The heart of The Radetzky March focuses on the relationship between fathers and sons, expanding that connection when looking at similar associations like emperor/subject or soldier/orderly. Onufrij, a peasant from the eastern border, is Carl Joseph’s orderly in pre-World War I Austria-Hungary. Onufrij’s devotion lies only to Carl Joseph and does not extend to include the army or the empire. For Carl Joseph, though, Onufrij will do almost anything. When the lieutenant finds himself hopelessly in debt, Onufrij travels to his nearby home to dig up his savings from the garden and to mortgage his land…all without hesitation or regret. Such sacrifice is hardwired into Onufrij and he performs it without flinching.
What causes Onufrij agony? From Part Three, translation by Joachim Neugroschel (page 263):
And Beniover [a local “banker”] opened a huge book. This book indicated that Onufrij owned four and a half acres of land. Beniover was prepared to lend him three hundred crowns on that.
“Let’s go to the mayor,” said Beniover. He called his wife, told her to mind the store, and he and Onurfrij Kolohin went to the mayor.
Here he gave Onufrij three hundred crowns. Onufrij sat down at a brown worm-eaten table and began writing his name at the bottom of the document. He removed his hat. The sun was already high up in the sky. It managed to send its burning rays through the tiny windows of the peasant hut where the mayor of Burdlaki officiated. Onufrij was perspiring. The beads of sweat grew on his low brow like transparent crystal boils. Every letter that Onufrij wrote produced a crystal boil on his forehead. These boils ran, ran down like tears wept by Onufrij’s brain. At last his name was at the bottom of the document.