Joana walks with a group of fifteen refugees. This group includes Ingrid, who is blind, and an old shoemaker whom she calls the Shoe Poet.
The ragtag group of refugees who did not know each other before they began their evacuation has grown closer because of their shared journey.
The Poet observes that the dead woman frozen on the side of the road died because of her shoes. He believes “the shoes always tell the story.” Joana disagrees, but the Poet looks at her feet and correctly infers that she came from a wealthy family, but the shoes belonged to her mother, who loved her and sacrificed for her.
The refugees share skills and expertise with each other. In this instance, the Poet can deduce personal information about others based on their footwear. The quality of a shoe, its style, and its age all provide insights into a person’s life. In Joana’s case, her shoes symbolize the memory of her mother, which at once supports her and drives her forward.
Joana wonders if Ingrid is in fact lucky to be blind, since it saves her from seeing the atrocities of war. However, Ingrid’s other senses are heightened, and as they are walking she notices the sounds of airplanes before anyone else.
Although Ingrid is blind, and has therefore been marked for death by the Nazi regime, her blindness is often an asset. Here, it allows her to focus more acutely on her sense of hearing.