek and Jan pass under the bridge without incident, but Ruth and Bronia turn broadside against the bridge and become stuck. An American solider notices them and jumps in the river and grabs Ruth’s paddle to try to stop them from going downstream. Ruth lets go of the paddle and the soldier falls into the river. Ruth and Bronia’s canoe finally makes it under the bridge and they escape, although without a paddle, they are at the mercy of the current. Eventually, they both fall asleep and the canoe is essentially destroyed when it runs over a rock. They are able to make it to the bank and begin to walk downstream, hoping that they find Edek and Jan. Before they have gone very far, Ruth sees Ludwig and suddenly Edek and Jan are laughing and greeting her and Bronia.

For several days, they continue toward Switzerland, mostly walking but getting a few rides along the way as well. When they are about eighty miles from Switzerland, Ruth realizes that Edek’s health is rapidly deteriorating. They stop to rest and Jan realizes that he must have left the silver sword at the Wolffs’ farm in Bavaria. He decides to go back to get it, but Ruth is, at first, able to talk him out of it. The next morning, however, both Jan and Ludwig are gone. Ruth decides not to look for him, as getting Edek to Switzerland is her highest priority. Edek is barely able to walk and, as the day goes on, is unable to go any farther. Ruth flags down a passing truck driven by an American soldier. She speaks to him in Polish and, surprisingly, he answers back in Polish. He is an American of Polish descent and asks Ruth what he can do to help.

The soldier, whose name is Joe Wolski, is quite friendly and agrees to take them all the way to the Swiss border at Lake Constance, where there is a Red Cross camp. The Balicki children pile into the front of the truck and talk with Joe as they drive. At one point, Bronia says she hears a yelp and asks what is in the back of the truck. Joe says that he has a couple of bears and a hyena in the back, which Bronia says Jan would love. She explains who Jan is, and where he has gone, and Joe says that Jan reminds him of a boy he recently met. The boy fell asleep in the back of the truck and, when Joe woke him, asked to be taken north. Joe says he refused him when he found out that the boy had deserted the people with whom he was traveling. The boy began to kick and curse him, so Joe had no choice but to tie him up and throw him in the back. When Bronia hears another yelp, Joe tells them to take a look at what is in the back. It turns out that the boy Joe was talking about is Jan and the hyena is Ludwig. Jan is still very mad about not being able to return for the sword, but when they reach the Swiss border, Jan is overcome with emotion and bursts into tears.

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