Breaking Stalin's Nose Summary
Sasha Zaichik is a ten-year-old boy living in the Soviet Union sometime in the 1950s. His dad is the Best Communist Ever (and works for the Soviet secret police), and Sasha himself is about to be accepted into the Young Soviet Pioneers tomorrow. His dad even gives him the super luxe scarlet scarf as a gift.
In other words, this kiddo seems to be well on his way to achieving the Soviet Dream until everything goes really wrong for Sasha. In a series of truly unfortunate events, Sasha's dad gets arrested for being an enemy of the people; Sasha beans Four-Eyes Finkelstein with a snowball and breaks his glasses; and to top it all off, he wrecks a statue of Joseph Stalin by breaking off its nose. This last event falls firmly in the realm of epic fail in Sasha's world, and if he gets caught he, too, will be declared an enemy of the people and a terrorist to boot.
Did we forget to mention that Sasha is also now homeless and a bit of an orphan, since his dad is now in the clink indefinitely? Check and check.
After Four-Eyes Finkelstein falsely confesses to snapping off Stalin's nose, and Vovka Sobakin (a very troubled boy indeed, and Sasha's best frenemy) blames Nina Petrovna for the crime, things for Sasha start to look up. Not for long, though.
Sasha realizes his dad's not coming back, and that he's just one step away from being thrown into a Soviet orphanage, when he's given an offer he just can't refuse from the man who arrested his father: either agree to be a junior Secret Policeman of sorts and report on his fellow students' un-communist activities, or be thrown in the basement of the same prison his dad is currently locked up in.
Turns out, though, Sasha can refuse, and he does precisely that. He decides being a Pioneer isn't all it's cracked up to be, and he'd rather try to visit his dad in prison. So, he goes there and waits for his chance. It's an open ending, that's for sure, but here's hoping Sasha reunites with his poor papa and they live (as) happily ever after (as they can).
- Our narrator's Dad is a "Hero and a Communist," and the narrator desperately wants to be like his old man. See, that's an easier feat to achieve than the ultimate dream, which is to become like Comrade Stalin himself.
- Comrade who? Stalin is the great Leader and Teacher of the Soviet people (1.2). In cased you missed it, the capital letters should clue you in that He Is a Very Important Guy.
- We get the impression that the narrator must be the little boy in the drawing (1.F1). He's sitting at a table writing, and listening to the radio, like ya do when it's the 1950s and iPods are a few decades down the road.
- The radio is blaring out to its listeners special tips on how to be better communists and how to follow Stalin. Patriotic music is the only thing on the playlist.
- Our as yet unnamed narrator writes a letter to Joseph Stalin, thanking him for his wonderful childhood and for the privilege of living in the greatest country in the world: the USSR.
- See, this kid's biggest dream is to become part of some group called "the Young Soviet Pioneers." Apparently, these guys "fight for the cause of the Communist Party and Comrade Stalin" (1.5), which makes the Pioneers sound like a far-leftist militant version of the Boy Scouts. Or Campfire Boys and Girls. Or something.
- It seems that our boy will become a Young Soviet Pioneer the next day at a ceremony to be held at his school. Well, dream achieved, then, right?
- Becoming a Pioneer involves exercising, training in Communist values, and being always on the lookout for capitalist infiltrators. You've got to really hate those pesky capitalist infiltrators.
- Finally, we get a name for our narrator: Sasha Zaichik. He attends Moscow Elementary School #37.
- Writing this letter gets Sasha so excited that he takes a practice march around his room, before heading off to wait for his Dad.
- It's dinnertime at Chez Zaichik. Only, it appears that it's not just Chez Zaichik, but Chez A Whole Lot of Other Peeps, Too. Sasha and his father live in a communal apartment ("komunalka") shared by forty-six other people. And you thought sharing a bathroom with your tween sister was hard?
- On the upside, Sasha points out that everyone is happy because all of them are equal. There are no secrets, because everyone knows everything there is to know about each other: what they eat for dinner, what they say in their rooms, and what time they get up (2.1).
- Oh, and the walls are way thin and some of them don't even reach all the way up to the ceiling. Hold on a minute... this is starting to sound not-so-great.
- But the illustration shows a massive group of happy people all sitting hippie-style at a big kitchen table, with pots and pans piled up and a laundry line with drying clothes stretched overhead (2.F1).
