Sunday, April 12, 2015

Spotted in Canada: A Yuri Gagarin

On this day in 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space. Still in his 20's, Gagarin (pronounced YOUR-ee Guh-GAR-in) shot up from being a household name across Russia to being an international celebrity. His smile lit up the Cold War noted his boss, Sergey Korolev, chief engineer of the Soviet space program.
Gagarin's premature death seven years later was a national tragedy. A seasoned test pilot, Gagarin crashed during a routine training flight. In recent years, conspiracy theories having been ruled out and all fingers point to human error.
Across Russia, numerous memorials honor Gagarin, including a statue here in Rostov-on-Don. According to Wikipedia, Gagarin's body was cremated and his ashes, along with those of his co-pilot, were buried in the Kremlin Wall.

On a decidedly happier note, in perhaps the ultimate tribute to Yuri Gagarin,  his namesake was born summer of 2014 in Canada. Like the Soviet hero, this little fellow is diminutive, likable and bonds quickly with others. But unlike the cosmonaut, young Yuri is 4-footed, barks when excited and eats dog food. Yes, the Canadian Yuri Gagarin is a pure-bred Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta with his owner, Janelle. No word yet as to how lofty his career aspirations.
Janelle and I crossed paths in February 2014 when she came to Russia and volunteered at the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Janelle in Sochi at the Olympic Games. A correspondent by profession, Janelle coordinated the press conference for the Canadian Hockey Team after they won the Gold Medal. (Photo courtesy of Paul Griffin, Facebook).

After the Olympics Games wrapped and before the Special Olympic Games began, Janelle had a weekend planned here in Rostov-on-Don to visit a mutual friend. He asked me to consider hosting Janelle. I remembered my trip abroad scheduled shortly thereafter and said Absolutely not! But that notion changed moments into watching a interview of Janelle for Canadian television, I said, We will make this work! We have Got to be available for this young lady!

And what a delight! Definitely her own person and yet so personable. Janelle has Russian roots several generations back and wanted to honor her great-grandparents who emigrated from Russia to Canada shortly after the Russian Revolution in 1917.

It is what it is. . . a living leg-acy. ;)

Regarding souvenirs, Janelle had but one wish ~ to leave Rostov with a very special tattoo. Prior to her visit, Janelle connected with a Rostov tattoo artist who gave her a permanent tribute to her Russian heritage ~ and to her own Yuri Gagarin, yet unborn.
And so on this anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's historic achievement, we imagine that in Edmonton, Alberta is a frisky little spaniel who wants to celebrate the day playing fetch, his feet firmly planted on planet earth.

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