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Sunday, May 10, 2015

Dyen' Pobyedy/Victory Day

Music stirs us in ways that little else can.  Sometimes I hear a song on the radio, and I am immediately taken back to the time and place I first heard it.  The melody may make me cry, longing for the day that memory happened.  Recently I picked an artist on YouTube to fill the empty spaces in my mind as I was doing a mundane task at work.  Suddenly the song that was sung at my wedding played.  I had forgotten about that song.  My mind went back to that day--the white dress, the flowers, the groom.  I stopped working and just sat, caught up in the dreaminess of our life together.

  Remember that song "We are the World"?  An instant hit in the 80's, Michael Jackson wrote it to raise money for the famine in Ethiopia.   One song, sung by a group of famous musicians successfully captured the compassion of the world.  
 Nations have their songs as well.  Each country has it's own national anthem.  Words that cause us to unify in memory of lives lost for liberty and freedom.  No country does a national holiday as well as Russia does Victory Day.  For weeks leading up to the big day, the military practices with their parade, Red Square is roped off and prepared, orange and black ribbons appear everywhere--tied in hair, on backpacks and on car antennas.  And music plays in the metros.

  I love the nostalgic feeling I get as I ride up and down the elevators in the metro and listen to the music of the 30's float in a tinny melody through the old speakers.  There is one song that I've heard over and over that catches my attention.  A strong male voice, a choir, a band.  It makes me want to march around the station or start dancing a fox-trot.  
   Last night, the girls and I walked from our apartment to a nearby bridge to watch the fireworks, capping off Victory Day.  Red, white and blue swags of lights twinkled along the street.  On one side of the Moscow River was a Seven Sister's building, making a statement in all its grandness.  On the other side of the river stood the Russian White House, a massive white building with the Russian flag flying on top.  Hundreds of people filled the sidewalks of the bridge, taking selfies, laughing, clapping, cheering and singing.  From this location we could see four fireworks displays including Red Square and Victory Park.  As the fireworks began, the street started to fill.  Cars pulled to a stop along the road and people jumped out to watch the displays.  A car door was left open near us and a melody blasted out of the speakers.  It was the same song I had heard in the metros.  It made the experience all the more memorable to me.

 When I got home I hunted the song down.  Den Pobedy, translated literally, is Victory Day.  For the 30th anniversary celebration of the defeat of Nazi Germany, a song competition was held.  Poet Vladimir Kharitonov and composer David Tukhmanov entered Victory Day into the competition.  The judges rejected the song, saying the lyrics were too light and frivolous and the melody was similar to something you would dance the tango or foxtrot to.  Both dances were banned from the Soviet Union at the time.  But beyond the competition, the song quickly grew in popularity.  Today it is one of the most popular songs praising the virtues of the Soviet army.
What has impressed me is how both the young and the old dote on this song.  I can't imagine teens back home, jumping out of cars with old war hats on, waving an American song and blasting tiny choir music from the 30's.  Russia has done an amazing job with ribbons and flowers and songs to keep the memories of those who died for their country alive.

Victory Day, oh how far from us it was,

Like a dwindling ember in a faded fire.
There were miles ahead, burned and dusty
We hastened this day as best we could.
This Victory Day
Air saturated with gunpowder,
It's a holiday
With temples already gray,
It's joy
With tears upon our eyes
Victory Day!
Victory Day!
Victory Day!
Days and nights at blast furnaces,
Our Motherland didn't sleep a wink.
Days and nights a hard battle we fought—
We hastened this day as best we could.
Hello, Mother, not all of us came back...
How I'd like to run barefoot through the dew!
Half of Europe, we have stridden half the Earth,
We hastened this day as best we could!
Chorus x 2