- The living situation, we learn, is a way to reinforce the "Communist 'WE'" (2.2). One perk is that the residents get to sing patriotic songs while queuing up for the bathroom in the mornings. Way to start the day off right, guys.
- A neighbor, Marfa Ivanovna, gives Sasha a treat—a carrot. Sasha eats this while he is waiting for his Dad to show up for dinner.
- We learn that Sasha's Dad sometimes does not come home until morning, because he is a member of the Soviet secret police. Their job is to root out infiltrators who are just pretending to be good Soviet citizens.
- His Dad is one of the best secret policemen around. Stalin himself awarded him the "order of the Red Banner" (which seems to be totes important) (3.1).
- While waiting, Sasha takes tiny bites of the carrot to make it last. He's hungry, but he knows that a Young Soviet Pioneer has to learn to repress such cravings, since they have much more important goals.
- Like achieving full Communism (which is tantalizingly close) (3.2).
- Once full-on Communism kicks in, there will be lots of food. Carrots galore!
- In the meantime, Sasha imagines what it's like for those poor capitalist kids who have probably "never even tasted a carrot" (3.2).
- Sasha's papa finally comes home, and the whole room falls silent. They seem afraid of his dad, but Sasha points out that they're just being respectful. Maybe it's a bit of both?
- One neighbor, Stukachov, asks Sasha's dad "how many spies" he has caught that day (4.1). Of course, his dad can't reveal that, since "it's a state secret" (4.1).
- Stukachov follows them to their room, and Sasha wishes he'd just go away.
- Their room sounds pretty swanky compared to what others in the building have. Plus, they get the large-ish room all to themselves, while Stukachov shares a small room with his wife, three kids and his mother.
- Is Stukachov a creepy peeper? He peeks into their room just before Sasha's dad closes the door. We're starting to get a bad feeling about this...
- Which gets worse when Sasha's dad warns him to not talk to Stukachov, because "He'll use it" (4.3).
- Sasha has no idea what this means (and neither do we—but it certainly sounds bad).
- Now safely in their room, Sasha reads his father the letter to Joseph Stalin he wrote earlier.
- His dad gives him the red scarf of a Young Soviet Pioneer, and Sasha learns that his dad will be at the ceremony at school the next day to tie on Sasha's scarf.
- And then his Dad gives him a strange, out-of-the-blue warning: if anything ever happens to him (to his dad, that is), Sasha should go to his Aunt Larisa. Well that's not exactly reassuring.
- The next-door neighbor, Orlov, starts playing his accordion and singing a patriotic song so loudly that Sasha and his Dad can hear it through their wall. After his Dad knocks on the wall and tells him to pipe it down, Orlov stops (not because he's afraid of Sasha's dad or anything, but because—you know—"respect").
- Sasha wakes up in the middle of the night worried about that whole Aunt Larisa thing.
- He looks out the window and sees a ginormous statue of Joseph Stalin. This bad boy can be seen from every building in Moscow, apparently.
- We find out that his dad, all heroic-like, recently shut down a group of terrorists (called "wreckers") who were trying to blow up the statue.
- Sasha imagines that the statue is the real-life Stalin, watching over lots of shiny black cars (which belong to the State Security—or the secret police).
- And—strangely enough—one drives up to Sasha's house right now. Someone's apparently in trouble (maybe for too-loud accordion music?).
- Remember the boatload of people who live in Sasha's building? Well, they have a weird way for visitors to get the attention of the person they want: each family has a target number of doorbell rings to alert them that they have visitors.
- So, five rings means Sasha's family has visitors, which we're starting to think is probably not the best thing in the middle of the night in this place. But, that's just our guess.
- It's three State Security agents, and Sasha enters the room to discover that one of them has roughed up his dad. Then, they begin to riffle through their room, throwing their belongings everywhere and even cutting open his dad's mattress.
- When they're finished, Sasha watches the agents drag his Dad from the room. His last words to his son are: "It's more important to join the Pioneers than to have a father [...] [y]ou hear me?" (5.18).
- Cue the Dramatic Music: it turns out Stukachov was behind the arrest of Sasha's dad. And what do you know, once Sasha leaves (the state will come collect him tomorrow), Stukachov's family will move into their room. Talk about pouring salt in the wound.
- Sasha watches through a window as his dad is frog-marched out into the night and forced into a black car.
- In very short order (like, within a matter of a few minutes), Stukachov's family moves into the room that Sasha and his dad have just been evicted from.
