Wait For Me…

Seventeen Moments in Soviet History notes that “the full-scale mobilization of men to the front [during World War II] placed women in leading roles in kolkhozes and factories, in families and communities.” Gregory L. Freeze, in his book, Russia: A History, adds that by the end of the summer of 1941 “women comprised 70 per cent of the industrial labour force in Moscow” (386). The “heightened atmosphere of wartime, when couples met with the very real knowledge that they might never see each other again, threw people into each other’s arms with a sweetness and sadness [that was] rare in less dangerous times.” The war raised the stakes for marital courtship as healthy men were in greater deficit due to being moved to the war front while many women of marriageable age were back home. Those in relationships had to wait for their loved ones to return. However, art, in its various forms, was one way Russian civilians used to cope, make sense of the war and its uncertainties, and provide hope for the troops and their loved ones to prevail in the war. 

Photo of Konstantin Simonov

Konstantin Simonov, originally Kirill, served as a correspondent for the military paper, Red Star, along with other prominent writers. His most famous piece of literature was “Wait For Me,” a personal love poem he wrote in 1941 for his crush, Valentina Serova (a rising star in the film industry), during the war. Little did he know his poem would become an instant classic and win over the hearts of the Russian troops. His poem was “recited by millions as though it were a prayer, repeated by women as tears streamed down their faces, and adopted by men as their own expression of the mystical power of a woman’s love.” His poem was also produced for stage and film and set to various melodies.

Here is the original “Wait For Me” poem in Russian.

Here is an english translation of “Wait For Me” by Mike Munford:

A common theme within Simonov’s work was the “idea of the soldier’s need for the support and love of the woman who [was] waiting for him, who [was] faithful to him in his absence in war.” The poem is very hopeful and gives reassurance to many in desperate need of something to hold on to; something to make the war bearable. Freeze notes that “the greatest credit for victory in the war surely belongs to the Soviet population itself” (390). Without the contribution of the Soviet people, many believe that “victory would not have been achieved at all” (Freeze, 388). This poem unified many soldiers and citizens under the umbrellas of hope and resilience. The soldiers, specifically Simonov himself, gained a certain confidence to try and persevere through the war and return home to his loved ones. “Wait For Me” is very romantic and vulnerable; Simonov puts his heart on his sleeve as he asks the woman he’s in love with to wait for him, that he WILL return to her, ONLY if she has the faith and patience to wait for him. “Wait For Me” is very universal and resonated with many soldiers who sent the poem home to their loved ones as a plea for their hope and support.

For more information about Konstantin Simonov’s life and accomplishments, click here.

 

Other References:

Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: a History. Oxford University Press, 2009.

16 Replies to “Wait For Me…”

  1. Hey Natalie, I really enjoyed reading your post! I had heard of this poem before but never actually heard it read or known about its origins. Hearing it read did get me a little misty eyed I must admit, and your post does such a great job tying it into our course materials and the idea of the war on the home front. It really is amazing how such a small piece of literature can inspire hope in so many people in such trying times.

    1. Thanks Rory, I’m glad you enjoyed this post! I am also currently in a Spanish literature class and one of our units was poetry. Since the unit I’ve developed a new appreciation for literature, specifically poetry (hence why I chose to write about a poem), and the amazing things it can do during times of war and crisis such as unite people, provide hope, create calls to action, and so much more!

  2. What Rory said! You do a wonderful job of helping us understand how immediate and personal the war was for its participants — which was just about everyone! And I’m delighted that you’ve discovered Simonov’s poetry, which retains real appeal after all these years….Zhi menya has been set to music and is even more powerful in that medium, IMO. Here’s a link to a 40s version of the song, and you can also find lots of contemporary renditions on You Tube: https://youtu.be/FQ7Gr94fJbY

  3. Hey Nat, I thought your post was very eye-opening on how soldiers find ways to get through some very dark tunnels in the face of war. The poem resonates what it means for what a soldier is feeling when away from their loved ones. It’s motivation, it’s truth, and it’s purpose for all those who must leave those they care about the most. Shout out to them faithful Soviets, real ones.

    1. Thanks Max! The poem does a great job resonating with a majority of the population even though I don’t think Simonov originally thought his poem would unite so many so well and so fast since it was intended for just one person.

  4. hey Nat, this is a very good article highlighting the everyday reality of a soldier’s life at the front. It is an amazing piece that ties in both the realities of the war front and the struggles of the home front as lovers split by war still find time to reach out to each other.

    1. I agree the poem addresses aspects of both the war and home front. I find it very romantic that although each person is occupied with tasks and duties concerning the war, that they still manage to find time for each other even if it’s a letter or just a thought. The emphasis on just knowing that someone is thinking of you is enough reassurance for the troops to motivate them and boost morale.

  5. Hi Natalie! I had never heard of this poem before, and I’ve got to say, it was really beautiful. Your post does a great job at showcasing factors that people might not immediately think about helping the Soviet people prevail in the war – factors like art. I love that this became a classic among the troops, because it truly gives us a glimpse at what the soldiers were feeling at the time.

    1. Thanks Lauren for commenting! I also had never heard of this poem but I’m glad I stumbled upon it because it’s a beautiful piece of art.

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed this post and that it resonated with you De’Vonte! I’m a sucker for “cheesy” traditional style romance so I found this poem very touching.

  6. Great article, Natalie! I’m wondering if you’ve found any similar research on wartime artistic ventures related to a soldiers life? It’s a fascinating area of, not only history, but also human psychology as well, knowing that a loved one is going off to war and the possibility of never seeing them return.

    1. Thanks Landry! I did not find any similar research on wartime artistic ventures related to a soldiers life but I feel that there are forms of art that were created that speak to soldier’s lives on the war front and their ventures.

  7. Great post! War is such a horrific event that causes people to be at their lowest point. The poem is just such good example of the other less talked about aspects of war. Its a little easy to forget that when you see that this country had X amount of people fighting for it. Each on of those people had families and loved ones. Interesting to see how they dealt with the separation.

    1. Thanks Kellan! I agree that war brings tremendous amounts of sadness and sorrow but acknowledging the feelings of hope adds another element to this despairing topic.

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