In the original, the names of the teachers become known only at the end - the narrator has completely forgotten them, but found them while working on the story. The division of the retelling into chapters is conventional.
The photographer's arrival in the village
In the winter, Vitya's school in a remote Siberian village was roused by news that a photographer was coming to them from town to take pictures "not of old men and old women, not of the village people hungry to be immortalized," but of the local school students.
All through the long winter evening, the students decided "who would sit where, who would wear what, and what the routines would be." It was decided that "the diligent pupils would sit in the front, the average pupils in the middle, the bad ones in the back." By all appearances, it turned out that Vitya and his friend Sanka would be put in the back row, because they "did not astonish the world by their diligence and behavior.
Defending a better place in the fight didn't work out-the guys just chased them away. Then the friends went skating from the highest cliff, and Vitya scooped up a full valenki of snow.
Vitya's Sickness and San's Support
Vitya caught a cold on his feet, and he had an attack of what his grandmother Katerina Petrovna called "rematiznya." She claimed that her grandson had inherited it from his late mother.
I did not sleep that night. Neither my grandmother's prayer, nor ammonia alcohol, nor the familiar shawl, especially affectionate and healing because it was my mother's, brought relief. I was beating and shouting to the whole house.
Grandma rubbed Vitina's feet with ammonia, wrapped them in a shawl, warmed them by the stovepipe, and steamed them in the bath, dipping a broom in bread kvass. Then she gave her grandson a spoonful of vodka and gave him milk boiled with poppy heads. In the morning, Vitya finally fell asleep and slept until noon.
In the afternoon Sanka came for Vitya, but the boy could not go to be photographed: "his skinny legs broke," as if they were strangers. The sight of his friend made Sanka sad, and he said that he would not go either, and that he had time to be photographed afterwards, his life is long. Their grandmother supported them, promising to take her grandson to the best photographer in town. The only thing Vitya did not like was that the photo would not be of the school, and he cried "bitterly helpless" for a long time.
Young Family of Teachers
A few days later, Evgeny Nikolaevich came to the sick Vitya, asked about his health and brought the finished picture.
Despite his youth, he seemed to Sanya to be elderly and very solid.
Vitya for a long time looked at the photo, on which the village children were depicted. In the midst of the children stood Evgeny Nikolaevich and his wife Evgeniya Nikolaevna, smiling faintly.
Only Vitya and Sanka were not there...
The grandmother, meanwhile, surrounded the teacher with care and attention, and gave him tea. Teachers, the young couple, were polite even to exiles and always ready to help, so Katerina Petrovna, as well as the rest of the villagers, treated them with silent respect. Even Sanka's father, a heavy drinker and "lihodei of lihodei," Yevgeny Nikolaevich was able to pacify him by talking to him only once.
A family of young teachers occupied half of a ramshackle house. The villagers helped them in every way they could: someone to take care of their newborn child, someone to leave them milk, sour cream, cottage cheese, or lingonberries, someone to bring a load of firewood.
"Teachers were the leaders" in the village club: they taught the children to sing and dance, staged funny plays and played popes and bourgeois themselves in them. Teachers were the most honorable guests at village weddings, but they behaved strictly during parties and taught the people "not to force them to drink.
Rural School Organization
Teachers started working in the village house with bad stoves, which was built by Vitya's great-grandfather. Great-grandfather was dispossessed and exiled, and the walls in his hut were torn down, which created a large classroom.
Then a better building was given to the school, and great-grandfather's hut was used as a collective farm, which quickly fell apart. Then local poor people settled there, after which the completely dilapidated dwelling was dismantled for logs. Vitya's great-grandfather's hut, in which the boy was born, remains only in the picture: schoolchildren were taken in the background of it.
At first there were no desks, no textbooks, no pencils. There was only one ABC book and a red pencil for the entire first grade, with which children took turns writing. Then teachers organized a collection of recyclable materials and used the proceeds to buy books, notebooks, paints and pencils, while villagers made free desks and benches. Teachers also shared with their neighbors - the village women got needles, thread and buttons, and the children got their first taste of cockerels on sticks.
Memory of Teachers
In the spring, when the notebooks ran out, the teacher would take the students to the woods and tell them "about the trees, about the flowers, about the grasses, about the rivers and about the sky." He knew a lot about nature, but the children also knew things about the forest that the teacher had no idea about. The children taught him the tricks of the taiga. One day they stumbled upon a viper. To protect the pupils, the teacher killed it with a stick, and only then did the children explain to him that one should not strike snakes, swinging over his shoulder: the snake can wrap itself around the stick and fall on his back.
Years have passed... And this is how I remember the village teacher - polite, shy, but always ready to rush forward and defend his students, to help them in trouble...
Viktor grew up, the names and faces of his teachers faded from memory, but the main thing that remained was respect for the word "teacher. While working on the book, he learned from his countrymen that they were like brother and sister, not only in name, but also in appearance. These kind and selfless people were remembered even by such careless students as Vitya and Sanka.
The school photograph has also survived. Many of the kids in it died during World War II. Growing up, Vitya looks at it with a kind smile, without mockery, because this "photo is a peculiar chronicle of our people, the wall of their history," taken "against the background of the ancestral, ravaged nest."