- Stukachov piles up all of Sasha and his dad's belongings (most of them are now broken) outside the door, like trash.
- Sasha wonders what it will feel like to share a room with them, but soon finds out that the Stukachovs are taking over the room for themselves, and he is not on the guest list.
- Sasha's alone on the dark street in front of his former apartment building. He doesn't know where to go. Sad faces all around.
- He decides to sleep on the kitchen floor until his dad comes back. Sasha thinks this should be a-okay, since there are some people in the building who don't even have rooms. One only has a cubbyhole near the toilet, and another sleeps in the hallway.
- Sasha decides that he's weak if he returns to the building, and that eventually someone will realize that his dad has been arrested by mistake.
- So he takes it upon himself to go—now!—to tell Joseph Stalin about this little mix-up. Good ol' Joey will know what to do.
- When Sasha arrives in Red Square, he imagines going up to Stalin's office and telling him about his father's arrest. In his daydream (or night-waking-dream in this case), Stalin reacts immediately to have his dad set free.
- The Kremlin guards see him, though, and try to catch him. One soldier falls, and his gun goes off.
- Sasha evidently escapes the Kremlin guards, because he's now at his Aunt Larisa's apartment building. Way to follow instructions, buddy.
- Strangely enough, without Sasha even ringing the doorbell (it would be nine times for Aunt Larisa), she comes barreling out of her apartment. She apparently already suspected that Sasha's dad has been arrested, and she knows he'll show up.
- She comes out into the hallway with her crying baby, whom Sasha tries to quiet down by telling the baby that soon they will all be living in Communism and everything will be just peachy.
- Larisa's husband is afraid Sasha will get them in trouble. He laughs in Sasha's face when Sasha says that Stalin will soon find out that a mistake was made.
- He further tells Sasha that his dad is an "enemy of the people" and that he (Sasha) will not be allowed to join the Pioneers.
- With that, Aunt Larisa's husband slams the door in Sasha's face.
- As Sasha makes his way down the stairs, Aunt Larisa comes back out and hugs him. She tells him that she's really sorry, but they can't take him in because they would get arrested, too.
- She gives him some money—just enough for him to get to school the next morning.
- That night, Sasha sleeps homeless-style in his aunt's basement, using some newspapers for warmth. He's clever like that.
- He's careful, though, to set aside any pages that have photos of Stalin on them. Because, you know, that just wouldn't be right.
- He reminisces about the last time he saw his aunt: his dad was taking his mom to the hospital because she was sick. Sasha stayed with Aunt Larisa for two days before his dad came back and gave him the bad news that his mom had died in the hospital.
- Aunt Larisa had said something mysterious at that time: "You look guilty, not sad" (10.2).
- Sasha has always wondered why his dad did not take him to his mom's funeral.
- Back in the present, Sasha hears someone playing music (and not the patriotic marching stuff that he usually only listens to). He wonders why his Aunt Larisa would have said such a thing—about his dad looking guilty.
- Oh well. Tomorrow will be a much better day, because Sasha will be made a Young Soviet Pioneer.
- The next morning, Sasha gets up and ventures out into the frozen Moscow urban jungle.
- He hops on the streetcar to get to school, but it's so crowded he can't get a seat. Instead, he hangs onto the outside door and takes a Mr. Stalin's Wild Ride on the frozen streets.
- When Sasha gets to school, tons of kids are out on the playground having a snowball fight.
- Apparently, Sasha is never picked last on these teams, because he is super good at marksmanship. This is courtesy of his "war-preparedness" class. Yikes! Is that one on your school schedule?
- Sasha joins in, and is soon rudely rammed into a snowdrift by a kid who appears to be a playground bully: Vovka Sobakin.
- Vovka calls Sasha "Amerikanetz" (12.1), which is a rude slur meant to insult Sasha because his mother was, it turns out, American.
- Sasha and Vovka are frenemies now (well, more on the enemy side, really), but they used to be besties.
- After this altercation, Vovka shouts out: "Death to the enemy of the people!" (12.2).
- This frightens Sasha, because he wonders if Vovka knows about his dad's arrest the night before.
- Turns out that Vovka wasn't even talking about Sasha at all, and instead has his sights set on someone called Four-Eyes.
- A group of kids are lined up in front of him, firing-squad style, and throw a bunch of snowballs at the poor kid.
