All is well for ten-year-old Sasha Zaichik. He's living in the Communist paradise of the 1950s Soviet Union, and his dad is a Hero and a good Communist. Sasha, himself, is about to be made a Young Soviet Pioneer, which means that he, too, is a good Communist. What more could he want? (Well, okay—maybe another carrot.) This opening section basically gives us some snapshots of life in the Soviet Union, and where Sasha and his dad fit into all of it.
Hold onto your hats, though, because before the story even gets going, Sasha's dad is arrested for being an enemy of the people. This is a total surprise for young Sasha, since his dad is an agent with the State Security (the Soviet secret police). It's gotta be a huge mistake, right? Sasha now has to figure out where he'll live and how he'll get by—and how in the world he'll get his dad out of prison (if that's even possible).
Sasha has been chosen for a great honor: he gets to carry the banner of the Young Soviet Pioneers in the school's ceremony. This is major, people. There's that one problem hanging over his head, though—his dad's arrest.
And this whole situation is soon complicated bigtime when Sasha accidentally breaks the nose off of a plaster statue of Stalin in his school's multi-purpose hall. This is a huge no-no, and suddenly Sasha fears he'll be branded a terrorist and enemy of the people. If that's not a complication, well we don't know what is.
After everyone finds out about the broken statue, the school officials get right on it to find out who did this dastardly deed. Fingers are pointed everywhere—especially at anyone who is considered an outsider. So it's crisis time for Sasha who wavers on whether or not to confess. But that decision is soon taken out of his hands, and he's off the hook (thanks to Four-Eyes Finkelstein).
You'd think that's a good thing, right? Wrong. Sasha soon finds out some bad stuff about his dad from the State Security senior lieutenant, and realizes that his dad hasn't been quite as heroic as he previously thought. This is a huge moment for Sasha, and he realizes that most of what he's believed in has been dead wrong. Literally.
After finding out the news about his father, Sasha tries his best to hang onto his beliefs. He makes a deal with the State Security senior lieutenant to spy on others at the school and to turn them in when they commit treasonous acts (a.k.a. breathing wrong). In exchange, he'll be allowed to become a Pioneer, and can still carry the banner in the ceremony. But Sasha ends up deciding the price (his integrity) would be just too high, and quits. He walks out of the school, not wanting to play their reindeer games anymore.
After rejecting a spot in the Pioneers (and keeping his conscience clean!) Sasha goes to Lubyanka prison, where his father is being held. There, he gets into the longest of all long lines (making the line for Pirates of the Caribbean at Disney World look like the Express Checkout at 7-11) to wait for a visit with his dad. While in line, he meets a nice lady who gives him some food and invites him to live with her, but who tells Sasha that they will be waiting a long time.
If we're being honest, we've gotta say that there's really not too much resolution to this plot. We're kept waiting right along with Sasha and his new friend.