USSR, 30-ies. After her husband’s death, Sofya Petrovna entered the typing course to obtain a specialty and to be able to support herself and her son Kolya. Being literate and accurate and having received the highest qualification, she easily gets a job in a large Leningrad publishing house and soon becomes head of a typewritten office. Despite the early rise, the unfriendly faces in transport, the headache from the knocking of machines and the tedium of production meetings, Sofya Petrovna’s work is very pleasing and seems exciting. In young typists, she appreciates above all literacy and diligence; the same people respect her and are slightly afraid of her, calling her a classy lady. The director of the publishing house is a pleasant,
In the meantime, Sofya Petrovna’s son, Kolya, had grown up to be a real handsome man, had finished school, and soon, along with his closest friend Alik Finkelstein, entered the Machine-Building Institute. Sofya Petrovna is proud of her clever, beautiful and accurate son and is worried that the adult Kolya does not have a separate room: they were compacted at the very beginning of the revolution, and now the former apartment of the Sofya Petrovna family became communal. Although Sofya Petrovna regrets this, she accepts the explanations of her advanced son about the “revolutionary sense of densification of bourgeois apartments.” Sofya Petrovna began to think about exchanging one room for two with surcharge, but at that moment “excellent students of studies, Nikolai Lipatov and Alexander Finkelstein, for some out there are sent to Sverdlovsk, to Uralmash, masters,” at the same time they give an opportunity to graduate from the institute in absentia. Sofya Petrovna yearns for her son, starts to work much more, and on free evenings she invites her friend Natasha Frolenko to tea. Once she gives Natasha, at her request, Colin’s last photo (later Sofya Petrovna realizes that Natasha is in love with
Years go by, Sofia Petrovna is promoted, but in the meantime a holiday is approaching: a new one is arriving, 1937. The organization of the holiday is entrusted to Sofya Petrovna; she succeeds all the way to glory, but the general triumph is clouded by the strange news: many doctors have been arrested in the city, among them – Dr. Cypress, co-worker of the late husband Sofya Petrovna. It follows from the newspapers that doctors are associated with terrorists and fascist spies. Hard to believe about Kiparisov: like a decent man, “the venerable old man,” but in fact we will not be imprisoned in vain! And if Kiparisov is not to blame, he will be released soon and an unpleasant misunderstanding will dissipate. After a while an even more strange event occurs: the director of the publishing house is arrested. And just at the moment when Sofya Petrovna and Natasha are discussing the reasons for the arrest of the remarkable director,
The first motivation of Sophia Petrovna is “to immediately flee somewhere and explain this monstrous misunderstanding.” Alik advises to go to the prosecutor’s office, but Sofya Petrovna does not really know where the prosecutor’s office is, or what it is and goes to prison, because she accidentally knows where she is. On the street, not far from the prison, she suddenly discovers a large crowd of women with tired green faces, dressed out of season, warm: in coats, boots, hats. It turns out that this is the turn to the prison, consisting of the relatives of the arrested. It turns out that in order to try to find out something about your son, you have to sign up and defend a huge queue. But Sofya Petrovna can only find out that Kolya is in prison and that the transfer for him will not be taken: “he is not allowed.” She does not know what her son was arrested for, nor whether the trial will take place, nor that, “
Meanwhile, they dismiss the secretary of the director who was arrested earlier as a person connected with him and Natasha Frolenko for a misprint interpreted as a malicious anti-Soviet attack: instead of the “Red Army” she accidentally printed “The Rat Army.” Sofya Petrovna decides to intercede for Natasha at the meeting, but this does not lead to anything other than an anonymous accusation of her in associating with Natasha, and Sofya Petrovna is forced to resign. And incidentally it turns out that Kolya was sentenced to ten years of camps and that he himself confessed to terrorist activities. Unlike Sophia Petrovna, confident that the young Kolya was simply confused, Natasha begins to wonder: why did most of the arrested confess their crimes, because they could not have confused everyone?!
Meanwhile, Alik is expelled from the Komsomol, and soon they are arrested: one of the Komsomol members reports that Alik was friendly with Kolya, and Alik refuses to “dissociate himself” from his comrade. Natasha ends up with herself, writing in her death letter to Sofya Petrovna “I can not understand the present moment of Soviet power.”
The months pass by, Sophia Petrovna, who is very old, stores her can in case she needs to send her son. With sorrow, she thinks up and repeats to others that Kolya was released, and she herself believes it, when suddenly a letter comes from Kolya. He writes that he was arrested on the false denunciation of a classmate and that the investigator beat him with his feet. Kolya very much asks her mother to do something, but Kiparisova, the wife of a repressed doctor, discourages her: then she can be deported, too, as they send Cypressov herself after her husband, and her son will not help, only will do much harm. Sofya Petrovna thinks for a long time where she should go with this letter, but realizing that she has nowhere to go, and desperate, she decided to burn the letter – a dangerous piece of evidence, “threw fire on the floor and trampled it with her foot.”