38. ‘All in this together’

It’s hard to say ‘Goodbye’

'I see Earth, it is so beautiful. We must be careful not to break it'. Yuri Gagarin

'I see Earth, it is so beautiful. We must be careful not to break it'. Yuri Gagarin

The trouble is, I really got to like Yuri. The more I have learned about him, the more I envy those who had a chance to meet him in real life. I’m not someone who is comfortable with hero-worship, but then, Major Yuri Gagarin doesn’t seem to be that kind of hero. He seems to have had an inner core of frankness and straightforwardness that appealed to everybody he met.

Not much that was good came out of the Cold War, and it is easy to forget today how much it weighed on everybody’s spirits at the time. Gagarin seemed almost to be able to step out of the propaganda machine, even in his Soviet Major’s uniform, and to say to people ‘There are bigger things than those that divide us.’

It was a testament, not to my work, but to Yuri’s status and personality, that I arrived home one day last year to find first a Russian and then a Ukrainian TV news crew wanting to talk about the book.
It is encouraging to find that he is still recognised as a major figure in the former USSR, but  in the West, his name has been too much dimmed by time and the after-effects of propaganda.

If Yuri’s Day helps in any way to bring his story to another generation, on both sides of the former Cold War divide, it will perhaps have been another small step out from under the shadow of that conflict, and into a world that he saw for the first time, and which the Apollo astronauts who followed after him showed us in the famous ‘Blue Planet’ photograph taken from the Moon: That we really are ‘all in this together’, and that if all the effort of space exploration leads to nothing else than that realisation, it may still prove to be the most valuable thing mankind has ever done.

This entry was posted in Making a Graphic Novel, The Space Race, YURI's DAY. Bookmark the permalink.

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