Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Great Patriotic Songs: "The Cranes" (Журавли)

Sunday morning (Victory Day, May 9th), the girls and I watched part of the parade on Red Square on television. It was incredible to see American soldiers taking part!

Even more surprising was when the military bands played songs, and my kids knew some of the words! How I wish I had captured that on film! (The batteries in my video camera were dead and I couldn't change them in time).

Later in the evening, I watched the broadcast of the gala concert at Luzhniki Stadium with my friends in their room, while their girls and mine played in ours. The concert was incredible... There's a reason every single Russian knows ALL THOSE SONGS. Karaoke? Guaranteed that many of the songs will be patriotic... Celebrations? These songs will be trotted out again... The Russian equivalent of "American Idol"? There will be part of the competition dedicated to these songs...

Not only were there songs popular during the war, but there are also all the movies with beautiful and inspirational lyrics that came afterwards. The song above falls into the latter category; it's called "The Cranes" and it's from the movie "The Cranes are Flying" from 1956. (You can get it here from Amazon). When it came on during the concert, my friend instantly said, "Ohh!" because it's one of her favorites. That, and my girls' singing earlier in the morning, prompted me to start a new "series" on my blog, one in which I'll feature various patriotic songs that every Russophile should know.

Here you can see the song performed by the group "Serebro" with English subtitles:

By Mark Bernes

Мне кажется порою, что солдаты
С кровавых не пришедшие полей,
Не в землю нашу полегли когда-то,
А превратились в белых журавлей.

Они до сей поры с времен тех дальних
Летят и подают нам голоса.
Не потому ль так часто и печально
Мы замолкаем глядя в небеса?

Летит, летит по небу клин усталый,
Летит в тумане на исходе дня.
И в том строю есть промежуток малый -
Быть может это место для меня.

Настанет день и журавлиной стаей
Я поплыву в такой же сизой мгле.
Из-под небес по-птичьи окликая
Всех вас, кого оставил на земле.

Мне кажется порою, что солдаты
С кровавых не пришедшие полей,
Не в землю нашу полегли когда-то,
А превратились в белых журавле

I found this translation into English by Boris Anisimov:

Sometimes it seems to me each fallen soldier
That never came back home from fields of gore
In fact did never perish, as they told you,
But turned into a crane as white as snow
And ever since those days in their due season
We've seen them soaring high across the sky
With distant voices giving us a reason
To stand in tears and watch them flying by
A wedge of cranes is fading in the distance
So far away I can no longer see
When I run out of days of my existence
I hope those cranes will find a gap for me
That I may soar above my pain and anguish
And join their ranks as many years ago
Recalling all their names in my new language
And names of those whom I have left below.
Sometimes it seems to me each fallen soldier
That never came back home from fields of gore
In fact did never perish, as they told you,
But turned into a crane as white as snow.

Here are two other noteworthy performances of the song, first by Dmitri Khvorostovsky. (Look how he makes the veterans cry!)

I also found this touching rendition by a Ukrainian girl in her country's "Ukraine Has Talent" television competition:

If you're curious about the movie, here is the description of it at amazon.com:

"Mikhail Kalatozov's luscious portrait of love and loss during World War II stars almond-eyed beauty Tatyana Samojlova and handsome Aleksei Batalov as moony-eyed young lovers whose innocent romance is shattered by war. When the idealistic boy volunteers for service, his draft-dodging cousin steals the despondent girl by brute force, yet she never gives up on her true love, even when he's reported dead. Kalatozov's patriotic paean to fallen soldiers and home-front heroes is an undeniably sentimental melodrama suffused with lush images and lyrical sequences, a kind of cinematic poetry unseen in Soviet cinema since the experimentation and optimism of the silent days. Produced during the "thaw" following Stalin's repressive reign, it won the Palme d'Or prize at the 1958 Cannes Film Festival and set Kalatozov on the road to more ambitious expressions of Soviet idealism in the modern world, culminating in his masterpiece, I Am Cuba. --Sean Axmaker"

Here is the trailer from the movie:

Here are the first ten minutes of the film with English subtitles. I love the opening scenes along the Frunzenskaya Embankment; my girls love to ride their scooters there when we make trips to Gorky Park.


Tina in CT said...

I will have to wait until I'm home to watch the clips.

I noticed all the Muscovites singing along to the patriotic songs when we were at the Victory Park celebration last May 9th.

That would have been great to have on tape - the girls singing along. Are the girls taught the songs in school like kids here were taught our patriotic songs when I was in elementary school? I fear that that is no longer done like the Pledge of Allegiance. Are you teaching them our songs?

Are you buying the movie from Amazon? If so, I'll watch your DVD. If not, I'd like to order it.

Wish we could have seen the parade last Victory Day but realize the crowds would have been horrible.

Tina in CT said...

Forgot to add that the words to the song are just beautiful.

Tina in CT said...

I had to wait until I was home to see the clips. What a beautiful song and Dimitri's version was my favorite but the little Ukrainian girl has a lovely voice.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the post! It is wonderful. I have much more to say but need to put my thoughts together and it is late know.
I had no idea that I knew the words to the song by heart. And I always loved the movie.

Tracy said...

Thanks for posting the beautiful songs and also the pictures from Victory Day. It's great to see! I let my son (Russian born) listen to the songs and he really liked them...I may have to see about downloading some. I love seeing what is going on in Moscow through your blog!