Stefan Cisovski (sih-
Professor Gil, a scholar of classical literature. He appears only in two brief scenes during the body of the text, once when he refuses to leave his dying wife and a second time when he searches for his daughter’s corpse. Despite the brevity of his appearances, his musings set the framework for the novel. The opening pages reveal him at work, translating Thucydides’ writings about the Peloponnesian War. A link with history helps Gil to comprehend his own experience during World War II. The transition between parts 1 and 2 offers some of his personal history. Born a peasant’s son, he had to fight for the right to attend a university. With the Soviet occupation, he has lost his department chairmanship and feels his life ending because he can no longer encourage the youth to pursue truth. The closing pages show him gleaning information from a newspaper and pondering how people can survive sadness and indifference.
Wolin, the head of the Security Department of the NKVD (police force). Reared in an upper-class family, he feels oppressed by the unreality of that lifestyle and runs away from home when he is fifteen years old. Experiencing poverty, manual labor, and prison as a result, he develops a keen class consciousness and strongly supports Communism. Fanatic about mystery stories, Wolin himself is enigmatic, and he is excellent at playing political mind games.
Josiah Winter, a man who supports the communization of Poland not because he believes in communist theories but because he is afraid of the power of communism. Described as apelike, with small, black eyes, he wants desperately to be accepted by the Communist Party. When the NKVD questions him about Peter Kwinto, he provides enough information to sentence his intellectual acquaintance to the Urals for five years.
Michael Kamienski (kah-mee-