Peter Kwinto (KWIHN-toh), a young intellectual and journalist who writes for the Polish Workers’ Party. Although he is of Italian descent, Peter was reared in Poland under his mother’s guidance, and he is in Warsaw when the Polish underground rebels against the Nazis. Peter is disillusioned when the Soviet army fails to support the Warsaw uprising, and he watches, helpless and in shock, as the Germans obliterate his hometown. After World War II is over, the Soviet Union is allowed to occupy Poland, and Peter becomes angry with himself for succumbing to the new Communist government, which he despises. Finally, by interpreting a recurring nightmare, Peter understands his apparent powerlessness against the new party by associating it with his father’s death. When Peter was a young boy, his father was killed in a war against Russia; as an adult, Peter realizes that he has the same fear for himself. That insight causes him to leave Poland and flee to France.
Stefan Cisovski (sih-SOV-skih), a cadet officer in the Home Army of the Polish underground. He is nicknamed Seal because of his swimming expertise. He eventually escapes from Warsaw by crawling through the sewer system. Although he manages to survive the war, he is guilt-ridden for abandoning a wounded friend and for having a brief affair. He believes that everything comes too late, when it is no longer valuable, but he nevertheless helps his commander...
(The entire section is 632 words.)