16-year-old Lilja lives in a dreary and poor suburb somewhere in the former Soviet Union. She dreams about a better life. One day her mother moves to the U.S.A. along with her new man, and Lilja is promised to be able to join them soon. But as no letter from her mother arrives, Lilja realizes that sheâ€™s been abandoned. She's forced to move to a small dilapidated flat with no electricity or heating. Heartbroken and without any money Lilja becomes more and more desperate. Her only friend is the 11-year-old boy Volodja. Together they travel around the area and fantasize about how one could make life easier to live. One day hope arrives when Lilja falls in love with Andrei. He asks her to follow him to Sweden to start a new life. Little Volodja gets jealous and suspicious, but Lilja packs her bags. Suddenly she's sitting on a plane on its way to Sweden - not knowing what awaits her there.