In this Russian comedy, a family leaves Russia to find a new life in the New World at the turn-of-the-century. The film chronicles their journey. It is based on a story by Sholom Aleichem and is told from the viewpoint of an 11-year old boy, Motl, whose father, a choirmaster, was killed. His mother has great hope as she uproots her family to head for the New World. They endure a lively train ride, and are then held in a border town. The family must wait while the authorities argue their fate. While waiting Motl gets involved in some strange meetings, including one with a "shtetl witch."