The young senior lieutenant Galtsev, the interim commander of the battalion, was awakened in the middle of the night. A boy of about twelve was detained near the shore, all wet and shivering from the cold. Galtsev’s strict questions are answered only by the fact that his name is Bondarev, and demands immediately to report his arrival to the headquarters. But Galtsev, not immediately believing, reports about the boy only when he correctly names the names of the staff officers. Lieutenant-Colonel Gryaznov really confirms: “This is our guy”, he needs to “create all conditions” and “handle more delicate”. As was ordered, Galtsev gives the boy paper and ink. He pours it on the table and concentrates counting the seeds and conifers. The received data are sent urgently to the headquarters. Galtsev feels guilty for shouting at the boy,
Comes Choline, a handsome and handsome man of about twenty-seven. Ivan (this is the name of the boy) tells his friend how he could not approach the boat that was waiting for him because of the Germans and how difficult it was to cross the cold Dnieper on a log. On the uniform brought to Ivan Kholin, the Order of the Patriotic War and the medal “For Courage”. After a joint meal, Kholin and the boy leave.
After a while, Galtsev again meets with Ivan. First, a quiet and modest foreman Kitasonitch appears in the battalion. From observation posts, he “watches
Arrived Ivan is unexpectedly friendly and talkative. Tonight he will have to cross the German rear, but he does not think to sleep, but reads magazines, eats lollipops. The boy is delighted with Galtsev’s finch, but he can not give Ivan a knife – it’s a memory of his deceased best friend. Finally Galtsev learns more about the fate of Ivan Buslov (this is the real name of the boy). He comes from Gomel. In the war his father and sister were killed. Ivan had to go through a lot: he was in the partisans, and in Trostyants – in the death camp. Lieutenant-Colonel Gryaznov persuaded Ivan to go to Suvorov School, but he only wants to fight and take revenge. Kholin “did not even think that a child can so hate…”. And when Ivan decided not to send for the assignment, he left himself. What this boy can do, and adult scouts rarely succeed. It is decided that,
Kholin says that Katasonitch was suddenly summoned to the division. Ivan is childishly offended: why did not he come to say goodbye? In fact, Katasonitch had just been killed. Now the third one will be Galtsev. Of course, this is a violation, but Galtsev, and before he asked to take him to the intelligence service, is being decided. Carefully prepared, Kholin, Ivan and Galtsev go to surgery. Crossing the river, they hide the boat. Now the boy is facing a difficult and very risky task: to pass unnoticed in the rear of the Germans fifty kilometers. Just in case, he is dressed as a “homeless snipe”. Insuring Ivan, Kholin and Galtsev spend an hour in ambush, and then return back.
Galtsev orders for Ivan exactly the same kind of fink as the one he liked. After some time meeting with Gryaznov, Galtsev, already approved as battalion commander, asked to pass the knife to the boy. But it turns out that when Ivan finally decided to send him to the school, he left on his own. Gryaznov reluctantly talks about the boy: the less people know about the “zafteronniki”, the longer they live.
But Galtsev can not forget about the little scout. After a serious injury, he ends up in Berlin to capture German archives. In the documents found by the secret police, Galtsev suddenly discovers a photo with a familiar cheekbone face and wide-set eyes. The report says that in December 1943, after fierce resistance, Ivan was detained, watching the movement of German echelons in the restricted area. After interrogations, on which the boy “held defiantly”, he was shot.