The protagonist of the story “My Polish Teacher’s Tie” by Helen Dunmore is Carla Carter, who is also the narrator. Apart from her, several other characters appear: the headmaster, Valerie Kenward - a teacher and Steve or Stefan Jeziorny - the Polish teacher. Other characters are mentioned as well, but they do not take part in the actual action of the story: Carla’s parents, her daughter Jade, other teachers and children from the school.
Carla is both the protagonist and the narrator of the story. Therefore, all her traits and all the information readers get about her are subjective; we only know what she tells us about her background and we can only characterise her based on that.
Carla is probably a single mother, working as a part-time catering assistant in a British school. She comes from a British father and a Polish mother. Her mother taught her some Polish when Carla was a child, but stopped when she went to school.
Stefan Jeziorny, or as he calls himself, Steve, is a Polish teacher who starts corresponding with Carla, whom he assumes is also a teacher. Steve is depicted through Carla’s and Valerie’s eyes, as well as through his letters and gestures when he arrives in England.
Based on what Carla tells us, Steve is an educated man, fond of poetry. The fact that he writes poetry indicates a sensitive man, with artistic inclinations.
A secondary character who is fairly important in the short story is Valerie Kenward. She is a teacher at the school Carla caters for and the person to host Steve when he comes to visit.