Summary (Masterplots, Definitive Revised Edition)
In the year 1917, the Russians were nearly beaten, and the Germans contented themselves with consolidating their hold on Russian territory from Riga south through Poland. With the end of the bitter fighting, a camaraderie grew up between the German soldiers and their Russian prisoners. Even so, Sergeant Grischa Iljitsch Paprotkin was determined to escape. His work was not difficult, and his cheerful strength had made him foreman of the labor gang and a general favorite with his German captors. Grischa, however, thinking of his wife and son far to the east, made his plans as he loaded lumber into freight cars on the railroad siding. He made a tunnel in the car, a wooden tunnel about the size of a coffin. That night, he succeeded in concealing himself in his hideout. Before daybreak, the train pulled out of the station. Grischa did not know it, but his train went far to the south. After four days, the train came to a stop. With his stolen pliers, Grischa opened the door and walked cautiously away from the railroad tracks. Guided only by his small compass, he set his path toward the east.
The thick underbrush made traveling difficult. Somewhere along the route Grischa picked up an old umbrella. By binding several ribs together with a string and using a long thong, he had a serviceable bow. Another rib made an arrow. With patient waiting, he could shoot rabbits in the snow, and he seldom went hungry. One day he came to the blasted area of a battlefield, where...
(The entire section is 1193 words.)
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