- Four-Eyes is a kid named Borka Finkelstein, and he's the only Jewish kid at the school (12.3). His parents were arrested earlier in the year.
- The kids call him Four-Eyes because (wait for it!) he wears glasses. Yeah, real clever, guys. Four-Eyes also reads a lot (so that apparently makes him kind of nerdy).
- Vovka tries to get Sasha to throw a snowball at Four-Eyes. He initially refuses, and someone yells out that he's a traitor.
- Four-Eyes takes this opportunity to throw his own snowball. Even though he usually has bad aim (since he's almost blind), he throws and scores a direct hit on Sasha.
- Sasha launches a counterattack that breaks Four-Eyes' glasses. One sharp piece cuts his cheek.
- Sasha's desk is right up front in his classroom—where all the cool kids sit.
- Vovka, it turns out, used to be a super-great student, but his grades have gotten worse recently. Now he's in the bottom of his class.
- The teacher, Nina Petrovna, announces that Sasha's dad will be at the ceremony later to tie on every student's Pioneer scarf. (Little does she know… )
- She calls on Sasha to recite in front of the class the Young Soviet Pioneers' Laws.
- Vovka starts reciting along with all the other kids, but the teacher stops him. He is not going to become a Pioneer today, so we guess he has to zip it.
- Meanwhile, Four-Eyes returns to class, bruised and bloodied from the snowball fight. Sasha feels slightly bad that he threw the snowball (but not too bad).
- Nina Petrovna takes this opportunity to insult Four-Eyes in front of the class. As if everyone did not already know, she points out that he will not be allowed to join the Pioneers either.
- Because Four-Eyes won't tell Nina who injured him, she asks the class to vote on whether he should be sent back to the principal's office for not obeying. This is held up as a stellar example of democracy.
- It's unanimous: send him back to the principal's (really, are you surprised?).
- Sasha hesitates and does not raise his hand, while Vovka tells the teacher Sasha is the one who roughed up Four-Eyes.
- Their teacher refuses to believe this (since Sasha's dad is A Great Hero, yo), but she's still troubled because Sasha has not raised his hand to vote with the majority of the class. She threatens to withdraw a very great honor—letting him carry the "sacred" banner of the Young Pioneers at the ceremony—unless he straightens up.
- So, Sasha raises his hand. Of course he does.
- Sasha is knocking on the door of the storage room, waiting for the janitor, Matveich, to give him the Pioneers banner. While Sasha waits, we learn that he's less than thrilled with Matveich's Communist bona fides.
- When he finally answers Sasha's knock, Matveich refuses to hand over the banner because the teacher's request does not have the chief's stamp. In other words, it's not all official-like.
- So Sasha runs up to the principal's office to get this stamp. Outside the office, he sees Four-Eyes sitting on a bench, presumably awaiting his talking-to (or worse!) by the principal.
- Sasha apologizes to him for breaking his glasses, and the two have a little chat.
- Sasha's mom was American (he doesn't want people knowing this), and Four-Eyes immediately asks, "And she was arrested and shot?" (14.13). Wow—awkward!
- After Sasha protests that his mom was a real Communist, Four-Eyes points out that his parents, too, were real Communists. That apparently only gets you so far, though, since they are now both in prison as "enemies of the people" (14.17).
- Four-Eyes tells Sasha how his aunt took him to the prison to visit his parents. They waited for two days in line—and then he was told that he could not see them. Four-Eyes's aunt told him that this usually means the prisoner has been shot, but he doesn't believe his parents are dead.
- He asks Sasha to help him get into the prison to see his parents, and claims he would do it if Sasha's dad were locked up (dramatic irony, anyone?).
- This startles Sasha, and he leaves, thinking Four-Eyes is cray-cray.
- Goal achieved: Sasha now has the Young Soviet Pioneers banner.
- He promptly decides it's a good idea to unfurl it and march around a bit with it in the deserted hall while everyone else is in class. You gotta get your kicks when you can in Soviet Russia.
- He imagines he is marching in the May Day parade, in front of Stalin himself.
- In his daydreaming, Sasha tells Stalin that his father has been wrongfully imprisoned, and Stalin gets way mad on his dad's behalf.
- Sasha gets so wrapped up in this that he accidentally hits a statue of Stalin with the metal tip of the banner, knocking the stone nose clean off its face! Dun dun dun.
