Wait For Me

Nolan and I have been watching the DVD series The World At War over the past few weeks. He’s turned into a major WW2 buff, recently reading The Rise & Fall of the Third Reich, Band of Brothers, and many other books.

A recent episode we watched was called Red Star and detailed the seige of Leningrad by the Nazi’s during 1941-43. During the already moving footage and interviews, Sir Laurence Olivier read two Russian poems that touch the heart. I’ve posted the second poem here.

The first was written in 1941 by a young Soviet officer, Konstantin Simonov. Today he is regarded as arguably Russia’s greatest poet. At the time he was unknown. Wait For Me was intended for his girlfriend Valentina Serova but ended up being published in Pravda. Soldiers cut it out of the paper, copied it out as they sat in the trenches, learned it by heart and sent it back in letters to wives and girlfriends. It was found in the breast pockets of the killed and wounded. Here is one translation of the poem.

Wait For Me

Wait for me, and I’ll return
Only wait very hard
Wait when you are filled with sorrow
Wait in the sweltering heat
Wait when the others have stopped waiting,
Forgetting their yesterdays.
Wait even when from afar no letters come to you
Wait even when others are tired of waiting…
And when friends sit around the fire,
Drinking to my memory,
Wait, and do not hurry to drink to my memory too.
Wait. For I’ll return, defying every death.
And let those who do not wait say that I was lucky.
They will never understand that in the midst of death,
You with your waiting saved me.
Only you and I know how I survived.
It’s because you waited, as no one else did.


9 thoughts on “Wait For Me

  1. Again, how nice of you to post such poignant poetry….The world at war series should be a part of the High School Sophomore curriculum. Thanks again…



  2. I love this poem, I genrally don’t like poetry that I find, but when I heard this on a documentary I connected with the poem, Thank you for giving a good translation.


    • ‘Red Star’ is in many ways the most moving of the World at War episodes (#11). The music & poetry are heart wrenching, but it is the ending, where the interviewees (who lived through it all) simply stare into the camera in silence, which makes this particular programme unique & unforgettable.


  3. I was watching world at war and I listened to this poet twice , for some reasons it has astonished me and I do relate to it somehow, thanks for having the time to put it on the blog.


  4. I recommend that people listen to Laurence Oliver reading the two poems in “Red Star” and do a transcription of his reading. Both readings to me contain the most stunning translations available. There is such an economy of words that the poems go straight to the heart. I have seen many translations, most leave out significant lines heard in the Olivier reading in both poems, a shame.


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