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It’s the middle of WWII in Russia. Orphaned pre-teen Ivan Bondarev does reconnaissance work for the military. He is able to get through small cracks where adults could not, both because of his small physical size and the fact that no one would suspect a boy of doing such work. Despite his tough exterior, he often dreams about happy situations with his mother, who, along with his sister, was exterminated in a concentration camp. Those dreams usually end violently. After Ivan obtains some information concerning an advancing German troop, his commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Gryaznov, wants to send him to military school as he believes the offensive is no place for a boy. Ivan vows to run away and join the partisans in their work if he is sent away. After an attempt to run away, Ivan is allowed to stay and continue his reconnaissance work during the offensive. Ivan’s stay is not the only one questioned, but also Masha’s, a female medical officer who some believe is not mentally or physically strong enough to endure the horrors of the front lines of war, while others romantically yearn for her. Regardless, Ivan’s colleagues and superiors, many who view him as a son, openly ponder his life post-war, that is if he and they make it out alive.