It is a sunny day in a small town in a country that no longer is. The rubble has long been cleared off the streets after the war and the reconstruction all but complete, you could be forgiven for confusing it for the everyday kind of construction, in fact, it's been so long since the war that it might just be the everyday kind.
A noticeably stoic woman is walking past the not-so-colourful shop fronts, her age and demeanour shows that she not only survived the war, but she came out of it with dignity and an unparalleled determination, a fact that even a casual observer could determine just by watching her make her way along the sidewalk. Behind her trails a girl, clearly excited to be in such a big town, distracted by all the colours that her mother doesn't see. She spends the longest time in front of a clothes shop, eyeing off the latest fashion, not that she doesn't like the dresses that her mother makes her, they're well-made and she takes pride in the fact that she's the only one with that particular dress. But still, the dresses in the window are for important ladies in big cities! She stays in front of the shop window just long enough, and catches up to her mother just in time not to be scolded.
They make their way into a nondescript post office, the only thing distinguishing it from the chemist or any other shop, are the large blue letters above the door "ПОЧТА", where a small package wrapped in brown paper is waiting for them. The girl is bouncing around the mother with excitement, the package reminding her of when her father, when he comes back after months of being away, always bringing back a big bag filled with similar bundles of brown paper, containing sweets, shoes and sometimes even dresses. She knows this one is not for her, but the suspense is killing her and she convinces her mum to open it nevertheless.
The woman, affectionately known as Masha, complies, and carefully unwraps the parcel. She first takes out a letter and reads it diligently, while the daughter is squirming with anticipation. A distant smile forms on Masha's lips, but by the time she has finished reading the letter, tears are streaming down her face. The daughter, not used to seeing so much emotion from this stolid woman, turns all her attention to her mother. After being asked the obvious questions, Masha composes herself and as they're walking out of the post office, proceeds to tell the story.
Masha was a field nurse during WW2, and despite having a thousand and one stories, she has only ever shared a handful. As a nurse, she would often be in a position where she would need to drag a wounded soldier single-handedly, a seemingly impossible feat for such a small framed lady. To help achieve these feats consistently, nurses had a long coat, which could unclip into a sort of a cape; they would roll a soldier onto the cape, and could then drag the soldier to safety using the larger muscle groups.
One of these unfortunate souls had their arm blown off, so Masha, after making sure he wouldn't bleed out, rolled him onto her cape and started dragging him back to safety. She could just make out the soldier querying the location of his arm over the noise of war, but this was no time for chit-chat or sentimentality. She was busy saving his life. Once she grunted her way to the med tent, she could finally make out that the soldier was pleading for his arm. She explained that it was no good and that they couldn't save it. The soldier indicated that he understood, but clarified that he wasn't as attached to his arm as he was to the watch around it, as cliché as it was, his father's watch. He ceaselessly begged Mashenka for this watch, and the generally sensible Mashenka, against her better judgement felt bad enough for the poor sod that as she went back into the field, she was compelled to find his arm and retrieve his watch.
After the war was finished, she would receive a small package and a letter.