By Yuri Nagibin
There are people for whom stars hold a great significance…
“My dear, I approach the window and see through the whirling and swirling clouds, the lone stars of the never ending heavens. No, you will not fall! God keeps you and I safe in his heart. I see the stars of the Waggoner, the most inviting of all the constellations,” wrote Werther in his last letter to Lotte, after which a shot rang out.
Werther was the pseudonym of young Goethe and all of Goethe’s passion and torment was bestowed upon him.
“Yuri was a strange boy,” recalls Anna Timofeevna Gagarina. “He was always pestering me, ‘Mama, why are the stars so beautiful?’ He’d clench his fist so pitifully, as if his heart hurt. ‘Well why? Why are they so beautiful?’ I remember once, still during the occupation, I told him, ‘The people call them out with divine dew or divine tears.’ He pondered that, shook his head and said, ‘If there were a God, we wouldn’t have the Germans.’ He didn’t give the stars back to God…”
When Gagarin was already a sergeant at the flight academy he visited his parents while on leave. Having heard that her son had a fiancé in Chkalov, Anna Timofeevna constantly asked him, “Well, what’s out future daughter-in-law like?”
“Well how can I explain it?” said Gagarin shrugging.
“But it’s so terribly interesting!”
“But I already showed you her photograph.”
“What’s a photograph? Nothing but a dead picture. Of course she has a pretty face, but what’s behind it? What’s she like?”
“I don’t know how to express it,” he said lost.
The conversation turned to stars that shined above them on that clear August night. Gagarin looked up and was blinded by a large dazzling and radiant star.
“There, she’s like that star!” he exclaimed joyously.
His mother seriously and unblinkingly looked at the twinkling light of the star.
“I understand. Marry her sonny; she’s a very good girl…”
“A unique human document.” That’s the recording of Gagarin’s communication with the Earth. Between Cedre and Dawn during that famous fight. The whole of Gagarin’s courageous, joyful, and deep soul is in that conversation. He was at times sentimental, at times sarcastic, and at times cheeky. Like when he recognized the voice of Leonov and yelled, “My regards to Blondie! I’m going further!” How sincerely, honestly, and trustingly he expressed it, “I now see a star in the right illuminator…The star is gone, its going, its going!”
When German Titov returned from his flight he told Gagarin, “You know, in space the stars don’t twinkle.”
Gagarin became a little pensive.
“You know I didn’t get a chance to notice,” he replied with a sigh. “I made all of one orbit.”
“You’ll see next time.”
“Just you wait…”
However there was no next time and Gagarin himself became a star. More welcoming than the most welcoming stars of the Waggoner; in the “heavens guarded by God.”
No date – From an anthology published in 1977
Translated by me…also published in Sovlit’s Thin Journal