After the end of World War II, many Russians who had been taken prisoner by German troops found themselves subjected to one of Stalin's pogroms, accused of betraying the state and sent to a forced labor camp. Ignat (Vladimir Mashkov) is a strong and handsome former soldier who has been sent to one such camp, where he toils under the ineffectual rule of the commander (Aleksei Gorbanov). Ignat and his fellow inmates help keep a fleet of steam-powered trains in repair and stocked with coal, and while he has health issues that prevent him from spending much time behind the controls, his skill and good looks soon earn him the affections of the lovely and strong-willed Sofia (Yulia Peresild). When Ignat is told tales of a ghost who haunts a nearby island, he decides to investigate and finds Elsa (Anjorka Strechel) -- a child who has been stranded ever since her parents, a pair of German train engineers, were lost there during the war. Ignat brings Elsa back to safety, but discovers that his fellow prisoners still harbor plenty of resentment against the Germans, even as represented by a starving child.