Today Russia celebrates День Победы (Victory Day) celebration is right around the corner. На кануне Дня Победы по телевизору показывают много старых фильмов про войну (On the eve of the Victory Day a lot of old war movies are shown on TV). With fewer and fewer ветераны (veterans) left, much of what we know about war, aside from школьные учебники (textbooks) comes from these movies. So let’s watch one of the old Soviet movies about Великая Отечественная война (the Great Patriotic War).
The movie is called Они сражались за Родину (They Fought for Their Land). Available on Mosfilm’s YouTube channel (Part 1 and Part 2), it is digitally remastered and subtitled in English. You can watch and understand much of what’s going on in this movie even if you are just beginning to learn Russian.
The plot is quite straightforward. It’s the summer of 1942 and Soviet troops continue to retreat further and further after a seemingly endless string of defeats. The movie follows a what’s left of a полк (regiment) of infantry soldiers as they are ordered to take the defensive positions near a small village on the Don river. Their impossible mission is to defend the river crossing against overwhelming Nazi forces, including tanks and carpet bombing.
While much of the dialogue is not exactly how people talk nowadays, some words and phrases are still widely used and you might come across them in general conversation.
Мы люди не гордые – we aren’t so proud (not to do or accept something)
Мамаша – mother; this can be a generic, if very informal way of addressing an older (usually much older) woman. You might come across such informal addresses, including тётя, дядя, дочка, сынок, бабуля, браток. This doesn’t imply blood relations as in Бабуля, не подскажешь, как до рынка дойти (Little grandma, could you tell me how to get to the market)
Подпустить поближе – let (it) come closer
Умыть кого-либо – lit. to wash someone’s face – to teach someone a lesson (usually in a humiliating way)
Пустой человек – lit. an empty person; this is usually said about someone who is all flash and no substance, also поверхностный человек
Дай бог всякому – lit. may god give same to everyone – this is usually added to emphasize how good things are, as in работа у меня прекрасная, дай бог всякому (I have a wonderful job, may God give the same to everyone).
Долетался – lit. he’s done flying – this is said when something unpleasant happened to whoever was flying (in the movie the Nazi plane gets shot down). This construct – prefix «до» + reflexive form of an action verb – are used often to say that something bad happened to someone as a result of his own опрометчивые (ill-advised) actions. Other examples would be допрыгался, доигрался, доискался, довыступался, etc. However, it’s not a strict rule since, for example, a verb договорился means that someone has reached an agreement.
Смотри в оба – lit. Look with both eyes – be on guard
Фартить, подфартить – this sounds funny in English, but it simply means to have things going your way or having all the luck.
Отвяжись от меня – leave me alone
Смышлёный – clever, bright as in дочка у меня такая смышлёная, лучшая ученица в классе (my daughter is so bright, the best student in class). This adjective is usually applied to children or young adults.
Пришёл, увидел, победил – I came, I saw, I conquered
Чёрствое слово – unkind word; lit. stale word.
Победа будет за нами – Victory will be ours.
As the movie ends, the unit is ready to move on, this time to Stalingrad… Have you seen other Soviet movies about WWII? What is your favorite?