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After centuries of fighting for possession of the Ukraine, the Cossacks aid the Polish Army in 1550 by defeating the Turks and driving their soldiers over a steep cliff. Cossack leader Taras Bulba is invited to a Polish banquet celebrating the victory, but he and his men are betrayed by their hosts and forced to flee across the steppes. Later, Taras raises two sons, Andrei and Ostap, and eventually sends them to Kiev University to learn the ways of their enemies. The headstrong Andrei falls in love with Natalia, a young Polish noblewoman, but is considered unworthy of her because of his lowly birth. Driven back to his homeland after Natalia's brother dies in a fight with him and Ostap, Andrei finds that the Cossacks have amassed an army large enough to attack the Poles at Dubno. Taras and his men lay siege to the city, causing famine and pestilence, but Andrei sneaks inside the city walls when he learns that Natalia is trapped within. After he is captured trying to rescue her, Andrei agrees to raid the Cossack camp for food to prevent Natalia from being burned at the stake. Although Andrei succeeds in getting her to safety, he is shot down as a traitor by Taras; the Cossack leader is humbled, however, by the sight of Natalia weeping over his son's body.