9/26/08

Russian Love

Laurence Olivier
Keven and I have been watching "The World at War," an early-70s, 26-part British miniseries on WWII. It is, shall we say, exceedingly comprehensive. Yesterday--and for part of this morning as I caught the tail end I'd missed after falling asleep--we watched the episode about Russia between 1941-43, particularly the siege of Leningrad and the Battle of Kursk.

The bone-meltingly sexy-voiced Laurence Olivier read "Wait for Me," a very famous Russian poem penned in 1941 by a playwrite turned war correspondent named Konstantin Simonov for his wife, the actress Valentina Serova. I got weepy. Here's the text, and Sir Larry reads it in this clip starting 4:05 in.

Wait for me, and I'll return!
Only wait very hard.
Wait, when you are filled with sorrow
As you watch the yellow rain.
Wait, when the winds sweep the snow drifts.
Wait, in the sweltering heat.
Wait, when others have stopped waiting,
Forgetting their yesterdays.
Wait, even when from afar no letters come to you.
Wait, even when others are tired of waiting.
Wait, even when my mother and son think I am no more,
And when friends sit around the fire drinking to my memory.
Wait, and do not hurry to drink to my memory too.
Wait, for I'll return, defying every death.
And let those who do not wait say that I was lucky.
They never will understand that in the midst of death,
You, with your waiting, saved me.
Only you and I will know how I survived.
It's because you waited, as no one else did.
Feel free to sniff and wipe away a tear, coz that's intense. For all your linguist types, I found an alternate translation from 2005, but it doesn't have the part about the mother and son giving up hope, which spoke to me most powerfully.

And in case you were wondering, Simonov survived the war, but dear Valentina did very little of that waiting. Throughout the war, she had an affair with a top Russian general who was also named Konstantin. They split up in 1957.

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