Very brief summary
In the first postwar spring, on the Don, the narrator met Andrei Sokolov.
Taking the narrator for a chauffeur, Sokolov became talkative and told his life story.
Sokolov was born in 1900 and served in the Red Army during the Civil War. In 1922 all of Sokolov's relatives died of starvation, but he managed to survive. He was trained as a locksmith, married, and had three children - a son and two daughters. Then Sokolov became interested in cars and became a chauffeur.
At the very beginning of the Great Patriotic War, Sokolov went to the front, where he also became a chauffeur. In the first year of the war he was wounded twice. In May, 1942, Sokolov was taken prisoner of war in Germany. He did not manage to escape, he ended up in Poland, and from there - in Germany.
In a camp near Dresden, Sokolov was nearly shot for his criticism of the Germans, but the camp commander was struck by the Russian's steadfastness and pardoned him. In June 1944 Sokolov managed to escape, he was taken to his own front-line units and from there - to a rear hospital.
In the hospital Sokolov learned that a bomb hit his house, his wife and two daughters were killed, and his son volunteered for the front. Sokolov did not use the whole vacation, immediately returned to his military unit.
Soon Sokolov received a letter from his son - he graduated from artillery school and was now fighting. Sokolov was glad, but he didn't get a chance to meet his son: on May 9, 1945, the boy was killed by a sniper in Berlin.
After the war Sokolov became a chauffeur again and started drinking. One day he picked up an orphan boy at a teahouse, all of whose relatives had died, and adopted him. Yearning for his wife and children prevented Sokolov from settling in one place, so he and his adopted son wandered "through the land of Russia." Sokolov hoped to "settle down" when it was time for the boy to go to school.
The narrator said goodbye to Sokolov. He wanted to believe that this strong man would raise his son to be a true defender of the fatherland. The narrator sadly looked after them. Suddenly the boy turned around and waved to him. The narrator turned away so that the child could not see him crying.
The division of the retelling into chapters is conditional.
Meet Andrei Sokolov
The first postwar spring on the Upper Don was early and warm. The snow melted in the steppe, the rivers overflowed their banks and the roads became impassable. The narrator and a comrade rode in a brigade through impassable mud to a distant village.
They had to cross a flooded river, on the other bank of which a car was waiting for them and a chauffeur was waiting for them. Leaving his friend and his things on the bank, the narrator and the chauffeur crossed the river in a dilapidated boat.
When the car reached the river, the driver swam back and the narrator was approached by a man with a little boy, told him to say hello to his uncle and sat down next to him. The boy was dressed simply but well, his clothes darned by the caring hand of a woman. The man looked more scruffy, his clothes stitched up with large, masculine stitches.
The man, Andrei Sokolov, mistook the narrator for a chauffeur. After sending the boy to play by the water, he began to talk about his life.
Sokolov's prewar life
The narrative in this and the five chapters that follow is on behalf of Andrei Sokolov.
Sokolov described his pre-war life as ordinary. He was born in 1900 and served in the Red Army during the Civil War. During the famine of '22, Sokolov worked for the kulaks and survived, and his family died of starvation. Returning home a year later, Sokolov sold his parents' house and went to Voronezh. At first he worked as a carpenter, then went to a factory, learned to be a locksmith, and married Irina.
Irina turned out to be unspoiled, "humble, cheerful, obsequious and clever." No one was more beautiful and desirable to Sokolov than her. Soon children came - a son and two daughters. In 1929, Sokolov became interested in cars and became a truck driver.
In 10 years the war began. Sokolov was accompanied by his whole family to the front. A distraught Irina bade him farewell as if for ever.
...Her lips are swollen with tears... Her eyes are cloudy, nonsensical, like those of a person touched by madness. The commanders call for landing and she falls on my chest... shaking like a felled tree...
Sokolov saw that the other wives were not crying like that, talking to their husbands, got angry, pushed Irina away, shouted: "Is that any way to say goodbye? Why are you burying me alive before my time?!" Then he noticed that she was not herself, hugged her...