- This looks like a major bummer. Sasha realizes he won't be able to be a Pioneer.
- And what's worse, he's just committed what basically amounts to an act of terrorism, so now he's gotta worry about being arrested.
- Solution? Go hide in the restroom, where all your problems magically disappear.
- Even though he's afraid, Sasha decides to head back to class and take the banner with him. After all, he's technically just obeying what Nina Petrovna told him to do. Plus, he'll answer for breaking off Stalin's nose when the time comes.
- Just as he's coming out of the restroom, Vovka enters and jerks the banner from his hand. He marches about, thrusting it this way and that.
- Ooooops. Turns out, Vovka has seen it all: he knows Sasha broke the nose off of the statue, and pulls Stalin's broken nose from out of his pocket.
- Nina Petrovna is trying to root out who defaced (or de-nosed) the statue of Stalin.
- She makes each student get out a piece of paper, and write down the names of suspicious kids who might have done something like this.
- Oh, wait. Since one student, Zina Krivko, is a bit confused, the teacher changes the rules. The students should write down the names of those they are certain did not do it.
- But, there's a catch (we're starting to see that in this society there invariably is): if any name on the list turns out to be wrong, the student who made the list will end up being suspected herself.
- And, the rules change once again after Zina expresses uncertainty about not knowing whom to trust. Now, the students should write down the names of those they are not sure are reliable.
- Yep, this is getting out of hand.
- When Sasha does not immediately write a name, Nina Petrovna makes it very clear she would like for him to write down Vovka. She even wants Vovka to write down his own name, and basically identify himself as a criminal. Ditto for Four-Eyes.
- Well, Vovka doesn't like this at all, and just as he's standing up to maybe do something rash (like give Nina a thrashing), they are all summoned to the cafeteria by orders of the Chief.
- The principal is giving a fiery speech about the criminals, terrorists and degenerates who have infiltrated the school and who have destroyed State property (the statue).
- Sasha is sitting back and thinking, "Wait, what?" He knows it's not all this serious (since it was an accident and all), but can't say anything, since he's the only one who knows.
- Oh, wait. Sasha realizes that Vovka also knows, and he looks around the gathering for his frenemy. He doesn't see him, so thinks that Vovka is somewhere up to more no good.
- State Security shows up. One of Sasha's classmates thinks it's Sasha's dad.
- Turns out, it's not Sasha's dad. Instead, it's the guy who arrested him the night before.
- The entire cafeteria erupts with clapping as the senior lieutenant of State Security enters the room with his lackeys.
- The gym teacher gets out the boxes of names that each teacher collected.
- The senior lieutenant doesn't look at the names, though. He simply commands that whoever broke the statue will now raise his or her hand. He seems pretty confident someone will confess, just like that.
- Sasha feels guilty, and knows that he should now admit it. He hesitates, though, and that's all the time that's needed for someone else to raise a hand.
- It's Four-Eyes. More frog-marching ensues as the State Security agents promptly drag him from the room.
- As he's being taken out, he winks at Sasha.
- After he watches Four-Eyes forcibly ushered into the sinister black car that's waiting, Sasha wonders why anyone would admit something they were not guilty of.
- Cue up the Sasha Imaginarium Music. He imagines Four-Eyes walking up to the prison where he is given standard prison-issue striped pajamas and put into a cell. He wonders if Four-Eyes will see his (Four-Eyes's) father, and thinks that he might like to see such a reunion.
- And then it dawns on Sasha: Four-Eyes admitted to a crime he did not commit because it was a way to get inside the prison to try to see his family.
- This seems to make Sasha feel better, and he kind of praises himself for having a hand in getting Four-Eyes into the prison. He imagines that Four-Eyes will be super happy to get to have a good, old-fashioned Lubyanka prison family reunion. He even wonders if there are family cells in the prison. Hey, there's a sunny side to every street.
- Things are looking up for Sasha. He's back on track to becoming a Pioneer, and is confident that he'll see his dad soon.
- But Vovka pops his shiny happy little bubble by pointing out, totes sarcastically, that a Young Soviet Pioneer lets others take the blame.
- Nina Petrovna tells the class that everyone should have known Four-Eyes did it, considering his parents were such rotten enemies of the State and all.
- She crosses out Four-Eyes's picture on the classroom photo hanging on the wall. This is apparently standard practice when someone is identified as an enemy of the people. They're classy like that.
