The biography of the film's titular protagonist Sergiusz Niczyporuk, resident of the village of Budy in Białowieża Forest, serves as a focus for the fates of the Orthodox Christian Belarusian minority inhabiting the eastern portion of the Podlachian voivodeship. Like the overwhelming majority of his countrymen, he hails from a small, poor village; his ancestors have, for centuries, tilled earth, prayed in an Orthodox temple, and accepted each new authorities with fear in their eyes, while simultaneously trying to ingratiate themselves and adapt to the changing conditions. "Stay quiet -- stay alive," a father would teach his son, fully convinced of this maxim applying to every place and time.