The film begins in June 1941 in the backwater village of Tikhoe in [[PskovOblast]. Priest Alexander carries out the duties of his ministry, helped by his wife, Alevtina. Two days later the Nazi invaders enter the village. The Nazi invaders are keen to reopen the [[Russian Orthodox Church|Orthodox]] churches closed by the Soviet authorities. Alexander is offered a mission to the Pskov Oblast. An Orthodox church building, confiscated and turned into a hall for film showings and the like, is restored to its former use, the church bell rescued from the lake etc. However life under the Nazis is ambiguous and the priest must walk a tightrope (metaphorically) between faithful Christian service and loyalty to his country and people. A poignant scene is the Easter service, celebrated along with Red Army POWs surrounded by German guards. Alexander and Alevtina also harbour [[Jews|Jewish]] orphans. Alevtina falls ill from contact with the POWs and puts the children first by losing herself in a snowstorm lest she infect the orphans. The plot concludes with the Soviet authorities back in power and the priest imprisoned by the [[NKVD]]. The epilogue shows the priest decades later, visited by the orphans he saved many years before.