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Presents a summary of:
Sergei Mikhalkov

Act 1, Scene 1:
In post-war Germany, a group of Soviet children--who had been captured and moved to Germany by the Nazis during the war--are being kept in a shabby British-run orphanage. Most of the children are in the chapel, being forced to sing Catholic songs. Only 12-year-old Sasha Butuzov is not with them. He is being held in a punishment cell.

Upmanis, Latvian who is the head teacher at the orphanage, comes down to sneer at Sasha. Sasha is being punished because he tried to write a letter to children in the Soviet Union, asking how they live. Upmanis says that Sasha had better forget about such people, "young Communists" he calls them with disdain. Rather, Sasha should be thankful to the British government, which is giving orphans like him food and shelter. Upmanis also says that Sasha should forget Russian and speak only English.

A representative of the British Military Administration named Scott gives a female American reporter named Miss Dodge a tour of the facility. As they pass the punishment cell area, Scott says they rarely use the cell for punishment. The poor Soviet children, he says, have suffered enough trauma during the war. The British perfer humanitanian means, to show that they are much nicer than the Nazis.

Upmanis releases Sasha from the cell, warning him to act more wisely in the future.

Act 1, Scene 2:
The children, neatly dressed and with hair combed, are led into the dining room. To their great surprise they see that the table has been neatly set and covered with a clean white table cloth. Upmanis informs them that they are about to be fed for a second time today--an unheard of generosity. The children are amazed as they are given bowls of kasha (porridge) with butter and milk, delicacies they haven't had in years.

Upmanis tells them not to eat until he gives the command, then he steps out of the room. Unable to retrain himself, a boy named Zhenya takes a taste of the delicious kasha. Unfortunately, Upmanis returns and sees this. He shoves Zhenya's face in the kasha.

Just then, Scott enters with Miss Dodge, who is carrying a camera. As Zhenya wipes the kasha off his face, Upmanis smiles and says it was just some childish play.

The children are ordered to stand, fold their hands, and say a prayer, thanking God for feeding them. Under his breath, Sasha adds "...for a second time."

The childen then hungrily and happily lap up their food. Miss Dodge takes photos of their smiling, satisfied faces, then departs.

Upmanis, furious with Sasha for "ruining the prayer", grabs him and drags him out of the room.

History of
20th Century Latvia

Warning: Contains material of an
anti-Soviet nature. Parents and
Party ideologues beware!

Act 1, Scene 3:
Smaida Landmane, another Latvian teacher at the school, sneaks out of the building to speak with Yanis, the jeep driver who brought Miss Dodge. Smaida says that the British are already starting the paperwork to have the children shipped to Switzerland.

Yanis tells Smaida that he recently met a Soviet officer who is looking for the orphanage. Yanis gave him the address, and he will no doubt be visiting soon. Yanis advises Smaida to somehow get an opportunity to be alone with the officer and tell him the truth of the situation.

Yanis also cheers up Smaida by by showing her a letter he received from his sister in Riga. It supposed;u describes how good life is back in Latvia. Yanis says Smaida can keep the letter for a day or two to read in its entirety.

Upmanis comes to summon Smaida to the director's office, and he frowns disapprovingly as he sees her talking with Yanis. After Upmanis departs, Yanis calls Upmanis a consummate fascist. Smaida agrees, noting that these days it's easier for a war criminal to get a job than for a war invalid. Smaida exits.

Scott enters, escorting Miss Dodge to the jeep. She chuckles, saying it's so cute the way the children play war, shouting, "Bang, bang! Russian kaput!"

Scott, as if with regret, says they don't really know the nationalities of these children. He opines that the children have no past, only a present and a future. Miss Dodge jots this down in her notebook and drives off.

Scott confers with Upmanis, saying that he has been informed that some unwanted visitors may show up. If that happens, Upmanis is to lie and say that Scott is not available.

A car drives up with two Soviet officers: Major Dobryin and Captain Sorokin. The English driver says he has no information that an orphanage is here, but Dobryin insists that the driver go ring the doorbell and find out.

Sorokin comments that during the war it was easier to take back what was theirs because they had weapons in their hands. Dobryin says they still have a mighty weapon--the truth! Dobryin notes that the director of this orphange, Robert Scott, was an agent of British military intelligence during the war.

Upmanis emerges saying that Scott is away and that his instructions forbid him to allow strangers in the building without official authorization. Dobryin has such authorization from Colonel Morrison. The English driver says, however, that Colonel Morrison is busy and can't be reached right now. Dobryin thinks and decides to come back later.

