When thinking about fighting in a war, especially world wars, we tend to think patriotism is what fueled individuals. Persons of Axis or Ally support without a doubt had a strong sense of patriotism; however, it cannot be forgotten the role that romance played. During World War II, the Soviet Union witnessed the heightening of romance between men and women: people at the time realized that there was a chance a loved one may not return home. The fear of never seeing a love one resulted in massive increases of birthrates and family sizes. Normally, the state tried keeping families small and condemned children out of wedlock, but the war called for the opposite. The Soviet population had taken an enormous hit and the state started to encourage larger families by giving pensions to women with children (both from marriages and out of wedlock) that increased with each child. Aid for Mothers and Children and Benefits for Illegitimate Children are both great sources for understanding the pensions and need for newborns in the state. Replenishing the population was a great concern for the state, but let’s return to the idea of romance. During the war, the entertainment industry focused on the idea of a loved one headed off into war. Literature, music, and film all incorporated the romantic notion of men going off to war and fighting not just for their country, but their women as well. The romanticized view of men going off to war resurfaced certain gender roles that the state had tried to eliminate. Women in reality were involved the combat just as the men were; however, entertainment at the time depicted women as relying solely on the valor of their men.
A famous poem during the Great Patriotic War was one by Konstantin Simonov. His poem, Wait for Me, became an icon of the war with its ability to pull the heartstrings of so many. Women and men both embraced the poem as it was increasingly played over the radio; although, it appealed to the genders differently. “Wait for Me” appealed to women because it gave them hope that their lover may return home after all. Women listening would have felt as though their commitment is what was going to bring their husband home. Men listening saw it is as representing the love they received from their wives. Their faithful wives gave them something to stay alive for even in the darkest hours. I really enjoyed listening to “Wait for Me” because it felt as though you were sitting beside a soldier at night reflecting back on his life at home and hoping that his wife knew her faithfulness to him is what kept him alive. Simonov used that romanticized view of war coming between a husband and wife in which love would bring them back together.
Film and music posed as another means for emphasizing the romance during the time. A song that became a beloved wartime favorite was “Blue Scarf”, this came from the movie “Concert for the Front Line.” Klavdiia Shul’zhenko sang this to soldiers who had been deployed, similar to what would have taken place in the United States with USO Girls. She is singing about a man vowing to find a way back home to his lover. The blue kerchief is a symbol of what the men are fighting for, again the romantic idea of a man just fighting to come back home to his lover. Instead of fighting for the Soviet flag, the lyrics are “the machine-gunner fights for the blue kerchief that those dear shoulders wore.” Another musical piece is “Dark is the Night” by Mark Bernes and came from the film “Two Soldiers.” The song is about a soldier picturing his faithful wife waiting for him to return home to their family. The wife is not depicted as only being faithful to the marriage, but to never doubting his return home as well. There is a comparison to the wife at home to the warzone which offers a glimpse into the reality of front lines for many men; for example, “dark is the night, only bullets careen cross the steppe” shows just one of the dangers soldiers were facing. Both “Blue Scarf” and “Dark is the Night”, highlight the enduring romances throughout the war, as well as depicting the idea that love and fidelity of women are what drove men to persevere. They both draw the image of a heroic man sacrificing himself to protect his wife who is relying on his valor.
The Soviet Union is not the only country guilty of this romance filled war. The United States also had film and music being produced that honed in on the idea of women waiting for their men to return home safely. “I’ll be Seeing You” by Billie Holiday suggests that war has separated a couple physically, but the hope of return lingers; for example, “I’ll be looking at the moon, but I’ll being seeing you.” “I’m Making Believe” by Ella Fitzgerald is all about a woman imaging herself going through a normal day as if her husband was home with her and not off at war. Both of these songs, as well as the hits from the Soviet Union, depict the triumph of love over war. People needed something more to fight during such an exhaustive and destructive war, the something more happened to be romance.