During the final weeks of World War II, the eleven-year-old orphan Heinrich sets out on a trek lead by the old fisherman Komarek. When Heinrich is suspected of betraying someone liable for military conscription, Komarek reluctantly takes the boy under his wing. Komarek tries to convince Heinrich that there is no hope of a final Nazi victory, telling him about the solidarity with the Russians he experienced as a prisoner of war in 1917 and teaching him some Russian words, like the word for button: "pugovitsa."
When Heinrich gets separated from the rest of the group, the village where he is staying comes under Russian occupation. To his own surprise, Heinrich befriends the soldiers. The communist Komarek is appointed mayor, but he is as unsuccessful in this role as Heinrich is in his attempts to convince the local farmers to accept the new authorities.
Based on the novel Pugowitza oder Die silberne Schlüsseluhr (Pugovitsa or The Silver Pocketwatch) by Alfred Wellm.