Act 2, Scene 1:
It is another day. A commission at the orphange is reviewing the files of the children to determine their fate. Also present are Dobryin and Sorokin. Concerning Zhenya, the British says he must be Polish because he doesn't understand Russian, only Polish and German. Dobryin says that Zhenya is the son of Stepan Rudenko, a Soviet officer who was killed in fighting near Kharkov. His mother, Anna, died in a prison camp. Dobryin produces an affadavit from the boy's grandmother, describing him accurately in all ways, including a birthmark above the left elbow. The British dismiss it as mere coincidence.

Outside the office, two German women--Frau Wurst and Frau Speck--are sitting with Ira and Masha, two Russian girls they intend to officially adopt. The German women assume that the Soviet officers are here to take all the orphanage boys back to Russia, which is filled with only frosts and fierce bears. There, no doubt, the boys will be shipped to Siberia and turned into slaves. Ira and Masha--whom the women have renamed Irma and Mathilda--should be grateful that they are being saved from such a fate. Sasha, standing in the corridor, notices the two Russian girls.

Back in the office, the English decide officially that Zhenya is a Pole. Dobryin protests. One of the British, Cooke, says there are no grounds for considering him a Russian. To this Dobryin agrees...because Zhenya is a Ukrainian, born in Poltava. Cooke responds that, according to his instructions, there is no such nationality as Ukrainian. The fact that Ukraine is a fully acredited member of the United Nations makes no difference to the British.

Be smarter than the British.
Learn about Russian general:

Mikhail I. Kutuzov
Sasha is then brought into the office. One of the British, intending to show how smart he is, comments that Sasha's last name--Butuzov--is the same as a famous Russian general. Dobryin has to point out that the general's name was Kutuzov, not Butuzov.

The British concede that Sasha is Russian, but that doesn't mean he will automatically be returned to the Soviet Unioin. They take it upon themselves to decide what will be best for his future. Obviously having been coached in how to respond, Sasha says that he does not want to return to the Soviet Union because he has no home there, no family. Dobryin is shocked to hear that the British have told Sasha he is an orphan. He reminds the British about the newspaper article he showed them, bearing a letter from Sasha's mother. The British dismiss it, saying they have no way of verifying everything that appears in Russian newspapers.

Upon further questioning, Sasha answers, as if by script, that he wants to stay in Germany where he is fed and will be taught a trade. He expresses his thanks to the British Red Cross. Sasha is surprised when Dobryin asks what he knows about the Soviet Union. He answers that he knows nothing about his homeland. Dobryin says it is no wonder that Sasha doesn't want to return home, since his teachers have succeeded in wiping out all his memories of his previous life.

Dobryin shows Sasha a photograph of a woman and asks if he recognizes her. Sasha stares at it in stunned amazement for a moment, then identifies her as his mother. Dobryin says he personally got the photograph from Sasha's mother, who is alive and well in Moscow. Excited, Sasha now shouts out that he wants to return home. The British snatch away the photo, saying it is irrelevant to the proceedings.

Dobryin launches into a passionate diatribe against the cruel British, who want to tear a child away from his family and homeland, to deny him knowledge of his native language. It is cruel and inhumane, not to mention illegal. In a huff, the British accuse Dobryin of hysteria and declare the meeting over.

As Dobryin leaves, Smaida hurries after him, saying she must speak to him for a moment. She slips him a list.

With Sasha still standing in the office, Cooke looks at the photo of Sasha's mother. Cooke then denounces it at Soviet propaganda and rips up the photo. Sasha screams angrily as Upmanis drags him away.

One of the British commission members, a Miss Ayt, asks Scott why indeed do they need these Soviet children. Scott says it's so that their own children won't have to work in the forests of Canada, on the plantations of Argentina, and be parachuted behind enemy lines--in other words, they need them as wage slaves and future spies.

As Cooke exits the office, Frau Wurst asks when her case will be reviewed. Cooke gruffly tells her to go away and come back another day.

Act 2, Scene 2:
That night in the dormitory, the boys are lying down to go to sleep. Tolya asks Sasha about the photo, and Sasha says that he immediately recognized his mother in it.

Before going to sleep Sasha does not say his prayers. Tolya asks why, but Sasha doesn't answer.

After all the others are asleep, Sasha gets up and creeps out of the room.

Act 2, Scene 3:
It is still night. Sasha sneaks into Scott's office and retrieves the torn photo of his mother from the trash can. Hearing someone approach, Sasha hides behind a curtain.

Scott and Upmanis enter. They are talking about the letter which Upmanis saw Yanis give to Smaida. Scott tells Upmanis to send Smaida to his office. Upmanis can then use the opportunity to secretely search Smaida's room. Upmanis exits, and a few moments later, Smaida enters.

