In 1943, Misha Gordon and Nicky Dudorov are both officers in the Red Army fighting in World War II. They have both served sentences in the gulags, and Nicky's fiancée was killed carrying out a mission against the Germans. The regimental laundry is entrusted to a girl named Tanya, who tells them the story of her life.
Tanya is the daughter of members of the gentry. Her mother was living with a man named Komarov who was not her real father. He was a Russian Cabinet member hiding in Mongolia. When the Reds moved in, he sent Tanya's mother and the entire household away on a secret train. Komarov did not know about Tanya's existence and did not like children. Tanya's mother sent her to stay with Marfa, the signal woman at the train station, for a few days; Tanya never saw her mother again.
Tanya stayed with Marfa's family, working at various jobs and looking after Marfa's son Petya. One day, a man came to the door saying he had killed Marfa's husband and would spare Marfa's life only if she gave over the money her husband earned from selling their cow. She tells the bandit that the money is in the cellar, but he takes Petya down with him when he goes to retrieve it. Marfa locks him in and will not let him out even when he threatens to kill Petya. He bites Petya to death. Tanya stops a train and tells the Red Army soldiers inside what happened. They tie the bandit up and drive the train over him. Tanya boarded the train and traveled all across the country.
Later, Gordon and Dudorov talk about Tanya's story. Gordon asks Dudorov, "You know who she is?" and Dudorov replies, "Yes, of course." She is the daughter of Zhivago and Lara. They agree that Yevgraf will look after her, as she has told them that Yevgraf, now a Major-General, has promised to pay for her studies.
The Epilogue exists both to shed light on the events taking place in Russia after Zhivago's death and to suggest that, although Zhivago and Lara both die, their legacy lives on in their child. Gordon and Dudorov, meanwhile, grow old as friends. They respect Yury's memory and even preserve his writing for him. They go on living, while he takes up a new existence as a deceased tragic hero, driven to despair and death by his flaws and his passion.
Tanya lives a difficult life, beginning with her childhood separation from her mother. In her, Gordon and Dudorov observe all the effects of revolution and war. Tanya, a child of the intelligentsia, is forced to live among people who have no respect for the things that her parents held dear and no true affection for her. She wanders the country with the same desolate aimlessness that came to possess her father. Just as Zhivago was reared by his uncle, so it is Yevgraf who promises to save Tanya from her orphaned, lonely fate. Stuck on the boundary between her anguished past and a hopeful future, Tanya represents both the tragedy of her era and the hope of a new beginning.
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