Last Updated September 5, 2023.
Tzili Straus is the main character of the novel. She's a young Jewish girl who isn't very good at school and is the victim of her cruel classmates. Her family doesn't seem very fond of her; they leave her behind when they flee the Nazis. She learns to care for herself to some extent, but she's still only 15 when she gets pregnant by a much older married man. Her child is stillborn. Tzili, unlike the rest of her family, manages to escape the Nazis and head toward Palestine on a boat.
Maria is the local prostitute. After her family flees, Tzili is mistaken for being her daughter and lets the incorrect assumption take root so that people will be kinder to her. Appelfeld says that Maria's name was a household word in their district and that she had many daughters. Tzili remembers that one of her brothers had gotten Maria in trouble. Maria works with Katerina, another prostitute. Tzili works with her for awhile but refuses to prostitute herself and leaves when Katerina becomes violent.
Mark is a 40-year old Jewish man with a wife and children. He escapes from a concentration camp and travels with Tzili. Ultimately he gets her pregnant and leaves her. His wife and children are too scared to escape the camp with him and he left them behind; he is haunted by his past.
Linda is a kind woman with whom Tzili escapes to Palestine. She's a large woman and an optimistic one. She used to be a dancer. Tzili meets her when she's pregnant and they're traveling to escape the Nazis with other survivors.