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Anna Marly, Russian muse of French Resistance

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Anna Marly

Anna Marly was a Russian born French singer-songwriter, associated with the best known song of the French resistance during World War II - "Chant des Partisans" (The Song of Partisans).

Anna Marly (30 October 1917 - 15 February 2006), was born into a Russian noble family living in Saint Petersburg during the October Revolution. Her father, Yuri Betoulinsky belonged to an aristocratic family connected by family ties to poet Mikhail Lermontov, philosopher Nicholas Berdyaev and Pyotr Stolypin. Her mother was a descendant of the Greek-Russian noble family of Alferaki. Yuriy Betulinski was arrested and executed before Marly's first birthday. The rest of the family, along with a number of other White Russian refugees, fled across the Finnish border shortly after this, eventually settling in the French town of Menton. In her youth Marly had worked as a ballet dancer in Monte Carlo, and been taught by the Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev. By the age of 17 she was performing her own compositions in the cabaret clubs of Paris, it was at this time that she adopted the name "Marly", supposedly selecting it from a telephone directory, her original name, "Betoulinsky", being too difficult for French speakers to pronounce.

In 1938 she married a Dutch diplomat; after the fall of France in June 1940, they escaped via Spain and Portugal, eventually reaching London in the spring of 1941. Her most famous song "Chant des partisans," (Song of the partisans) was written in Russian after she became aware of the bloody battles of Great Patriotic War in Russia and partisan resistance. It was soon included in Marly's repertory and became a hit.

In London Anna made contact with the Free French rebels. Emmanuel d'Astier, a prominent figure in the resistance, heard Marly sing the "Chant des Partisans" (Song of the Partisans) in Russian when he visited London in 1943. He asked the writers Joseph Kessel and Maurice Druon, both of whom had travelled with him, to translate the song into French. D'Astier asked for the translation with the intention of using the song as a replacement for La Marseillaise, which had been banned by the Nazi party. The song "Chant des Partisans" became the single most famous song associated with Free French fighters and the resistance. Joining the forces entertainment service Ensa, Anna sang in English, French, Russian and Czech. She returned to Paris in July 1945, and sang her song in front of General de Gaulle. In later years there were disagreements with Druon and Kessel, who were sometimes wrongly credited with sole authorship of the song, which was re-christened Le Chant de la Libération. But Anna's contribution was finally acknowledged.

After the war, she divorced her husband and married another Russian refugee, George Smiernov. In the 1950s they lived mostly in south America, while Anna continued to tour and write songs. Anna Marly became an American citizen in 1965. The renewed interest in Anna's work led to the publication of a book of Chants de la Résistance et de la Libération. Her autobiography, "Anna Marly: Troubadour de la Résistance", appeared in 1980 and later she brought out a book of stories, "Les Fables d'Anna Marly pour Rire et Réflechir de 9 à 99 Ans". One of the things that pleased her most later in life was the knowledge that her songs were becoming known in Russia. With her own original words, "The Song of the Partisans" had come back to its homeland.

In her book of memories Anna Marly admitted that she often wanted to come to Russia with her songs, but the lable of the émigré made her feel uncomfortable. After 2000 her relationship with Russia and Russians started to develop. She made connection with the "Voice of Russia" radio statio and "Moskvichki" Union. Due to this relationships, her first Russian book "The Way home" was published. It includes songs, fables, lyrics, personal correspondence. The name Anna Yurievna Smiernova-Marly became known for the wide audience on Russia after the film "Russian muse of the French resistance" as a part of the series "Russians without Russia" released on Russian TV.

Anna Marly, singer and songwriter, the author of more then 300 songs, including "A Song in Triple Time" ("Une chanson à trois temps") for Édith Piaf and "La complainte du partisan" (known as "The Partisan"). In the United States, "The Partisan" gained popularity when Leonard Cohen released it in 1969 and Joan Baez in 1972. Many French singers have recorded "Chant des partisans," including Yves Montand in 1955. In recognition of the importance of "Le chant des partisans" Marly was named a chevalier de La Légion d'Honneur by François Mitterrand in 1985, the fortieth anniversary of the liberation of France. Anna Marly died in Alaska, the USA in 2006.


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