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The Freedom Run
(A Canadian Children's Book Centre Choice) 

Michael Preston's comfortable life in rural Saskatchewan comes to an abrupt end when the aunt who adopted him dies. He calls his girlfriend to persuade her not to leave on a mission to Chile - and ends up going with her instead. 

After a chance encounter in the night, Michael becomes involved in a world of Chilean freedom fighters and decides to help his newfound friend, a rebel by the name of Orlando. The plan goes hopelessly wrong, and Michael suddenly finds himself leading a band of orphans across the mountains into Argentina, with a Chilean army officer relentlessly tracking them down. When an exhausted Michael finally confronts his pursuer on a bleak mountainside, he sees clearly for the first time that his actions depend on what he believes is right. There is no easy way out...

"...sure to enhance readers' understanding of struggles elsewhere in the world for the democracy that they take for granted." - CM: Canadian Review of Materials

 "The Freedom Run is a powerful and compelling novel about power, freedom, and a young man's journey of self-discovery. In this, his first novel, Phil Campagna has given us a first rate story that presents a world where there are no easy answers to life's challenges, a story that delves into power, politics and people's lives with depth, understanding and integrity." - Children's Book News

Recommended for ages 12+
Prairie Books Edition
ISBN 0-88833-318-8       $9.95 Canada

Excerpt: The Freedom Run      Back to top

       Michael led the way through the night, his whole body trembling. For a moment, he thought he’d lost his way in the darkness, and he nearly panicked. If the gunman thought he was trying to trick him, that thing at his side just might go off.
       At last they stood by the door to the church offices. Next to the door, a heavily curtained window glowed dimly. Michael turned to the shadow behind him. “It’s late,” he said, “but I think he might still be in there.”

       “Then knock.”
       Michael hesitated. What if this nut were some kind of assassin, sent to eliminate the priest for some reason or other? But Michael knew he had no choice: “This gun is real,” the man had said.
       The gun was jabbed harder into his ribs. Michael knocked, feeling like Judas.
       “Who is it?” called the priest from within.
       “It’s Michael.”
       “Michael? Come in, it’s open.”

       With the speed of a bullet, the man hit the latch and kicked open the door. Michael was pushed in with so much force, he practically bounced off the desk. When he picked himself up from the floor, the priest was just easing back into his chair. The gunman had bolted the door and stood now with his gun trained on them both.

       Michael stared in disbelief. He hadn’t seen his attacker clearly before; all he had noticed was the gun. The guy looked so much like himself they could have been brothers. The Chilean was only a little older, and slightly taller.
       The gunman’s gaze ran nervously over the room, pausing at the darkened entrance to the storeroom. “Who is in that room?” he demanded.
       “There is no one in that room,” Father Heighes snapped. “Now who are you, and what do you want?”
       The Chilean sighed. “My name,” he declared, “is Orlando Enriquez.”
       Michael started. So this was “Orlando”. No wonder that little girl had been so confused.
       “I came down from the mountains near here,” the young man continued. “I lived there while fighting for freedom. The army is looking for me right now. I am wishing the protection of your mission.”

       “Oh.” Father Heighes ran a hand through his greying hair. “That’s great. That’s just ducky.” He glared at Orlando. “Do you expect me to even consider the matter when I am under the watch of a gun?”
       “No. Please understand, Father. I only needed it to get in here. You promise, Father, you will listen to my story?”
       “I promise.”  TEMPORARY RENAME
       “Then I will give you the gun.” He came forward, and after a moment’s hesitation, laid the weapon on the desk.
       The priest’s eyes widened. “This is an automatic weapon, Orlando.”
       “Remove the ammunition, please.”
       Orlando did so.
       “All right,” said Father Heighes. “Sit down, Michael. You too, Orlando. I want you to tell me the whole story.”
       Orlando sat, clasped his hands nervously, and stared at the floor. “Our camp was attacked yesterday,” he began. “They took everyone who didn’t escape. My friend Alberto and I –”
       “No. Take it right from the top. I want to hear how you ended up hiding in the mountains to begin with. This is necessary if I am to give you sanctuary. Michael, for God’s sake, would you sit down?”
       Orlando paused, as if to think. It was a long time before he spoke again. “When I was very young,” he said finally, “my family lived in Chercos. Like many people in those days – or ma#99CCFFny now – we didn’t have much money. In those days, the rich landowners got it all, while the people who worked the farms for them had little. But a new government had come to power then – the Unidad Popular. They were Socialists, led by Salvador Allende. They took over the large farms, the spundos, and gave them to the people who worked on them. Did you know that your mission was part of a spundo?”
       Father Heighes nodded. “The hospital used to be a private home. The church was a chapel for the workers.”
       “Yes. It all belonged to one man, a good man who paid his workers fair. Other landowners, like Victor Basaulto, were not so kind. Basaulto owned most of the land around Chercos, even the good land in the valley where grapes are grown for wine. His land was also given to the people who worked on it, including my parents, by Allende’s government.
       “But soon after that, the putsch came, and Allende was killed. General Pinochet took over the country with the army. Victor Basaulto became a soldier in that army.
       “We had no rights at all after that. People could be thrown into jail for no reason. Sometimes they wereThe Freedom Run tortured, or just made to ‘disappear’. My father stood up against the new government. He tried to organize the people in Chercos to fight it. He became the enemy of Victor Basaulto, who tried for many years to get his land back. Then Victor Basaulto became army commander for this area.” 
       Here Orlando paused again, as if remembering was painful. “My family was taken one night,” he said quietly, “sixteen months ago. The police just came and took them, while I was out. My parents and little sister Isabel – I waited for days, but they never came back.” #99CCFF
       One of them did, Michael thought. And you weren’t there.
       “When some people in the village left to join the resistance, I did too. We camped in the mountains and helped people get out of the country – or back in, if they’d been forced to leave. We did things to make trouble for the government and the foreign banks that support it. We collected money to help the others who fight Pinochet – even those in exile.
       “Yesterday, the army came and found our camp. I don’t know how. Only my friend Alberto and I escaped. We were cut off from Argentina’s border and had to come down, into Chile. He was walking ahead of me last night when they got him. He yelled, to warn me, and I escaped again. They will try to make him tell where I am, but he does not know about this place. We agreed to each have a plan of our own, in case one of us...” The rebel’s voice seemed suddenly to have failed him. His eyes pleaded with the priest.
       Father Heighes said nothing. Outside, thunder rumbled in the distance.
       Michael was shaken. It all tied in with the rumours he’d heard. Orlando’s almost spooky resemblence to himself unnerved him, too. But there was something about the rebel’s tale that didn’t add up. Michael felt there was more to it, that there was something Orlando wasn’t telling them.
       “Are we going to help him, Father? What if he’s not telling the truth?”
       “Either way,” the priest said, “he’s a human being in trouble. Yes, Michael. We will help him.”
       Orlando’s noisy sigh of relief filled the room. He looked ready to burst into tears. “Thank you, Father. I –” He lapsed suddenly into silence and stared at the locked door.
       The latch was lifting, quietly, up and down...

Copyright 1990 by Phil Campagna

.Recommended for ages 12+
Prairie Books Edition
ISBN 0-88833-318-8 __  $9.95 Canada

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