As the old joke has it, "nostalgia is not what it used to be". Not so on the day of the celebration of the anniversary of victory in World War II. Although the Soviet Union's overwhelming role in defeating Hitler is widely accepted, Russia is not the only country celebrating V-Day. This day has particular significance for all nations across the former Soviet Union, and millions of ordinary westerners have always looked back on the wartime sacrifices with pain and mourn. I know from first hand, the celebration of this day never was just another empty ritual of being polite to the memory of dead soldiers and civilians. A distinctive feature of V-Day family celebrations have always been the shift away from the official rhetoric and the war mythology to the individual accounts of family members and veterans close to the family that helped understanding how much we owe them.
I introduce the song Good bye, Boys! performed by the author, poet-bard Bulat Okudzhava. The son of Georgian father and Armenian mother, he was born in Moscow. In 1941, at the age of 17, he volunteered for the Red Army infantry and from 1942 participated in the war with Nazi Germany. After his discharge from the service in 1945, he graduated from the Tbilisi University to become a teacher. The impact of Okudzhava’s songs cannot be underestimated. Although he had no formal training in music, he was one of the founders of the Russian genre called "author's song." He possessed an exceptional melodic gift, and the intelligent lyrics of his songs blended perfectly with his music and his voice. As he had first-hand experience of war, his songs about the war formed an important part of his repertoire. He expressed his personal attitude to the war by focusing on the human sacrifice. He sang in melancholic voice, which became his trademark, to a guitar accompaniment while employed a few chords. His songs feature in numerous references to urban culture on the television and cinema.
This song has been used in soundtrack to the movie Good bye, Boys! (1964) based on the book by the same name. The film looks deceptively simple yet captures precisely the feeling of the innocent, hopeful, and sincere nostalgia for childhood and youth. The film director Michael Kalik rejecting the heroic tone restaged for us the scenes of the pre-war life of a small southern port where young men enjoyed the little things in life while being unaware that "tomorrow the war began." Perhaps the most important achievement of this film is that it enables us to observe the time of the distant and removed, Soviet and naive past.