Then Sokolov stopped talking and lowered his head. The narrator saw how hard it was for him, asked him not to continue. Sokolov said that he would remember until his death hour how he pushed Irina away and would not forgive himself.
War and Captivity
Sokolov was also a chauffeur in the war. He suffered two light wounds during the first year of the war, so he did not have much time to fight. Sokolov called that year "a nauseating time. Many soldiers complained in letters to their wives about the difficulties, but Sokolov believed that he could not upset the women, it was hard enough for them.
This is what a man is for, what a soldier is for, to endure and bear everything, if the need calls for it. And if you have more of a woman's leaven than a man's, then... you're not needed at the front...
In May 1942 Sokolov volunteered to carry ammunition for an artillery battery, but did not deliver it: a shell fell very close and the blast wave overturned the car. Sokolov lost consciousness. When he came to consciousness - realized that he was in the enemy rear: the battle was thundering somewhere behind and tanks were passing by.
In order to wait out the tanks, Sokolov pretended he was dead, but it did not help. When he lifted his head, he saw Nazis with machine guns coming toward him. Sokolov stood up with difficulty, deciding to die with dignity, but the fascists did not kill him, but demanded to take off his boots. Sokolov gave his boots and then gave his oil muffs to the German, which made him very angry.
Sokolov went "into the fuse, into the captivity". After a while he was overtaken by a column of prisoners from the division where he served. He went on with them.
They spent the night in a cold church with a broken dome. One of the prisoners, a former doctor of war, set Sokolov's dislocated arm - a real doctor did "his great job" everywhere. Then the Nazis shot a worshipper, who asked to be let out of the church because he could not go to the church to relieve himself, and several other people. In the morning Sokolov heard a man lying nearby threatening to turn over a young officer to the Nazis, and he strangled the traitor as a "creeping creep.
In the morning the Nazis began to find out if there were any commanders, commissars or communists among the prisoners. No more traitors were found, and everyone stayed alive. They shot only a Jew and three Russians who looked like Jews. The others were driven on.
Sokolov thought of escape all the way to Poznan. Finally the opportunity presented itself: the prisoners were sent to dig graves, the guards were distracted, and he escaped. On the fourth day, the Nazis with their sheepdogs caught up with him. Sokolov was kept in a punishment cell for a month, then sent to Germany.
In two years Sokolov traveled half of Germany, worked in a silicate factory, in the coal mines, "on earthworks."
A hair's breadth from death
Working in a stone quarry in a camp near Dresden, Sokolov told the other prisoners: "They need four cubic meters of work, but one cubic meter will suffice for a grave for each of us". Someone informed the superiors, and Sokolov was summoned to his office by Mueller.
In perfect Russian, Muller declared that he would do Sokolov a great honor: he would shoot him personally. Sokolov behaved calmly and with dignity. Then Mueller poured a glass of vodka, cut some bread and bacon and offered Sokolov to drink before his death "for the victory of the German arms.
...I felt like I was burned by fire!... So that I, a Russian soldier, would drink to the victory of German arms?! Is there something you don't want, Herr Kommandant?
Sokolov refused to drink to the victory of the fascists and drank "to his own death and deliverance from torment" and declared that after the first glass he did not take a snack. Muller poured a second glass and Sokolov drank it, but refused to take another snack: he hoped at least to get drunk before he died. The commandant was amused and poured a third glass for Sokolov, who drank it and took a small bite of bread: he wanted to show that he did not need any Nazi handouts.
After this, Muller put down his weapon and said that he respected the courage of the Russian soldier, saw in him a worthy opponent, and would not shoot him. In honor of the fact that the German troops reached the Volga and occupied Stalingrad, Muller decided to pardon Sokolov and gave him a loaf of bread and a piece of fat for his bravery.
Coming out of the commandant's room, Sokolov was afraid that Mueller would shoot him in the back and he would not bring food to his comrades, but it all worked out. Sokolov divided the food with everyone equally.
