Janus shares the compelling, emotionally charged story of survival and faith that his grandfather, Stanley, relays to him in Poland.
When he received his grandfather’s inspiring life story, Janus, now older and with a family of his own, was an 18-year-old political refugee living in Australia but visiting Poland, his birth country. Through the grandfather’s first-person narration, readers learn about his near-death experiences as a soldier in Poland during World War II. Germans and Russians invaded the newly sovereign nation, leaving its inhabitants with little choice but to surrender to the whims of these brutal, suffocating forces. Stanley, a young man at the time, sets off to fight for the Polish army but is captured by the Russians and forced to live in a mud ditch for months. He miraculously survives the harsh winter and manages to escape into the woods. A yearlong perilous journey follows, as Stanley slowly and carefully makes his way back home to his love—later to become his wife and Janus’ grandmother. The single thing that protects and saves Stanley is his faith in God; with that, he intuitively knows that everything will be all right. The story drives home the point that “even a quiet, ordinary life requires the burden of decision. Your choices may turn out badly, but if they come from deep within you, who is to say if you are wrong?” Another traumatic incident years later—gangrene in Stanley’s legs, likely caused by the frigid air he was exposed to during his imprisonment—threatens to handicap and even kill him. Hours away from scheduled surgery to amputate both legs, his intuition tells him not to proceed; everything will be OK. Against medical and familial advice, he refuses surgery and miraculously heals on his own—an impassioned if not wholly convincing argument for using intuition as a guiding force.
The immeasurable, well-portrayed bond between grandfather and grandson holds this anecdote-driven story together.