It’s June, 1941 in a farming cooperative in the Soviet Socialist Republic of the Ukraine. Although the citizens of the cooperative hear about the atrocities of the war on their radios, they are on the most part not yet directly affected by it. It’s the end of the school year, and some of the older youth are excited about their futures. Beyond that, a small group of those youths are looking most forward to their imminent vacation to Kiev, where they are planning to hike for the four or five days it takes to get there above their planned three days in the city itself. They include: Damian Terasa Simonov, who finished top of his class including getting a scholarship to study at the State University of Kiev in the fall; his girlfriend, Marina Pavlov, the two who will be separated for the year as she finishes her schooling and who plan eventually to reunite in Kiev not only for Marina to go to university as well but for the two to get married; Kolya Simonov, Damian’s older, more worldly brother who is a junior officer in the Soviet air corps; Clavdia Kurin, an old fashioned type of girl on who Kolya is sweet; and Grisha Kurin, Clavdia’s younger brother. Things change when the Nazis invade the Soviet Union – including the village of the cooperative – first with air strikes then ground troops. While some of the villagers form a guerrilla army hidden in the woods, they led by Kolya and Damian’s father, Boris Stepanich Simonov, Kolya, Damian, Marina, Clavdia, Grisha, and fellow villager, the elderly Karp, are caught between Kiev and the village, all trying to make their way back to the village, except Kolya who must join his regiment at the airfield. Their journey becomes more important to the war effort upon their encounter with someone else on the road. Back in the village, the people who may end up being the most conflicted are: Marina’s mother, Sophia Pavlov, who will probably be the primary target of the Nazis as the de facto head of the cooperative, with Marina’s father, Rodion Pavlov, having joined the ranks of the guerrillas; and Clavdia and Grisha’s grandfather, Dr. Pavel Grigorich Kurin, who as a doctor has vowed to save lives, and who may be asked to save the lives of wounded Nazi soldiers, all the while while the Nazis in similar circumstances have bled the children of villages to their deaths all in the name of providing blood plasma to the wounded soldiers.