Release from captivity
In 1944 Sokolov became a chauffeur for a German engineering major. On the morning of June 29, the major ordered him to be driven outside the city: there he was in charge of building fortifications. On the way Sokolov stunned the major, took his pistol and drove the car to the front. German machine gunners saw the major in the car, shouted, waved their hands, making it clear that he must not go there, but Sokolov, as if he did not understand, increased the speed.
By the time the fascists came to their senses and started shooting at the car, Sokolov was already on no man's land. There he came under fire of both Germans and ours, but managed to get to the Soviet territory.
Sokolov was sent to the hospital. There he wrote a letter to his wife and two weeks later received an answer from a neighbor. In June 1942 a bomb hit his house - Irina and both daughters were killed. His son was not at home; when he learned about the death of his relatives, he volunteered for the front.
Sokolov fell silent. "In these moments of mournful silence," the beautiful spring world seemed different to the narrator.
Discharged from the hospital, Sokolov received a month's leave, made his way to Voronezh, looked at the crater at the site of his home and went back to the division the same day.
Three months later Sokolov received a letter from his son Anatoly-the latter had learned the address from a neighbor.
It turned out that he had graduated from an artillery school and had gone to the front. He wrote to his father that he was promoted to captain, commanded an artillery battery, and had six orders and medals. The delighted Sokolov began to dream of a post-war life together with his son, of grandchildren, but even here he had a "complete misfire".
Father and son were in Berlin at the same time, but did not have time to meet: On May 9, 1945, Anatoly was killed by a sniper.
After the war
After the war, Sokolov was demobilized, but he did not want to go to Voronezh. The soldier and his wife were childless and lived in their own house. He worked as a chauffeur in the motor pool, where he arranged for Sokolov. He moved in with a fellow officer and started drinking.
Stopping for a snack and a drink at the teahouse, every time Sokolov met a boy named Vanya - dirty, hungry, with eyes "like stars at night after rain."
One day he took Vanya for a ride in the car, questioned him. His mother was killed in an air raid, his father was killed at the front. Sokolov told him that he was his father.
He rushed to my neck, kissed my cheeks, lips, forehead, and he, like a whistle, called out with such a loud and thin voice that even the cabin could not hear: "My dear Daddy! I knew it! I knew you would find me..."
Sokolov adopted the boy. A coworker's wife helped look after the child. In the fall, Sokolov's car skidded on a muddy road near some farm, and he accidentally hit a cow. The cow survived unharmed, but the traffic inspector took away his driver's book.
Sokolov worked as a carpenter for a winter, and then contacted another colleague, also a chauffeur, who invited him to his place. He promised that Sokolov would get a new chauffeur's book in another region. Sokolov and his son set off and on the way met the storyteller.
Sokolov confessed that even if this cow accident had not happened, he would still have left Uryupinsk: boredom prevented him from sitting in one place for a long time, so he and Vanyusha walked "through the Russian land. When Vanyushka grows up and goes to school, maybe he too will settle down and settle down in one place.
The narrator says goodbye to Sokolov and Vanyushka
Then the boat comes in, the narrator says goodbye to Sokolov and starts thinking about the story he heard. He tried to imagine what awaited these two orphans, abandoned in a foreign land by the storm of war. The narrator wanted to believe that this Russian man of indomitable will would endure and raise a son who, growing up, would be able to endure and overcome everything, if the Motherland demanded it.
The narrator looked after them with heavy sadness. Suddenly, Vanyushka turned around and waved his pink hand. As if a soft but clawed paw squeezed the narrator's heart and he hurriedly turned away so that the boy did not see the older, gray-haired war-time men crying. The main thing here is "to be able to turn away in time... not to wound a child's heart, so that he does not see a man's stinging and stinging tears running down your cheek."
The retelling is based on edition of the story from Sholokhov's collected works in 8 volumes (Moscow: State Publishing House, 1960).