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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 395

Ignatich is the narrator of the story. He's a math teacher who spent time in prison and has come to Russia after ten years of travel. He says he spent some time in the desert. He's assigned to the town Matryona lives in and decides to board with her. He grows fond of her and is sad when she dies in an accident.

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Matryona married the brother of the man she loved when Ilya was away at war and they feared he wouldn't return. They had six children, but none lived past infancy. She raises Ilya's youngest daughter Kira and her husband dies in the war. Ignatich moves in with her and stays even when she dismantles the top of her house to give to Kira. She dies in an accident at the train crossing as they're trying to illegally move the lumber. She's known for being kind and selfless. Ignatich says she's the kind of person who holds a town and the land together.

Ilya loved Matryona and went away to war where he was imprisoned. She marries his brother Efim once she thinks he won't return. When he comes home, he says that if Efim wasn't his brother, he'd kill them both. He marries another woman named Matryona and has six children. He pressures Matryona into giving the top part of her home to Kira before Matryona dies instead of waiting until after she's dead.

Efim is Ilya's younger brother and the father of Matryona's children. They believe he died in the war, even though there was no notification. People he served with believe he may have been captured or killed. He's been gone for eight years.

Matryona is also the name of Matryona's sister-in-law. Ilya married her after he returned home to find his brother married to Matryona. She had six children and weeps at Matryona's funeral. Ignatich says she goes to his house to talk to the first Matryona to cry about how awful her husband is. She says Ilya beats her.

Kira is the youngest daughter of Ilya and his wife, the second Matryona. She was given to the first Matryona to raise since Ilya and his wife had six children and because all of Matryona's children died. Her new husband is the one driving the train the night Matryona is killed and has to go on trial for it.

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