The protagonist of the story is the 12-year-old boy Vanya Solntsev. He lived in one of the Russian villages. Vanya’s father was killed in the war, and his mother was killed by the Germans. Soon his sister and grandmother died of starvation, and Vanya was left alone. When he asked for charity in the village, he was caught by gendarmes and sent to an isolation ward. Vanya escaped from the prison and tried to cross the front line to get into our army. Vanya was found by Russian spies in the woods – he slept in a pit and cried in a dream. They brought Vanya to an artillery battery, the commander of which was Captain Enakiev. Seeing Vanya, the captain thought of his wife and son, who died during the artillery raid. He realized that the boy can not stay on the battery and therefore ordered to send Vanya to the rear. But Vanya ran away from corporal Bidenko, who was instructed to take the boy to his destination. Moreover, he ran away from him more than once. For the first time he jumped out of the truck at full speed, and the corporal could find him in the forest only by accident – the boy climbed up a tree, and from his bag fell the primer that Vanya carried with him. The primer fell right on Bidenko’s head. Then, sitting with the boy on the ride, the corporal tied him to his hand with a rope. At night, he pulled the rope from time to time, checking the boy’s place. And only in the morning he found that the rope was tied to the foot of a woman who was
Vanya spent two days walking through the forest in search of an artillery battery. He wanted to talk with Captain Enakiev, since his departure to the rear seemed to him a very real misunderstanding. And he met the captain, though not knowing that it was Enakiev. He told him about how the scouts found him and how he had escaped from Bidenko. The captain brought it back to the battery. So Vanya became the “son of the regiment.”
Soon scouts Bidenko and Gorbunkov were ordered to scout the location of the German units. They took Vanya with him, since he had not yet received a military uniform and was very much like a little shepherdess. And Vanya knew the localities very well, and could conduct scouts on such paths that no one knows. But Vanya decided to make his contribution to the performance of the lesson and began to draw in his letter the location of fords on the river. At that moment, the Germans found him. Bidenko ran to the commander to report on what had happened. Enakiev was very angry with the scouts for taking Vanya with him, and sent a whole detachment to rescue the boy. But at that time the offensive of our units began, and the Germans began to retreat, completely forgetting about the “shepherdess” they had seized. So Vanya was again in the scouts.
After that, Vanya was given a military uniform and Captain Enakiev, who became more and more attached to the boy, ordered him to be attached to the first gun of one of the battery squads in order to help the artillerymen.
Our units have already approached the border with Germany, and Enakiev’s battery was preparing for battle. The gun to which Vanya was attached was in the very center of the battle. The captain, who just on the eve of the battle shared with his gunner his desire to adopt Vanya, learned about this, got to the gun and tried to send Vanya to a safe place. But he flatly refused to leave. Then the captain took a sheet of paper, wrote something on it and gave Vanya an order to carry the note to the headquarters. Vanya could not fail to comply with the order. He took the package to headquarters and went back.
Returning to the battery, he learned that all those who were near the first gun were killed – Captain Enakiev, in order to cover up the movement of our units, “caused fire on himself.” Before the death the captain wrote a note, in which he asked to take care of Vanya. After the captain was buried, as he asked in his farewell note, in his native land, Corporal Bidenko took Vanya to the Suvorov school.