Dad’s Song

My father could not hold a note. When at school he was the only kid who was excused from singing lessons. Over the years he did learn to hold a tune relatively well.  And certainly well enough for little kids to be lulled to sleep as he rocked us and sang his favourite RUSSIAN song. All of us kids, grand-kids and great grand kids have fond memories of him singing his rasvetali song.  We knew it was in Russian because he told us it was. We knew he had learned it  at war fighting the Russians as a very young 17 year old.  We can all hum it. None of us can remember anything much more than that first word – rasvetali.

Dad’s song keeps popping up in conversation quite often. Just last week Christopher brought it up. What was that song Pappa always sang to us? We knew the tune, we knew the first word….I decided to have a go at trying to find it. All I did was google rasvetali, not even knowing if I was spelling it right. And there it was! Just like that.  Turns out it  is a 1938 Russian song about a young girl standing on a steep riverbank sending  her song to her lover, a soldier. He is away fighting to protect the Motherland. She, ever grateful, will remain true to him. It is the quintessential heart stirring patriotic love song.

When the Great Patriotic War began in July 1941, it was sung by  female students in Moscow bidding farewell to soldiers going to the battlefront to fight the Nazis. It gained popularity and is thought to be the source of the nickname of the BM-8, BM-13, and BM-31 “Katyusha” rocket launchers that were used by the Red Army in World War II. Apparently the song is still popular to this day.

It is the song that Dad heard the Russian soldiers singing on the battle front. He only ever sang the first verse –

Rasvetali yabloni y grushi

Paplili tumane nod rekoy

Wehadi-ila na berig Katyusha

Navisog y bereg na krutoy

Wehadi-ila na berig Katyusha

Navisog y bereg na krutoy

Interestingly, when I found the words, it was like finding an old, familiar friend. I can even pronounce them. Somewhere deep in my memory they are embedded in my father’s voice.

ENGLISH TRANSLATION

Apple trees and pear trees were a-blooming

O’er the river hung the morning mist

Out to shore went a little girl, Katyusha

To the edge of a steep and rocky cliff

Out to shore went a little girl, Katyusha

To the edge of a steep and rocky cliff

As she walked she sang a little love song

To a giant eagle of the steppe

To the eagle, she sang about her loved one

Of her dear whose letters she had kept

Oh, the song, the song that you have sung me

Fly away, the sun will lead you there

Find your hero in the foreign country

Greet him well, Katyusha, when you’re there

Find your hero in the foreign country

Greet him well, Katyusha, when you’re there.

Let him not forget his simple maiden

Let him hear the love song that she sends

Let him know as he serves for his homeland

Dear Katyusha, your love he will defend

Let him know as he serves for his homeland

Dear Katyusha, your love he will defend

Apple trees and pear trees were a-blooming

O’er the river hung the morning mist

Out to shore went a little girl, Katyusha

To the edge of a steep and rocky cliff

Out to shore went a little girl, Katyusha

To the edge of a steep and rocky cliff

 

And just for good measure, if you want to sing along in Russian –

 

© Raili Tanska

Steps for Peace

To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war.
Winston Churchill
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8 thoughts on “Dad’s Song

  1. It’s a lovely song, and an emotive post. The video, Stalin with various world leaders, Winston Churchill looking pleased with himself. I think of those poor Russian soldiers, led by a madman, and all the blood shed on both sides, and I don’t understand human nature. Men that lead and follow, some in faith, and others because they have no choice. Women who weep while they knit warm socks for their soldiers. The human race at war with itself.

    1. It’s weird, isn’t it. I remember Dad telling us that the Russians shot more of their own soldiers as they retreated on the front than the enemy 😦

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