Love during wartime: Hemingway, Bogart, Bacall, Vertinsky

Love during wartime: Hemingway, Bogart, Bacall, Vertinsky

We’re living through history happening in front of our very own eyes — but what can we learn from the past when it comes to love, war and love during wartime? It’s impossible to conquer love, even amidst the chaos and the world spiraling into the abyss of madness. Love has prevailed and flourished not only in idyllic conditions of a beautiful and stable life but also in times where every day could be your last. Relationships are as essential for a person as food, water, and air. Therefore, we’d like to recall some of the most famous couples who went through war horror together. For comfort and hope. So, here are 4 unbelievable military love stories that are more romantic than some of the best war romance movies and novels.

Farewell: Ernest Hemingway & Agnes von Kurowsky

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Ernest Hemingway’s war romance books are very well known all over the world. But what do we know about the writer himself? At the beginning of World War I, 18-year-old Ernest Hemingway sailed to Europe as a Red Cross volunteer. Within six months, the young American will be wounded and shell-shocked by the bombings, later taken unconscious to the Milan hospital. This will begin the story of fatal love, which the writer remembers for the rest of his life. A Polish nurse took care of the soldier, was on duty at night near his bed, all of which started their romantic relationship. On the day of his 19th birthday, Hemingway proposed to Agnes — but she refused. 

Even with his wives, Hemingway would visit places where his romance with Agnes once bloomed — for the memories of his biggest love 

She already knew about her transfer to the Florence hospital and that their separation was inevitable. Returning to his homeland in 1919, Hemingway continues to desperately write letters and propose to her, but Agnes is already engaged to someone else. The writer expressed his suicidal tendencies around that time: he went through an episode of fever and depression. Many years later, the American writer admits that love this passionate never happened in his life again, and even with his wives, he would still travel to Italy — to the very places where his romance with Agnes once flourished.

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 Marina Abramović’s parents met in the trenches — quite literally

Military Hollywood: Humphrey Bogart & Lauren Bacall

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Humphrey Bogart gave us a lot of war romance movies, including Casablanca, which is definitely the most iconic war romance movie of all time. Young Bogart served in the US Navy from the very beginning of World War I. It’s where he got the legendary scar, which later became his brand and a sign of masculinity in Hollywood. When the actor met Lauren Bacall, World War II was already in full swing. And although Hollywood didn’t stop producing films during that time, most of the actors went to the frontline. Bogart, as a former officer, was cooperating with United Service Organizations and traveled to Italy and North Africa with his first wife. It soon became obvious to both Bogart and Bacall that their feeling was more than just a fling. But both came to the conclusion that getting divorced and even more so stopping army trips was not just anti-patriotic, but plain immoral. Only in 1945, the actor returns to his usual life, separates from his wife, and on May 21, 1945, marries Lauren at his friend’s house — screenwriter Louis Bromfield. They stayed together for 12 years until Bogart's death in 1957. Their love story was even more romantic than the love story in Casablanca.

Maple Leaves: Vojo and Danica Abramović

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The parents of the famous Serbian artist Marina Abramović met in the trenches — no metaphors. Marina's father, Vojo, was the commander of the Yugoslavian army, and Danica was a major. Both participated in partisan activities. Their military love story began in Yugoslav forests. Until the very end of the war, they were keeping their war romance platonic, but after the victory upon returning to Belgrade, they got married immediately. Vojo was declared a national hero, the family was surrounded by honors and privileges from the state, honorary positions, and allocated a huge living space. When Marina was born in 1946, the Abramović were already one of the most prosperous families in Belgrade. Subsequently, Danica Abramović became the director of the Museum of the Revolution in Belgrade: it was her who contributed to Marina’s first step into the arts.

Some interesting facts:

  • During the Great Patriotic War, 170,000 couples got married in Moscow alone.
  • A magazine "Models of the Season" was published in the USSR all the way up until 1943.
  • Valentine's Day was born during the time of bloody wars under Claudius II
  • In World War I, European fashion magazines would publish wardrobe advice amidst the shelling 
  • There were 80,000 women among officers of the Soviet army during the Great Patriotic War.

Despite the artist’s financial struggles and still being married, Lydia accepted his offer and agreed to wait for his divorce

Bohemian Rhapsody: Alexander Vertinsky & Lydia Tsirgvava

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The Russian chansonnier came to Harbin in 1935, but six months later Manchuria was captured by Japan. After moving to Shanghai, where a large Russian-speaking diaspora settled, Vertinsky met a 17-year-old Georgian beauty, and sparks flew between them. As both later described in their memoirs, it was love at first sight, with trust and confidence in their desire to spend their lives together. In 1937, Shanghai also passed to Japan, World War II began in Europe, and the lives of Russian migrants were rapidly changing their course. Despite the artist’s financial struggles and still being married, Lydia accepted his offer and agreed to wait for his divorce. The divorce papers were obtained only in 1941 when Russia was already battling full-on. At the height of the war, in 1942, Vertinsky and Tsirgvava got married in the Orthodox Cathedral of Shanghai. In 1943, they came to the USSR, and the artist immediately went to the front line with front-line concert brigades. The rest is history: love and romance in war, loyalty, family life, two incredible actresses Marianna and Anastasia, as well as a series of bright and original roles of Tsirgvava in Soviet cinema.

Katya Shaposhnikova


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