The Silver Sword is a children’s book which is equally at home on an adult’s bookshelf. It is a story about family, about hardship, about war and its impact on the order of things. The Silver Sword is a novel by Ian Serraillier, a children’s classic, first published in the UK in 1956 by Jonathan Cape and then by Puffin Books in 1960
The Silver Sword
The story shows us a glimpse of human depravity, and of human goodness.
Re-reading this story after a gap of ovr 50 years, brought a new understanding. As an adult I now bring my own life experiences, but also a better understanding of a well-written story, but of equal importance is that of an understanding of history – in terms of my understanding of Nazi Germany, Western Germany after the war, but also of more recent history and the refugees who are trying to escape from the Middle East wars.
The journey undertaken by the Polish family named Brlick from Poland to Switzerland, the depths of despair, the hardships they face and the goodness they come across are just as liable to be applicable to those of the children we see in the camps in France, Italy, Cyprus etc.
The family ends up in four units; the father (Joseph) taken away to a forced labour camp for ‘re-education’, which is a joke gone wrong as he was a teacher who loved teaching and didn’t want to be curtailed by Nazi propaganda. The mother (Margret) was forceably taken away to work in Germany
We also then have the three children, Ruth of 18 years, Edek of 11 and Bronia 3 years old; the three children then spend the winter living in the cellar of a bombed house on the other side of Warsaw, and the summer living in woodlands outside the city
The father and mother gone, the children have to go on the run because Edek shoots and wounds a German soldier and the Germans thus take away their mother.
I don’t want to give more than this away except to bring into the story Jan, a young boy who has lost everything and everyone, and has learnt to survive on his own on the streets, and who befriends Joseph in his escape to Switzerland, which is where The Silver Sword comes in.
I highly recommend this story but also ask you to put it in context in relation to today’s refugee children. In 2015 it was estimated that there were more than 60 million displaced people in the world. This equated to nearly 1 in 100 people worldwide being displaced from their homes and in a lot of cases from their countries. Some areas have a higher rate than others; for example, more than one-in-twenty people living in the Middle East are displaced. Between 2008-2015, about 198,500 unaccompanied minors entered Europe seeking asylum – nearly half of which arrived in 2015 (FACTANK)
Unicef has stated that nearly half of all refugees are children. The following graph shows the breakdown
This is a global problem, which needs to be resolved by some joined up thinking and actions. Otherwise the story outlined in the Silver Sword will become the blue print (if it isn’t already) for the millions who have become without home. Kate Todd, The Guardian)