Letter to the frontline

“Жди меня и я вернусь”“Wait for me, and I will come”, wrote Konstantin Simonov in 1941 in his letter from the front to his girlfriend and later wife, the Soviet movie star Valentina Serova (who, however, did not wait for him, but mixed up with Marshal Rokossovsky). The poem, that became public only months later, together with the music of Matvey Blanter, became one of the unofficial hymns of the Great Patriotic War, and kept up the soul and hope of millions of soldiers and soldier’s wives.

In the now-running Ukrainian patriotic war, the tables turn, and women left at home send letters to the frontline, to urge their beloved ones to endure, and to foster patriotism in every Ukrainian. This is how the letter is introduced by filmmaker Ivan Kravchyshyn, who, together with his wife Natalia, designed and photographed each page of it, and whose films – such as Політ золотої мушки (The flight of the golden fly, 2014) – fit together with the visual world of the album..

Because the letter is nothing but a twelve-page album. On each page, a beautiful Ukrainian girl is looking at the reader, dressed in the costume of a different Ukrainian historical region. The pieces of the costume are authentic: most of them come from museums in Kolomea, Tarnopol and Prelesne, as well as from the private collections of Natalia Kravchishin and three of the girls photographed. On the back of each photo they give a detailed description of each piece of clothing, they mark their place of origin on the map of the traditional regions of Ukraine, and add archival photos to show how they were worn at that time.

zhdi zhdi zhdi zhdi zhdi zhdi zhdi zhdi zhdi zhdi zhdi zhdi zhdi zhdi zhdi zhdi zhdi zhdi zhdi zhdi zhdi zhdi zhdi zhdi

To encourage our sons fighting on the front with girls dressed in national costumes, and at the same time to fasten national cohesion, may seem archaic to us, who saw similar publications from the time of the First World War. But the idea fits well with the nation-building endeavor of a belated nation. The photos, the girls, the costumes are beautiful, the typography tasteful, and the archive photos and texts well-rounded and informative.

What a pity that the letter has not been signed by the whole of Ukraine. The Bukovinian Romanian, Galician Pole, Black Sea Russian, Holichian Karaim, Crimean Tatar, Subcarpathian Hungarian soldiers perishing on the eastern front are looking in vain for the pictures of their loved ones in the album. These ethnic fragments shredded from here and there into Ukraine have been forgotten in the heyday of nation-building.

For them, pars pro toto, plays the Hungarian version of Wait for me and I will come, which may be a surprise to the speakers of the other languages, too. In fact, this is not identical with the well-known version of Blanter. Inasmuch as it sounds authentically Russian, it comes from the Hungarian composer Henrik Negrelli. You can make a hit, singing it with a Russian text in a Russian company. The Hungarian translation was done by Sarolta Lányi, who probably did not have the front in mind, but rather her husband Ernő Czóbel, who kept her in countenance with his letters from the Siberian Gulag. It is sung by the great Hungarian actor Iván Darvas, whose mother was a Tsarist Russian emigrant in Prague, and who in 1945 served as an interpreter to the Red Army, and in 1956, organized a revolutionary committee against the Soviet invaders, for which he spent two years in prison and worked for years as a factory laborer; and then in 1965 he featured in the pro-Soviet cult film The Corporal and Others, so he also might have had a multifaceted relationship with what he sings about.

Konstantin Simonov: Wait for me. Hungarian translation by Sarolta Lányi, music by Henrik Negrelli, sung by Iván Darvas

Жди меня, и я вернусь.
Только очень жди,
Жди, когда наводят грусть
Желтые дожди,
Жди, когда снега метут,
Жди, когда жара,
Жди, когда других не ждут,
Позабыв вчера.
Жди, когда из дальних мест
Писем не придет,
Жди, когда уж надоест
Всем, кто вместе ждет.

Жди меня, и я вернусь,
Не желай добра
Всем, кто знает наизусть,
Что забыть пора.
Пусть поверят сын и мать
В то, что нет меня,
Пусть друзья устанут ждать,
Сядут у огня,
Выпьют горькое вино
На помин души...
Жди. И с ними заодно
Выпить не спеши.

Жди меня, и я вернусь,
Всем смертям назло.
Кто не ждал меня, тот пусть
Скажет: - Повезло.
Не понять, не ждавшим им,
Как среди огня
Ожиданием своим
Ты спасла меня.
Как я выжил, будем знать
Только мы с тобой,-
Просто ты умела ждать,
Как никто другой.
Wait for me, and I’ll come back!
Wait with all you’ve got!
Wait, when dreary yellow rains
Tell you, you should not.
Wait when snow is falling fast,
Wait when summer’s hot,
Wait when yesterdays are past,
Others are forgot.
Wait, when from that far-off place,
Letters don’t arrive.
Wait, when those with whom you wait
Doubt if I’m alive.

Wait for me, and I’ll come back!
Wait in patience yet
When they tell you off by heart
That you should forget.
Even when my dearest ones
Say that I am lost,
Even when my friends give up,
Sit and count the cost,
Drink a glass of bitter wine
To the fallen friend –
Wait! And do not drink with them!
Wait until the end!

Wait for me and I’ll come back,
Dodging every fate!
“What a bit of luck!” they’ll say,
Those that would not wait.
They will never understand
How amidst the strife,
By your waiting for me, dear,
You had saved my life.
Only you and I will know
How you got me through.
Simply – you knew how to wait –
No one else but you.

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