- The students then return to rehearsing for the Pioneers' rally.
- But before they get too far into this, Nina Petrovna tells them that she has a confession to make: she knows someone else who is the child of an enemy.
- Of course Sasha immediately thinks she's talking about him, and he drops the Young Soviet Pioneers banner. Whoops.
- Oh, wait. Actually, it's Vovka. Nina Petrovna tells the class that Vovka's father is a "wrecker."
- And—yep, it gets worse—she reveals that Vovka's father was recently executed for this.
- Ah so that explain the grades dropping and behavior issues that Vovka has been having. Bigtime.
- To add insult to injury, she accuses him of conspiring with Four-Eyes.
- This is too much for Vovka to bear. He lunges at the teacher and starts to strangle her. Sasha tries to separate the two, and then all three are dragged off to the principal's office.
- While they wait outside the principal's office, Sasha tells Vovka that he's sorry to hear about his dad.
- Sasha's really surprised that Vovka's dad is a criminal. When the two were friends, Vovka's father seemed like a really stand-up Communist kind of guy.
- The two are summoned into the principal's office. Uh-oh...
- When Sasha tries in a friendly way to get Vovka to stand up, Vovka threatens to turn him in for being a wrecker and for damaging the statue.
- Turns out that the principal will now be in trouble for harboring criminals. He tells Vovka that he should have gotten rid of him after his father was arrested.
- And as for Sasha? The principal knows that his dad has been arrested, and he thinks Sasha should have manned up and told him himself. Then he would have given Sasha a chance to publicly renounce his dad and purify himself.
- Sasha feels Vovka staring at him when the news about his dad comes out.
- Vovka has to physically support Sasha, who suddenly sinks to the ground. It's all becoming real for him now; he realizes his dad is not coming back.
- And now the two discover that the principal is sending both of them to the orphanage for children of enemies of the state. Do you get the feeling that this has got to be one packed orphanage? We do, too.
- Vovka tells the principal that Four-Eyes did not break the statue, but the principal doesn't care. A confession was already made, and that's apparently the end of that.
- The principal agrees to hear Vovka out, though, and sends Sasha back to class.
- On his way back to class, Sasha notices that the broken statue has been taken away.
- Not wanting to return to class yet, Sasha hangs out for a bit.
- He spies on the Russian lit class, and hears the teacher lecturing on a Russian story called "The Nose," about a nose that dresses up in a uniform and behaves as if it's a high official.
- Sasha doesn't really like the Russian lit teacher, Luzhko, because he's suspicious and doesn't act like other teachers.
- Moseying along, Sasha worries about Vovka spilling the beans on him to the principal. Once he goes to the orphanage, Sasha realizes, he won't be trusted by anyone else anymore.
- Right then and there, Sasha decides to run away.
- He's stopped, though, when he runs smack into the State Security senior lieutenant.
- Hiding in the biology lab (the biology teacher was recently discovered to be a foreign spy, natch), Sasha now has one doozy of a daydream.
- He sees Stalin's plaster nose, complete with military uniform and pipe, sitting at a desk. The Nose engages Sasha in a conversation about his dad's criminal activities and demands that Sasha denounce his father.
- The Nose tells Sasha that they are interrogating his father right now, and that sooner or later he will confess.
- It's Surreal Storytime Time! The Nose recounts for Sasha a story about a time when he (Stalin) had some workers arrested for stealing his pipe.
- He called one of his State Security agents in to handle the situation. Ten minutes later, Stalin found his pipe in a drawer, and called the agent to let him know.
- It was too late, though: all of the workers had already confessed to the "crime." Needless to say, things didn't turn out so well for those workers.
- Stalin's Nose laughs uproariously at his own story, and again presses Sasha to denounce his dad.
- When Sasha finally returns to class, Nina Petrovna sticks him in the back of the room where the bad, suspicious students sit.
- Sasha's cold and shivering. Turns out that he passed out in the biology lab, and when the school cleaning woman found him, she dumped a bunch of icy cold water on him to wake him up.
- Sasha watches the teacher rehearse with the good students for the Pioneers rally.
- He notices that Vovka's picture is now blacked out on the class photo, along with Four-Eyes's.
- Nina Petrovna asks the class who loves Stalin best, since that person will get to carry the banner in the ceremony. Well, since he has no shot of being a Pioneer now, Sasha decides to cut loose a bit. He takes the banner, climbs up onto the teacher's desk, and marches in place with it, singing a patriotic song.
