The book begins with the memory of the boy Kohli about his teacher Anna Nikolaevna. She taught her students not only school lessons, but also life lessons.
And meanwhile there was a war, there was 1945, spring. The narrator, without a year and two months, was no less than a graduate of an elementary school.
Further it is told that you are constantly hungry. In general, all the children can be conditionally divided into three groups: ordinary guys, jackals and punks. Ordinary guys were afraid of both. The jackals took away their food, the punks simply inspired fear, and the punks aroused the impression of a dull crowd.
One day, when Kolya was eating as usual, he left soup (not a conceivable matter for the narrator by the way (since his mother always taught him how he would not like food), one of the jackals sank unobtrusively to him, and looked at the remains of the soup. The narrator hesitated, but gave him the soup, he spotted the boy, called him yellow-faced, and
also noticed one of the punks that broke through among the small ones without a queue, which he called Nose.
A few days later, while eating, he again saw a yellow-faced man. He stole the bread from a little girl, and because of this a scandal arose. Banda Nossa decided to beat a yellow-faced, but found that they did not know how to fight, just harahortsya. The yellow-faced man grabbed Nose by the throat and nearly strangled him. The gang fled in fear. The yellow-faced man approached the fence and collapsed into a faint. Kolya called for help, and brought the yellow-faced into himself. It turned out that he had not eaten for five days and that he had stolen bread not for himself, but for his sister Marya. The narrator found out that the yellow-faced man was Vadka.
A few words about the heroes:
The narrator lived with his mother and grandmother, his father fought. His houses seemed to be “wrapped around with a cocoon,” hiding from all ills, as he himself said. He was not hungry, he was dressed and shod, he did not miss lessons.
Совсем по-другому жили Марья
и Вадька. Отец их умер вначале войны. Мать лежала в больнице с тифом, и надежд на выздоровление было мало. Марья потеряла талоны на еду, так что ее брату приходилось шакалить, добывать еду своей хитростью. Тем не менее они не опускались нравственно. Они все время думали о матери, врали ей в письмах, чтобы она не волновалась. Жили они в бедно обставленном доме. Все это рассказчик узнал, общаясь с Вадькой.
The narrator was drawn to Vadka as a magnet. He greatly respected this yellow-faced boy. Vadka did not have enough money and to survive in the cold, he asked the storyteller jacket for a while. The narrator goes home and talks with his grandmother, tells them about Vadka and Marya and about their difficult situation. Babka does not allow him to give the jacket. Then the narrator (probably for the first time) goes against the will of the grandmother. He takes his jacket and runs outside to the guys. A little later, the storyteller’s mother comes up to them. He tells her what it’s all about, her mother reacted with sympathy to Vadka and Marya, fed them to the dump, and they fell asleep from the satiety right at the table.
The next day the three of them went to school. Mary went, and the storyteller (for the first time!) With Vadka skipped school. Vadka and the storyteller, who was tied up with him, went to look for food. First Kolya was indignant, Vadik was full, and even in the evening his grandmother and mother invited him to visit, why should he look for food? He asked Vadka this question, and he said that the mother and grandmother of the narrator do not have to feed him. Noble acted. He does not like to sit on someone else’s neck.
Vadik with the storyteller asked for a cake, looked at the bazaar. Vadik talks about his “technology of survival”.
Oh yes, I forgot to say, when the narrator was at home with Vadim, he compared his relationship with his mother and Vadik’s relationship to his mother. Kolya was under the protection of his mother, and did not regret her, did not fear for her. Vadik has other relations with his mother: he himself says that he is afraid for her, after the death of her husband, the father of Mary and Vadik, she has become not herself. This difference in relation to the native person speaks of the maturity of Vadik as a person, he has already seen much in life unlike the narrator. On the face of Vadik even wrinkles appeared, sometimes he looked like an old man.
When they met Marya from school, the girl scolded him for the fact that Vadik skipped classes and said that she was given coupons for food. Vadka and Mary finally ate in the dining room like the rest, but Mary was taken away from the second, Vadik drove off the offender.
They go out of the dining room, joke, laugh. Vadik was torn with a knife of a coat, Mary burst into tears. Vadik goes to school, as he is summoned to the director, and the narrator sees Mary out to the house. There they write a letter to her mother, a taciturn narrator suddenly attacks the spirit of writing, he presents himself in the place of Vadik and Mary. They refer the letter to the hospital, to a terrible place in the village.
Then they go home to the narrator, they make lessons there, they eat. Vadik comes in with textbooks, a bandaged belt and a full food bag, which the teacher passed him through the director. Vadik accuses the mother of the narrator of calling to the director and in these handouts. She pretends that she has nothing to do with. Kolya’s mother settles Vadim at the table, who reluctantly agrees. Conversation is about the bath. It turns out after the hospitalization of the mother Vadik and Marya washed only once because of Marya’s restraint to go to the men’s bath, so she could not wash herself, it was difficult. The narrator talks about childhood: “You seem to be free, like everyone else, but no, you are not free.” Sooner or later you will have to do something that your soul is struggling with, but you are told that it is necessary, it is necessary, and you, masya, suffering, resting, still do what you require. “
Then, when Marya and Vadka leave, mother scolds Kolya for having missed lessons.
After a while, it was May 8, the narrator notices in the behavior of his mother a strange fuss, tears in her eyes. He thinks that something has happened to his father. Mother says that everything is in order and offers to go to visit Marya and Vadka. There they drink tea, the mother herself is somehow unnatural. Koli’s suspicions about his father intensify, but with him everything is in order.
May 9 is the day of victory. All rejoice, seem to each other close people: they are united by the joy of victory. At school, no one could sit still. Anna Nikolaevna told her students:
“You know,” the teacher said, pausing for a moment, as if she had decided to tell us something very important and adult. “It will be time, a lot of time, and you will become completely grown up.” You will have not only children, but children of children, your grandchildren. After a while, everyone who was an adult, when the war was going on, would die. Only you will remain, the present children. Children of the last war. She paused. “Neither your daughters, nor your sons, nor your grandchildren, of course, will know the war.” On the whole earth, only you who remember her remember. And it can happen that new kids will forget our sorrow, our joy, our tears! So, do not let them forget! Do you understand? You will not forget, so do not give it to others! “
Kolya went to the house of Vadim and Mary. The light was not burning in their apartment, the door was open. Marya lay on the bed in her clothes. Vadik was sitting on the floor beside her. When asked by the narrator “What happened?”, Vadik replies that their mother died a few days ago, and they only learned about this today. Not every street on May 9 was a holiday.
Vadik and Maryou were taken to the orphanage. Kolya once visited them, but they did not have a conversation. Since then, he no longer saw them, the orphanage moved to another place.
The work ends with these phrases:
Yes, wars end sooner or later. But the hunger retreats more slowly than the enemy. And the tears do not dry out for a long time. And there are canteen with additional food. And there live jackals. Small, hungry, innocent children. We remember that. You would not forget, new people. Do not forget! So my teacher Anna Nikolaevna told me.