Summer of 1914. In his Ukrainian estate Molinci lives a beautiful young landowner Evelina Royskaya. She has two sons: Yuzek is seventeen, a sweet, serious boy, and unbridled Valerek fourteen years old. Her husband studied agriculture in English agronomic journals and tried to instill in the Ukrainian estate English ways of farming. In the estate lives also the sister of Evelina, Mihas. She was already middle-aged and married some dubious doctor. After the birth of her daughter Olga, her husband left her, and she settled in Molintsy as a prizhivalka. Olya is a vigorous, not an adult woman. Among the inhabitants of the manor, Uzek’s teacher Kazimierz Spykhala, the son of a railway worker. He studied in Heidelberg, was Pilsudski’s associate in the Polish Socialist Party. Together with Uzek, to whom he is trying to instill his views, he is staying in Odessa with his old friend Evelina Royska, Paulina Schiller. Paulina’s husband is the director of the sugar factory. They have two children: Elzbieta’s daughter, a famous singer, and Edgar’s son. He composes music, and his works are appreciated by music lovers of Ukraine, Poland, Germany. In the house of the Schillers, there is a spirit of service to art.
Evelyn Roiskaya, visiting her son in Odessa, decides to send her niece Olya to visit the Schillers, She knows about the mutual sympathy of Oli and Kazimierz. Accompanying Olya in Odessa eighteen-year-old Janusz Myshinsky, son of the nearest neighbor Roiyskogo on the story. The young man has just graduated from the gymnasium in Zhytomyr and is going to enter Kiev University.
Upon arrival in Odessa, Janusz and Olya get acquainted with friends of Uzek – Ariadna and Volodya Tarlo, children of the Odessa police chief. Janusz falls in love with the spectacular Ariadne at first sight, who recites Blok’s poems in a singsong voice. Ariadne herself is fascinated by the brilliant officer Valerian Nevolin.
So far, Janusz has been very lonely. My mother died, and my father gave all his love and fortune to Janusz’s elder sister Princess Bilinskaya, a beautiful socialite. The count himself lives with Janusz in the neglected little town of Mankovka. With Janek, Janusz is not friendly; he loves Valerek, simple and kind, but extravagant. Acquaintance with Edgar, a brilliantly erudite man, keen on art, opens a whole new world for Janusz.
In the house of the Schillers there are solid novels: Yuzek is carried away by Elzbet, Janusz loves around the house, Olya and Kazimierz love each other. But here is announced mobilization. Kazimierz, like an Austrian subject, must urgently leave. He explains with Olya, and she promises to wait for him. Kazimierz swears he will not deceive the girl. So ends the peaceful life.
By the autumn of 1917, Kazimierz was in Kiev, but he could not stay there, since he was engaged in underground work. He goes to the estate Royskys, to hide and receive medical treatment. During these years, Uzek visited the front, Valerek served in the army in Odessa. The estate turns out to be an unreliable haven: the peasants are going to go to smash it. Kazimierz hurries to Myshinsky’s neighbors to warn them of a peasant revolt. The old Count Myshinsky is paralyzed, Janusz’s sister Princess Bilinskaya is staying at the estate with her infant son: her estate is burned, her husband is killed. She barely escaped, taking with her family jewelry. Kazimierz decides to stay with the Myshinsky to help them leave, and Roysky leave the estate without him. The young man remains with the Myshinsky not only out of compassion: he at first sight falls in love with Mary Bilinskaya. In the morning the peasants are about to set fire to the estate, but Myshinsky rescues Volodya Tarlo, who happens to be among the insurgent peasants. In 1914, he was carried away by revolutionary ideas and gradually became a professional revolutionary.
Myshinsky and Kazimierz flee to Odessa. The old Count dies on the way, and Marysia and her brother and Kazimierz get there.
Janusz stops at the Schillers. Later, the Roys come to Odessa, also to the Schillers. Yuzek tears into the army, Edgar is completely absorbed in music and art, Janusz is captured by complex experiences because of love for Ariadne, and she helps her revolutionary brother.
Olya is deeply offended by the betrayal of Kazimierz. She falls in love with the fat owner of the confectionery Frantisek Golombek. On the advice of his mother and aunt, Olya marries him.
