Roberto, the self-effacing younger son of a Venetian gondolier, and his steadfast friendship with Samuele, soon to be called Enzo to hide his Jewish origins from their Nazi "supervisors." The main characters are these two boys, and Sergio (Roberto's brother) and Memo a friend of Sergio. The boys call Samuele Enzo, so that they will not know he is Jewish. The boys try to stay together, but only Enzo and Roberto manage to do so. The boys do lots of things to hide Enzo's identity. They are not successful, and after being blackmailed for his food ration from someone who notices Enzo's lack of superstition, and a beating leads to Enzo's death. After burying his friend, Roberto just walks off, and no one stops him. From Ukraine Roberto takes a dangerous path trying to find his way back home.