- The teacher tries to catch him, but he hops from desk to desk until—oops!—he falls and Nina Petrovna grabs him.
- Just as the teacher's about to take the banner away from him, a group of State Security agents burst in with Vovka. Now Sasha's really in for it! Especially when Vovka points in his and the teacher's direction, saying: "That scum there" (26.11).
- Without saying anything, one of the agents goes to the teacher's desk, and takes something out.
- Cue some more Dramatic Music: it's Stalin's nose.
- Nina Petrovna starts denying she had anything to do with it, and Vovka grins at Sasha. Something clicks into place for Sasha, and he realizes that when Vovka disappeared from the cafeteria earlier, he must have been planting the nose in the teacher's desk.
- More frog-marching, this time for poor Nina Petrovna. She's taken away.
- Sasha's being escorted by Sergei Ivanych (the principal) to... somewhere. But where?
- He tries to tell the principal that Nina Petrovna did not break the statue, and that Finkelstein didn't do it either, but again the principal doesn't seem interested in anything approaching The Truth. People have already confessed or have been duly accused, so he seems pretty satisfied, thank you so much.
- Sasha tells him that Finkelstein confessed so that he could see his parents in the prison. And then the principal gives him a hard truth: Four-Eyes's parents have been executed.
- Sasha gets the shivers and his teeth chatter (ours, too, for that matter). Things aren't really looking up for Sasha's own dad at this point. Not one bit.
- The principal pulls Sasha down the stairs into the basement.
- They end up at the storage room door, and the principal gives Sasha a cryptic "Good luck" before leaving him down there all by himself.
- Sasha enters the storage room, and it's filled with the broken statue of Stalin, photographs (with faces crossed off), and other assorted items.
- The senior lieutenant of State Security greets Sasha. He tells him that this room is where things go to be forgotten, and then reads to Sasha the letter he wrote to Stalin the day before, affirming Sasha's loyalty to the Pioneers and Stalin.
- The State Security dude tells Sasha that he won't have to renounce his own father if he'll agree to be a spy in the school. He wants Sasha to report suspicious behavior, a.k.a. fink on his friends.
- At first, Sasha flat out refuses, saying that he doesn't want to be a snitch. But then he gets another hard lesson: his own dad was a big old snitch himself, the senior lieutenant points out. So much for Sasha's hero worship of his dad.
- And the horrible revelations just won't quit coming: Sasha's dad apparently turned in his own wife for being an enemy of the state.
- The lieutenant gives him one more opportunity to make the so-called right choice, and sweetens the deal by saying Sasha can carry the banner in the Pioneers rally later.
- But then he pulls out the big old stick in his carrot-and-stick persuasion technique (of course there's always a stick in these types of situations, right?): if Sasha does not agree, he'll be taken immediately to prison.
- So Sasha shakes hands on the deal.
- He's finally made it! Sasha is awaiting his moment to enter the main hall of the school, proudly carrying the banner of the Young Soviet Pioneers.
- Sasha imagines what it was supposed to be like: his father tying the scarf around his neck and speaking the words that would make him a Pioneer.
- But it's not going to be like that at all, he realizes, so he puts down the banner and leaves the school. He doesn't want to be a Pioneer anymore.
- Sasha takes the streetcar to Lubyanka prison, where his dad is presumably locked up.
- The prison guard tells Sasha to get in line when Sasha asks to see his dad.
- The line that greets Sasha must be the Queen-Mother of all queues. It stretches around the building and snakes up and down several streets. Thousands of people are in line to see loved ones in the prison. The illustration gives you a pretty good idea of what this line would have looked like (30.F2-F5).
- A nice woman in front of him gives Sasha a scarf, since it's bitterly cold outside. The scarf belongs to her son, whom she's hoping to visit.
- Sasha learns from her that he will be in line for at least three days. Yes—the line is that long. And they don't have FastPass for this ride.
- She also gives Sasha a hot potato to eat.
- When she finds out that Sasha is now homeless, she invites him to live with her, since her son is not using his cot right now (on account of the whole being-in-prison thing).
- She tells Sasha that they have gotten themselves into quite a mess, and asks him if they can one day sort it all out. Sasha doesn't know.
- The woman says that they have a lot of waiting to do, and the book ends with both of them waiting (and the final illustration showing a huge line of people snaking off into the far distance).