Chapters 8-10 Summary

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Two years go by after Edek's capture by the Nazis. Ruth and Bronia continue to live in Warsaw during the winter and in the woods outside of town during the summer. As the summer of 1944 approaches, the sisters begin to realize that the nature of the war is changing. The Nazis seem to be on the defensive and there are many Allied planes in the sky. Soviet forces are advancing on the city, issuing a call for the Poles to take up arms against the Germans.

In August, the Polish citizens of Warsaw begin to attack the Nazi forces inside the city and a ferocious battle ensues between the Poles and Germans. The Soviet troops receive an order from Stalin forbidding them from intervening in the battle, and the Poles are left to fight on without the promised help. Finally, Stalin allows his troops to march into the city and finish off the Germans, but at that point the city is almost completely destroyed.

In January of 1945 after the fighting is over, Ruth and Bronia return to the city. The cellar where they used to live is still intact, although it takes some work to get it back into a livable condition. Eventually, Ruth is able to start her school again, teaching sixteen children in the underground shelter. One day when the children are outside playing, they discover a young boy lying on the ground, apparently ill and very hungry. There is a rooster hovering around him, and the boy has a wooden box under his arm. Ruth takes the boy, along with his rooster and wooden box, into the cellar, where he is eventually able to tell them that his name is Jan.

As Jan recuperates, Ruth goes to the Russian command post to ask for supplies for her school and for help locating Edek. Although the officer in charge is not very helpful, Ruth is able to procure some basic supplies and her brother’s name is added to the list of missing people. A few days later, Ruth finds Jan attacking a Russian soldier outside the entrance to their cellar. She orders him to stop and discovers that the soldier is Ivan, the sentry from the command post. Ivan brings some chocolate for the children and supplies for the school. He also tells Ruth that he has been able to find out that Edek is being held at a transit camp in Posen. As Jan comes into the cellar, he realizes his wooden box has been broken in the fight. As he is lamenting his loss, Ruth realizes that the silver sword in the box is the very one that her father had given her mother years before.

Jan tells Ruth about his meeting with her father several years earlier, as well the fact that her father has gone to Switzerland to try to find his mother. Ruth decides that she and Bronia, along with Jan, must leave Warsaw and find the rest of her family. They decide to start by going to Posen, which is only about two hundred miles away. Ivan helps them to find shoes for the journey and also gives Jan a new wooden box he has made for him. Although Jan is still upset at Ivan because of his hatred of all soldiers, he eventually thanks him for the gift and gives Ivan one of his prized possessions in return: a dead lizard.

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