Russia celebrated the lift of Leningrad’s blockade on January 27th, while elsewhere in the world they celebrated the liberation of the prisoners of Auschwitz camp. There is not a single family that had been left unscathed by the World War Two. Soviet films about the Great Patriotic War have been gradually coming to the Western audiences, but the songs are still likely to be relatively unknown, apart from the famous Katyusha.
I have just discovered a recording which I didn’t know existed: Serge Gainsbourg sings a wartime Russian waltz, In the Forest Near the Frontline, in Russian. In his own words, he used to hear it from his mother, but as he didn’t know any Russian, he had his relative write him a phonetic version of the song, and this is what you hear in the recording. A very touching song tells a story of soldiers staying in the autumn forest and recalling the peaceful time with their beloved. Gainsbourg very skillfully conveyed the sadness of soldiers who could quite likely perish at war, and his heavy French accent only strengthens the forlorn feelings of those who wanted to live and love and yet were denied the chance of happiness… The performance dates back to 1974 and will turn 40 years in July this year.