Elzbieta Schiller, who until recently sang in the Mariinsky Theater, is making her way to Odessa. On the way, she gets acquainted with banker Rubinstein, who also goes to Odessa. Elzbieta wants to go to Constantinople, and from there to get to London: she dreams of singing at Covent Garden. Besides, Rubinstein has money in London. With Eljbeta and Rubinstein, Ariadne also leaves. They call Janusha with them, but he stays. Yuzek loves Elzbeth and is seriously worried about her departure. Having learned that the Third Polish Corps is being formed near Vinnitsa, Yuzek enters into it. Volodya calls on Janusz to help the Russian revolution, but he believes that Poland has its own tasks, and together with Uzek goes to serve in the Third Polish Corps. In one of the first battles, Uzek was killed.
Bilinskaya moves to Warsaw. Golombek and his wife also gather there, and Royskaya: she has an empty Lonky estate near Warsaw.
It takes two or three years. Janusz is also in Warsaw, where his sister Princess Bilinskaya lives. He enrolls in the Faculty of Law, but he gives more thought to the meaning of life than practical activity. The nurse, in order to secure it, buys him a small estate of the Comoros near Warsaw. Kazimierz Hears a career in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He still loves Maria Bilinskaya, but she can not marry her: Maria lives with her mother-in-law, the old Princess Bilinskaya, and she resolutely opposes such a misalliance.
The Golombeks thrive, but it does not bring happiness to Ole – she does not like her husband, surrenders to dreams of Spiha and in her free time muses. She has one after another born children: the sons of Antony and Andrzej, – the daughter of Helen.
Edgar also moves to Warsaw. He, as before, writes music, teaches at the conservatory. His personal life does not add up: he likes Maria Bilinska from Odessa yet, but she seems inaccessible to him. He loves her from afar. The only person close to him, Elzbiet’s sister, is far – on tour in America, where she performs with unchanged success.
After leaving the law faculty, Janusz abandons his studies and again goes into the army. He fights on the Soviet-Polish front, then graduates from the Higher Economic School, but still does not find a place in his life. Edgar calls him an eternal student. He continues to love Ariadne, but knows almost nothing about her new life. He knows that Ariadne in Paris: she draws sketches of fashionable dresses, achieved recognition and money. After a lot of fees Janusz goes to Paris to see her.
Ariadne leads a bohemian life, she became a completely different person and does not remind Yanush of the girl he was in love with for so long. Ariadne is unhappy: Officer... Valerian Nevolin, with whom she fled from Odessa and whom she loved, married another, and Ariadne wants to go to the monastery. In Paris Janusz comes across another Odessa acquaintance – Ganya Volsky. This is the daughter of a janitor in the house of the Schillers, who took singing lessons from Elzbety. During these years Tanya became a famous cabaret singer, several times married. Janusz meets her as the wife of an American millionaire. She comes to Paris to perform at some opera house. Elzbety’s success does not bother her. But Ganin’s voice does not pull the opera. To be able to perform, she buys her own theater.
In Paris, Janusz accidentally encounters Janek Vevyry, the son of Stanislav, an old lackey in the house of Princess Bilinskaya. Janek is a communist who came to Paris after the suppression of the miners’ uprising in Silesia. Janek tells in detail about his life, and Janusz becomes imbued with sympathy for his ideals; he begins to understand that it is necessary to live for people.
The old princess Bilinskaya is dying. But Maria still can not marry Kazimierz Spykhal: the will is written in such a way that, after marrying, Maria is deprived of custody of her minor son. She can not allow this, since she does not have her own fortune.
In the next few years, Janusz leads the life of a modest rentier. Once Zosia Zgozhelskaya, the daughter of the former owner of the estate, comes to him. Her father died a few years ago, money was depreciated, and she does not know how to do anything, only to manage the economy. In order not to die of hunger, Zosia asks to take her to the estate as a housekeeper. But Janusz has nothing to offer her, and she leaves with nothing.
Janek Vevyursky returns from Paris to Warsaw and enters the plant. Thanks to his skill, he quickly becomes a master, but the owners of the factory Guba and Zloty do not approve of his communist views; He is soon arrested for revolutionary activity and sentenced to eight years in prison.
