Science & Technology

Gagarin, the peasant who opened the window to the cosmos

By Fernando Salcines

Klushino, Russia, Apr 11 (EFE).- It has been 60 years since Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to journey into space, something his niece recalls in an interview with Efe.

“He was the son of peasants and his noble soul arose from the earth,” Tamara Filatova says. “He went from plowing to machines, graduated as a foundryman and later studied at the air academy. His path to the cosmos was very difficult,” Filatova, 74, adds with a smile during an interview in Klushino, where Gagarin was born in 1934.

Filatova is an advisor to the Gagarin Museum, which has outposts in Klushino and in Gagarin, formerly known as Gzhatsk.

Kloshino and the surrounding Smolensk Oblast to the west of Moscow, was scarred by the brutal Nazi occupation in World War II.

The period “forged” Gagarin’s character, his niece and goddaughter adds.

The Nazis expelled Gagarin’s family from their home in 1941 and forced them to live an inhumane existence in a so-called zemlyanka, a kind of mud hut, in the backyard.

The house and the shelter, reconstructed following Gagarin’s death in 1968, now host personal objects and Gagarin family photographs.

In an interview with Efe outside the wooden house, Filatova says that after miraculously surviving the Nazi occupation, the family moved to the city of Ghzatsk, some 20 kilometers to the south, which is where Gagarin spent his adolescence and school years.

Months after the tragic death of the cosmonaut, Gzhatsk was renamed Gagarin in his honor.

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