Scott starts to make some chit-chat, asking Smaida how she wound up here. Smaida says she worked in this children's home when it was still back in Latvia. They weren't able to evacuate before the Nazis came, however. And when the Nazis retreated, they forcibly took the children with them. Smaida came, too, because she felt responsible for the children. She says the children should be allowed to go back home.

Scott asks Smaida if she'd like to go back to Latvia. She says yes. Scott is surprised, noting that he has never before heard of someone living under the protection of Great Britain who would actually want to go back to the Soviet Union, a place of darkness and desolation. Take, for example, Upmanis, who is happy here. Smaida says Upmanis is a traitor who would be prosecuted if he were to ever set foot on Latvian soil again.

Getting worked up, Smaida speaks in defense of the children. Why, she asks, has Sasha been told he's an orphan when his mother is still living? Why is Zhenya told that he is a Pole and not a Ukrainian? Smaida herself knew Zhenya's mother. Scott concedes it's possible that Zhenya's a Pole,, but it has not yet been proven in a court of law.

Upmanis enters and holds up an empty envelope he found under Smaida's pillow. Turning ugly, Scott pounds his fist on the table and demands that Smaida turn over the letter. Upmanis grabs Smaida and searches her, finding the letter in her pocket. Smaida hurls invective at Upmanis.

Scott throws the two Latvians out of his office and makes a telephone call, identifying himself as Agent 2140. He reports that the subversive letter and been found and receives further instructions concerning both Smaida and Yanis. Only after hanging up does Scott notice Sasha hiding behind the curtain. He savagely slaps the boy, knocking him to the floor.

Act 2, Scene 4:
It is another day. Again the British commission is meeting to decide the fate of the children, and again Dobryin and Sorokin are present as is another Soviet officer, a Colonel Sokolov. Frau Wurst and Ira (aka Irma) are sitting outside the office.

Dobryin testifies that he knows that the British are keeping documents locked in their safe which prove that all the children are Soviet citizens. The commission, however, is working with documents which were prepared much later and in which information about names, ages, and national origin have been intentionally distorted. He produces copies of both the original documents and the phony ones. The British of coursse deny the truth.

Dobryin demands that they take up the case of "Irma Wurst". Cooke says this girl does not concern the Soviets. She has been living under the care of Frau Wurst, who has been feeding her and teaching her a trade for two and a half years. Further, Cooke says, she has expressed no desire to return to the Soviet Union. Dobryin insists that she has a father who is alive and waiting for her. Cooke says if the father were to show up here and prove his relationship to the girl, they might review the matter, but for now they must consider her an orphan. Dobryin requests that he be permitted to ask the girl a few questions. The British agree.

Ira enters with Frau Wurst. Dobryin asks her name and she says "Irma". Dobryin asks why "Irma" and not "Ira". To this, Ira does not respond. He asks what trade Ira is learning. She says she feeds the pigs, does the laundry, washes dishes. Dobryin comments that this is doing a servant's work, not learning a trade.

Dobryin asks Ira if she is an orphan, and she says yes. He asks if she remembers her father, then he moves aside, revealing Sokolov behind him. Sokolov is in fact Ira's father. She immediately recognizes him and races into his arms. She begs him to take her home, saying that Frau Wurst yells at her and beats her. The British officials harumph but can do nothing to stop this reunion. They let Sokolov depart with Ira. Frau Wurst complains that the British lied to her, assuring her that Ira was an orphan. Also, she sewed the dress that Ira is wearing and she wants it back. Dobryin promises to return it tomorrow.

Dobryin then wants to review the case of Sasha. The British say they can't do that right now because Sasha has disappeared, presumably run away. Dobryin, enraged and suspicious, demands to speak with Smaida, but the British say that she, too, has disappeared.

Act 3, Scene 1:
At an small German village inn, several American soldiers are getting drunk, acting rowdy, singing off-key jazz songs, and taunting the serving girl, who is Masha (Mathilda). At another table sit three Germans, Bekker, Mueller, and Marta, who is Mueller's wife. Bekker complains that he had a small electrical alliance shop which the Americans shut down. Shortly afterward, the Americans flooded the market with their own appliances, estalishing a monopoly for themselves.

Mueller, a schoolteacher, says he was recently fired by the British. Marta adds that they had a small plot of land on which to grow vegetables, but the Americans seized it along with most of the land around here for their new airport. Bekker says he has a brother living in the Soviet zone, and there things are much better--his brother has enough land to feed the whole family. There will, of course, be no land reform in the American or British zones.

