In the summer of 1956, on a hundred and eighty-fourth kilometer from Moscow, a passenger leaves the railway line on Murom and Kazan. It is the narrator whose destiny is reminiscent of the fate of Solzhenitsyn himself. He dreams of working as a teacher in the heart of Russia, away from urban civilization. But to live in a village with a wonderful name High Field did not work, because they did not bake bread and did not sell anything edible. And then he is transferred to the village with a monstrous name for his ear, Torfoproduct. However, it turns out that “not all around the peat extraction” and there are also villages with names Chaslitsy, Ovintsy, Spudni, Shevertni, Shestimirovo…
This reconciles the narrator with his share, because he promises him “a condominium”. In one of the villages called Talnevo he settles in. The hostess of the hut in which the storyteller lodges is Matryona Vasilyevna Grigorieva or simply Matryona.
The fate of Matryona, about which she did not immediately, not counting her interesting for the “cultural” person, sometimes in the evenings tells the guest, bewitches and at the same time stuns him. He sees in her fate a special meaning, which is not noticed by fellow-villagers and relatives of Matryona. The husband was missing at the beginning of the war. He loved Matryona and did not beat her like the village husbands of his wives. But it was unlikely that Matryona loved him. She was to marry the elder brother of her husband – Thaddeus. However, he went to the front during the First World War and disappeared. Matryona waited for him, but in the end, at the insistence of the family, Faddey married a younger brother, Yefim. And suddenly Thaddeus, who was in Hungarian captivity, returned. According... to him, he did not ax the Matryon and her husband with an ax only because Efim was his brother. Thaddeus was so fond of Matryona, that the new bride himself had found with the same name. “The second Matryona” gave birth to Faddeyu six children, but the “first Matryona” all the children from Yefim died without living and three months. The whole village decided that Matryona was “spoiled,” and she herself believed it. Then she took on the upbringing daughter of the “second Matryona” – Kira, brought her ten years, until she married and did not go to the village of Cherusti.
Matryona lived all her life as if not for herself. She constantly works for someone: the collective farm, the neighbors, while doing “peasant” work, and never asks for money for it. Matryona has a huge inner strength. For example, she is able to stop a running horse that men can not stop.
Gradually the narrator understands that it is on such people as Matryona who give themselves to others without a trace, and the whole village and the entire Russian land still stands. But this discovery hardly surprises him. If Russia keeps only on the selfless old women, what will be with it further?
Hence the ridiculous tragic end of the story. Matryona perishes, helping Thaddeus and her sons to drag a part of their own hut, bequeathed to Kire, through the railway on a sleigh. Thaddeus did not want to wait for Matryona’s death and decided to take the inheritance for the young in her lifetime. Thus, he involuntarily provoked her death. When relatives bury Matryona, they cry, more likely, out of duty than from the heart, and think only of the final section of Matryona property.
Thaddeus does not even come to the wake.