After living in Komorovo, Janusz goes to Heidelberg, where he is called by Ganya Volsky in memory of the mutual sympathy that broke out between them in Paris. In Heidelberg, Janusz understands that the hobby of Ghana is a mistake, and he leaves for Krakow, where he is looking for Zosia Zgorzelskaya and marrying her. But Zosia dies from childbirth, and seven months later, a small daughter is killed from the heart defect. Janusz is experiencing these deaths. He is obsessed with the obsessive desire to drive to the places where he was happy, and he goes to Krakow, to Odessa. As a result of these wanderings Janusz understands that there is no return to the past and it is necessary to live on.
Sister Janusz, Maria Bilinskaya, went to Spain in 1936 to settle heritable affairs with the sister-in-law, and asked Janusz to accompany her. Janusz is carrying a letter from the Polish communists to his Spanish comrades. Passing the letter, remains in Spain as a correspondent.
A close friend of Janusz, Edgar, by the spring of 1937, is in Rome, where he came to treat tuberculosis of the throat. He has almost no money, he does not perform works, he has to earn a living by teaching at a music school. In the park, Edgar accidentally meets Janusz and Ariadne. All these years, Ariadne lived in Rome, in a monastery, and now decided to leave. Janusz is ready to help her, but Ariadne’s life breaks under the wheels of the car. In the spring of 1938, Edgar died.
A new generation is growing up: Alec, the son of Maria Bilinskaya, Anthony and Andrzej, the sons of Oli Golombek, their friends Hubert Gube, Bronek Zloty. Their life is just beginning, but the Second World War is coming to Poland. Maria Bilinskaya takes Alec and leaves Poland. Kazimierz Heard falls into the Empty Lonki, the estate of her former mistress Evelina Royskaya. Here comes Olya with Andrzej and bleached. Her eldest son Anthony is in the army. Frantisek they lost during the flight from Warsaw.
The war does not bypass the estate of Janusz. After the battle that broke out at Komorovo, a wounded man is brought to the estate – this is the dying Yanek Vevyursky. During the German offensive against Warsaw, he fled with the comrades from prison and organized a small detachment of retreating soldiers to resist the fascists. He dies in front of Janusz.
By the autumn of 1942, life in occupied Warsaw is getting somehow settled. Olya, Kazimierz Heard, Andrzej and Helena live in Bilinskaya’s house. Andrzej jealous mother to the Spiha, accusing her of the disappearance of her father. The eldest son of Oli Antek teaches in the partisan detachment. Andrzej goes to visit him. On the way, he meets his uncle Vladek Golombek, a convinced Marxist, sent to Poland for underground work. All night they talk about Marxism.
Arriving to his brother, Andrzej falls into the house, where the partisans discuss their affairs. Unexpectedly comes Valery Roisky, who from the very beginning of the war has been cooperating with the Germans. Partisans decide to kill Roisky. Andrzej is called to bring the sentence to execution. While he is sitting in ambush, waiting for Roysky, the suddenly approaching Germans kill all who were in the house.
In Warsaw, Andrzej hides in his house Lilek, the friend of the deceased Janek, a communist who works in an underground printing house. His sister Helena is in love with Broneka Zloty, who lives with the parents in the ghetto. Bronek perishes during the uprising in the ghetto. The Germans organize a raid on the printing press, and Lilek dies. Their friend Hubert Gube collects a detachment of Khartzers to prepare for an uprising against the invaders.
Helena becomes connected between partisans and Warsaw underground workers. In order to conspire, she comes to Yanusha in Komorow. Her arrival has a beneficial effect on the mood of Janusz. A meeting with the partisans, whom he helped explain with the English pilots, awakens him to a new life. From the partisans Janusz returns with the feeling that he used to sleep, but now he woke up. Now a different life begins. Helen perceives it as a symbol of this life. Janusz recalls his long-standing meeting with Volodya, the brother of Ariadne, during which he gave him a pamphlet by Lenin. Then Janusz did not read it, and now it seems to him the most important thing in the world to read this brochure. He rushes to the house where the Germans are waiting for him. The economist Jadwiga tries to stop him, but Janusz is killed by a fascist bullet.
On August 1, 1944, an uprising began in Warsaw. In the first days, Andrzej and his sister Helena perish; Hubert was wounded.
After the war, Olya learns that her husband Frantisek Golombek is alive and is in Rio de Janeiro. In the letter she informs him about the death of all the children. Not having endured such grief, Frantisek finishes with herself.
Kazimierz Spied after the war leaves for England. And Alek Bilinsky, Janusz’s nephew, returns to Warsaw to start building a new Poland.