An American sergeant enters and unceremoniously shoves Bekker, then snatches his chair and uses it to sit with the other drunken Americans. Bekker grumbles about the American bully tactics.

Soon, the Germans and Americans leave. As Masha is cleaning up, Sasha enters. They recognize each other from the orphanage corridor. Sasha tells her that he is running away back to his mother in Russia. Masha gives him some bread and a drink.

Upmanis rides up on a motorcycle. He comes inside and, not noticing Sasha, demands beer. Sasha sneaks out, and Masha follows. She asks that when Sasha finds his mother, he also try to find Masha's mother, who lives in Voronezh. She gives him the address. He promises to do as she asks. Masha also gives Sasha some money, which he at first refuses then accepts.

Before departing, Sasha lets the air out of the rear tire on Upmanis's motorcycle.

Act 3, Scene 2:
At a command post in the Soviet zone, some Soviet soldiers are playing with a short wave radio, trying to pick up a broadcast from Alma-Ata, the commander's home town.

A soldier named Mesyachenko enters and reports to the commander, Peskaev, that they have detained two "Fritzes" and a boy who were sneaking across from the British sector into the Soviet sector. Peskaev reminds Mesyachenko that the Germans are no longer to be referred to insultingly as "Fritz".

A guard brings in Mueller, Marta, and Sasha. Peskaev asks where they have come from and what their business is. Mueller offers his purse, which contains money and his documents. Peskaev firmly rejects the bribe, but examines the papers.

Mueller tells his life story. Before the war, he was a schoolteacher, but he was fired--not because he spoke out against the Nazis, but just because he was against turning the school into a militarist academy. He was fired, then arrested and sent to a prison camp.

After the war, he went back to teaching. But the same militarists, supported this time by the British, were in charge. Instruction was still based on Hitler-era texts. When Mueller protested, he was accused of being a Communist and fired. The Americans confiscated their land, forcing them into poverty and starvation. So they decided to cross over into the Soviet zone and join Mueller's brother in Dresden. Peskaev grants them permission to continue on.

Peskaev then turns his attention to Sasha, who blurts out his story, telling how he escaped from the orphanage and wants to go home to his mother. He bursts into tears and embraces Peskaev, who comforts him.

Peskaev makes a call, asking that the woman whom they processed that morning should be brought to him. The woman enters. It is Smaida. She and Sasha are happy to see each other and embrace. She confirms Sasha's identity and story for Peskaev. Tomorrow, Smaida is scheduled to fly back to Moscow, and from there to Riga. Peskaev asks that Smaida accompany Sasha on the flight, and she readily agrees.

Mesyachenko annouces that a British officer has arrived. Smaid and Sasha step out of view as Upmanis, in a British uniform, enters. He identifies himself as Richard Upman from the British Military Administration. He says a boy escaped from one of their orphanges recently and crossed over into the Soviet zone. The boy must be returned to the British, he claims. Peskaev says since the boy is Russian, he belongs with the Russians. Upmanis says since the boy was under British protection, it is unlawful for the Russians to hold him. Peskaev pointedly asks if it's lawful to forcibly detain Soviet children in Germany.

Unable to restrain herself, Smaida steps out into view. Upmanis is shocked to see her. She tells Peskaev that Upmanis is not British, but Latvian, and moreover a traitor! Upmanis probably murdered Yanis, who is missing. What's more, earlier, no doubt on the instructions of British intelligence, Upmanis ran over Smaida with his motorcycle and--thinking that she was dead--sped off, leaving her lying on the road.

Taken aback by all this, Upmanis suddenly remembers an urgent appointment elsewhere and starts to leave. Peskaev, however, notices an irregularity in Upmanis's documents and detains him so as to verify his identity.

As Upmanis is led away, Sasha tells Peskaev about Masha. Peskaev promises that she will get to come home, too.

Dobryin steps out onto the stage and recites a poem denouncing the British practice of kidnapping Soviet children. Sasha and Ira, in pioneer uniforms, march out onto the stage.

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Encoding: Cyrillic Windows 1251
With my own eyes I have seen,
behind the grey orphanage walls
Children from Orel and Ryazan,
who have forgotten their own native tongue,
Children who have lost their freedom,
children who have lost their families
They don't know who they are by birth,
lost in a far distant land....
I have seen the girl Masha
work as a servant in a German beer hall
And how our Russian girl
sings non-Russian songs!
I have seen Cookes and Scotts, who,
planning something horrible
Refuse to let
our children go home!
I cannot restrain my indignation.
With all my rage and all my truth
I demand their return
in the name of all honest people!
No one should dare to take from a child
his native land and home!
The Soviet child has
a great Motherland!


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