"Nothing sounds romantic in Russian," I said.
"Nothing. But if you wanted to say 'I love you,' it would be 'Ya tebya lyubyu.'"
This was greeted with great laughter.
Not that Russians are unacquainted with amour: they have a bittersweet folk song titled Katyusha about a young girl who is singing for her beloved gone to war. The tune is quintessentially Russian. Listen for yourself.
Rendered in English, the song goes thus:
Apple and pear trees were blooming,
Mist was creeping on the river.
Katyusha set out on the banks,
On the steep and lofty bank.
She was walking, singing a song
About a grey steppe eagle,
About her true love,
Whose letters she was keeping.
Oh you song! Little song of a maiden,
Head for the bright sun.
And reach for the soldier on the distant border
Along with greetings from Katyusha.
Let him remember an ordinary girl,
And hear how she sings,
Let him preserve the Motherland,
The same as Katyusha preserves their love.
The name Katyusha is a diminutive of Katya, which is itself a diminutive of Katarina. During WWII the Soviets gave the name Katyusha to one of their screeching rockets.