This grittily fleshed out war story from the Soviet Union begins with Levchuk, as a one-armed old man, arriving for an unannounced visit to someone named Victor whom he hasn't seen for over 30 years, whose name and address he has just recently come across. But no one is home, and as he waits outdoors on a bench the old man remembers the period those 30-some years earlier when, as a partisan wounded in the shoulder by German fire, he is sent from the front, in charge of a badly wounded paratrooper, a young radio operator who is about to give birth, and the old man who drives their horse and cart, with orders to hook up with a brigade medical unit. With Germans all around, the group must wade through a near-impossible swamp, hide in the brush and in tall grasses, and press on for days and nights without food or sleep. The paratrooper shoots himself to avoid capture and the child is born in a shed. There the enemy closes in and Levchuk and the infant are the only survivors. Levchuk then must flee through the swamp, carrying the baby and dodging a blanket of German fire. At the end we learn that the baby is Victor, the man Levchuk has come to see, but we never meet him--only hear of his return home with wife and daughter and hear a ""low, good-natured voice"" invite Levchuk inside. The device of the 30-year parenthesis works at this level as a frame and a human-interest twist to an already human drama. Combined with the individuality and humanity of the characters and the extreme nature of their ordeal, Bykov's direct, down-to-earth writing makes this a fully involving experience.