Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Reflections 2

I had one Cultural Visit I did not write about before. We visited a museum of the first female cosmonaut who was born near Yaroslavl.

I grew up on the other side of the ocean from all the celebrations in the then USSR. According to our TV it was not a good thing USSR was first in space. Seeing a picture of the cosmonauts with Nikita Kruschev, arms raised in triumph – over outer space? over the US? – brought back lots of memories of pounding shoes and bomb shelters. It was a long time ago. But it took awhile to process in the present.

I marveled, too, at how I totally missed a woman going up since I have long supported equal rights. So I checked out distracting events in June of ’63. Governor George Wallace stood in the door of a school to stop integration. Pope John 23 died. A female cosmonaut did not register. Which was really too bad. She has an amazing story of being no one very famous or well trained but ready to work hard.

As much as I was rattled by the post-Soviet era from a distance, the people in Russia right now are living it in two generations. The older remember what they describe as the dictatorship era. Their biggest complaint (to us) is that they could not travel. The younger staff I worked with was in diapers when the USSR broke up. They have not known Communism except as another party in the elections. How will that change the attitude and priorities of Russia in the next 20 years? Fascinating.

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