This anchorless society is the backdrop for this story.
Synopsis. The plot involves a young soldier, Maciek Chelmicki of the right-wing Nationalist Army who has helped expel the Nazis from Poland. Maciek brings to life the Polish resistance in post-World War II Poland. Now under the rule of Soviet Union, Poland becomes the object of Communist militarization and control.
Maciek is dictated to shift his allegiance to the Soviets. He starts out as a carefree thrill-killer who hasn't given a serious thought to what he's doing. This don't-care attitude is his best defense against capture, as he doesn't behave on the sly and thus doesn't attract suspicion. Maciek's acts of terrorism bring him in conflict with the new social order. He is ordered to assassinate a new Communist district secretary, Szczuka, who has returned from Russia. Maciek is as cool as a cucumber when he bumps face-to-face with him.
Their job done, he and his partner Andrzej, head in to town before leaving for their next assignment. Just as Andrzej is calling in his kill confirmation, Maciek notices their target walking into the hotel, all in one piece. They must have killed the wrong man.
Told to try again to assassinate Szczuka, Maciek is hopelessly driven between the demands of conscience and of loyalty. As he waits at the Metropol hotel at which he and the communist official are staying and where people celebrate the end of the war and get blind drunk, he is up-ended by falling for a bartender named Krystyna.
Krystyna is the kind of soulful beauty that could make any man question his lifestyle. She makes him feel that his manner of living is meaningless in the new, post-war climate. What both had intended as a one-night stand opens vistas to a possible peaceful future - to dreams of study, of normality. His romance with her seriously undermines his initial allegiance to the dying Republican cause. It forces him to re-examine the purpose of his mission and so he rethinks his part in the endless cycle of violence - to question whether the revolution is able to achieve the ends that they are working towards. Will he or will he not carry out his wicked mission Can he keep his cool long enough to do it
The bartender has gone through the same losses as has everyone else in this sad country, but seems to be looking for some kind of hope. She is afraid to get too close to Maciek when she learns he's leaving in the morning. Maciek's youthful idealism is rekindled and throws him off balance.
Army discipline requires a fulfillment of orders, and the old ways of war seem to be too ingrained in Maciek's psyche. At the last minute, he paces up and down before the hotel, his mind racing over whether or not to follow his target. Finally, his victim falls dead in his arms. Maciek kills Szczuka in the dark
Though he manages to accomplish his mission on the very evening that fireworks announce the end of hostilities, Maciek is accidentally shot in the morning when running from a military patrol. He dies alone on a rubbish dump - curling up unglamorously in a fetal position, legs twitching as if to kick death away.