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In 1945, British Maj. Giles Burnside is assigned to an Austrian border camp for displaced persons and ordered to determine whether the swarms of refugees should be sent to the American or the Russian zone. Although conscientious, the Major dislikes his task and hopes for a transfer, despite the realization that he has been removed from active service because of a courageous but ill-fated disregard for orders which resulted in the tragic loss of 200 men and left him with a partially disabled leg. His determination to adhere strictly to regulations is handicapped by the inexperience of his young interpreter, Lieut. Francis Pilkington, who speaks only Greek, Latin, and a little French. But the dilemma is resolved when one of the refugees, a man who calls himself Janovic, steps forth and announces that he speaks a multitude of languages. Quickly enrolled as an interpreter, Janovic soon turns out to be much more. He acts as a mediator between Major Burnside and his Russian counterpart, Captain Kamenev; he puts the camp in shape for an inspection by Brigadier General Bewley; and, in effect, he takes over the running of the entire station. He also finds time to romance the owner of the inn, Maria Holz, a young woman whose husband was presumably killed at Stalingrad. But Janovic's love for Maria turns to anger when he discovers that she is insuring her relationship with the British by also giving herself to Major Burnside. Then, as the last of the refugees are readied for departure, Captain Kamenev learns that Janovic is a Russian army deserter and, under the Allied agreement, must be returned to Russia for execution. Unwilling to put his trust in Burnside's promise of help, Janovic tries to escape, but he is captured and brought back to the camp. The incident ties Burnside's hands and he is forced to put Janovic on a truck bound for the Russian zone. But there is a glimmer of hope as Janovic notices that Captain Kamenev, by now an old friend, is the officer in charge of the convoy. With work at the camp completed, Major Burnside receives the bitter honor of being assigned to another refugee center in recognition of his accomplishment.