The film is set soon after the Russians invade Poland. It opens with the Secret Police interrogating Janusz, the lead character, accusing him of espionage. He denies it and so they bring in his wife. Forced by agonizing torture (not depicted in the movie) she testifies through tears and shame that Janusz was in fact a spy. And with her confession, the Russian authorities export Janusz to Siberia. His last encounter with his wife is one of betrayal, brokenness, hopelessness...
In a decisive moment on his journey to freedom Janusz explains why he cannot give up and die- why in spite of starvation, dehydration, infections, and deterioration he must make it. These are his words:
"My wife is alive. She lived, or was. At least that much I know. But she will never be able to forgive herself for what she has done. See...only I can do that. She will be torturing herself just like you. So you see, I have to get back. I have to get back!"
And so as we relive on this Friday and Saturday Christ's death and burial I can almost hear him saying through his anguish in the garden, "They can't forgive themselves. Only I can do that. I have to go...I have to go."