For Your Ears Only

The following lyrics are from Their Difficult Work Is Called Spying, a compilation of songs beloved by the Russian secret police. The CD was compiled last winter for the exclusive enjoyment of the Foreign Intelligence Service on the occasion of its eightieth anniversary.

Translated from the Russian by Boris Fishman

The Nation’s Spies

We are the spies of our glorious nation,
We take pride in our great state.
Charged with the safety of our land,
We’ve shrouded history in glory.

Beyond its vast frontiers
We faithfully maintain our vow.
What we do on invisible battlefields,
Russia, only you will ever know.

Glory, proud glory,
To this mighty nation’s spies,
To our sacred devotion
To courage and honor.

We remember all our comrades
Who weren’t meant to return,
Who perished in invisible fires.
Until their last, they performed their sacred duty.

Folks proud of our beginnings
Grow up behind our walls.
Our strength is in our replacements,
The falcons of the new intelligence.

A Friend Leaves on Assignment

No speeches, just a silent farewell,
May good fortune accompany him.
A friend leaves on assignment.
It’d be easier to leave in his place.

Wish him an accurate drop-off,
A loyal support team, reliable contacts,
And hope that he scrambles out of a swamp
If the wind carries him there.

That he achieves the objectives
Laid out on headquarters’ maps.
A friend leaves on assignment.
Wish him good luck.

And that during invisible clashes
On the fronts of wars undeclared
The resolute bullet avoids him
And victory finds him instead.

But tomorrow, a telephone call
Will wake you at night
And the errand car will set off
Down slumbering streets.

Even if destiny laughs at predictions,
When you shake his hand for the last time,
Wish your friend a fond farewell
And tell him you’ll see him again.


Day like night and night like day,
No way to get some rest.
A mine explodes somewhere nearby.
Amid bright streaks of infernal fire
We carry out our orders.

Only yesterday, my friend said
We’ll be going home soon.
But a sniper didn’t know
And made other plans for him.

Hard to figure out this war,
Who’s right and who’s wrong.
The one who shoots at night
During the day walks smiling among us.

Spying burns all bridges,
No posthumous medals for us.
They put up crosses for us back home,
Stars blazing overhead.

Don’t be sad, have a smoke,
Move close to the campfire,
And ask God to watch over us tomorrow.
We’ll reminisce about our mothers and our homes
And dream of returning one day
If only somehow they don’t kill us.

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