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108 Minutes

108 Minutes April 12, 1961. Leningrad. Central Artillery Courses for Officers. It was a usual working day. Suddenly the door opened, one of the students rushed, he was out of breath , and he informed The Space ship is launched in the USSR! It, s operated by a test pilot major Gagarin. Oh, my God! How long with great impatience we were waiting for this moment. We believed and didn ,t believe, we were afraid the Americans would be the first, although it wasn,t important

All Mankind was waiting for this flight! And now the Man is in Space. Hurray! Nevertheless it is unexpectedly a lot of questions where and how it happened, the Ship construction, the major,s age, what is he like and so on and so forth. Our studies were stopped and we rushed to Assembly Hall, where TV set Record was placed. We saw a young, smiling man on the screen. He is in a uniform, a helmet is on his head. Thus how Gagarin looks! We gazed on the screen and for the hundredth time listened to TASU information about the first Man,s flight into Space. We hoped to find out any details about this flight. But that,s all, the flight was over. Those 108 staggering minutes marked the beginning of Mankind Space Era.

We were asked to be present at the meeting in an hour. It was devoted to that event. I took two Whatman papers glued them and sitting in front of the TV set I drew Yuriy Gagarin,s portrait and wrote some words. I drew it in time I was pleased to see his portrait represented to people who took part in that meeting.

The Soviet officer and the representatives of Council of Economy of Mutual Air were present as well. I remember the words of Checkoslovakian Army officer. He told: Russia imported needles from abroad before revolution but could step into space for such short period of time. We are proud of you. And we think this flight is ours as well! And a grey haired lieutenant-colonel, one of our teachers, speaking about the importance of this flight, pointed to the portrait and said The artist is absolutely right writing the words that Gagarin, s flight is a heroic deed of all Soviet people. After meeting we went out to spring Leningrad streets. We joined total exultation, we stopped in front of the shop windows where switched on TV sets were exhibited. I remember the interview of a sailor who cried Yura! when he saw Gagarin,s portrait. It was found to be his mate in basketball games in their yard. Everybody wanted to know any news, information about the First Cosmonaut.

Spontaneous processions, meetings, speeches
People carried quickly made placards . The texts were full of emotions: Yura, you are firstling! Hurray! We are in Space! All of Us will be there! We Are the First Again.
And we young officers of 26-27 years old, of the same age with him, were walking about Leningrad and felt to be connected with that event a little bit. In the evening we felt tired and went to the restaurant to have a bite. Kosmonavtiki ( You are our Cosmonauts) said the waitress gently.

In a couple of weeks we finished our studies and went home. I met the first of May in my native Podmoskoviye, the region is not far from Moscow. I met my former teacher in the street, she asked me to come to school and to tell the kids about Space, rockets. When I entered the Assembly Hall in my uniform I heard a loud whisper A cosmonaut, a cosmonaut. I told the kids about space speeds, about rockets and about the reasons why the military pilot was sent in to space. And when I described the approximate dimensions of space rockets one kid decisively declared. That, s all. I,ll be a cosmonaut. It happened so I was happy to be on the Red Square in the end of the summer of the same year.
The second cosmonaut, German Titov was met by people. I was not far from the Mausoleum and when the procession began walking I found myself in the first row. And when I came up to the tribune I gave in to total exultant and cried Long Live the Space Brothers! N.S Khruschev hugged Gagarin and Titov who stood next to him and waked us with his hat. And at this moment a wish to paint the canvas about the first Space Flight was born in me.
In five years I left the Army and began to work in a monumental workshop in Moscow. And some years later after studying in Stroganovka I went to work to Kirgizhia, to Tamga village, situated on the beach of Issyk-Kul lake. It was a health resort the warm Kirgizhian sea surrounded with magnificent mountains, picturesque canyons and waterfalls. There were therapeutic mud-baths, Radon baths and Sport-Health complex there. Many cosmonauts liked that health resort and came here to rest. And of course Yuriy Gagarin was here the first . His stay there was very short as his first flight as well some hours all in all.
Escorted by officers Y.A. Gagarin walked about the territory of the health resort. He refused from dinner but went to Barskaunskoey canyon, to waterfalls then he had a trip about Issyk-Kul in a passenger boat. People from nearest villages gathered on the beach of Tamginsraya bay to that time. One of them came up to Gagarin and said with great surprise Yura, we thought you were a huge giant but you weren ,t.
Gagarin smiled and answered There is no need to be tall and strong to fly into Space. My flight became possible only due to lab our of scientists, designers and creators of Space technology.
Five years passed. I began to forget the details of this visit. But once upon a time, the photographer who lived at that place asked me to write on a big rock near the waterfall the following words Gagarin was there, August 1964. I did it. But soon I regretted about it. Other memorial inscriptions such as Vanya +Manya,Abyla + Adyla appeared there.
Soon all the rock was spoiled with autographs of savages. I felt sorry of this spoiled rock At the end of the 70,th cosmonaut Leonov came to Tamga to rest. The Commander of the Troops invited him to hunt in the region of waterfalls. According to the tradition the guests visited memorial Gagarins Rock. When Leonov saw the spoiled rock he was indignant and suggested to remove all the inscriptions and to write only one word Gagarin or to fasten the memorial board with Yura ,s portrait to that rock. I was told about Leonov ,s wish. And I began to design Gagarin ,s rock into Gagarin ,s monument.

I hoped my of long standing dream would come true. The collective farm Barskoon agreed to order this project. This rock was on their land. In a couple of months the project was ready. My friend and me demonstrated it to the Board of that collective farm. My friend, Vadim Kapustin is a journalist and photographer. The project was approved and was taken to Regional Committee to coordinate it. They liked the idea to set up the monument but they decided to invite the local sculptors from their capital. However, creators , demanded the price ten times more than mine. And of course , the collective farm refused from this order. Soon I left for Leningrad to work but I went on to come to Tamga on my leave. And all these years Vadim Kapustin pushed the idea to create the monument. He discussed it with cosmonauts and workers who came here from Baykonur, space vehicle launching site. The idea to collect Money from volunteers was born, thus to build the monument.

I was persuaded to continue to create the monument. However the so called art historians from Organization from Preventing Theft Misappropriation of Socialist property hinted me that voluntary donation were out of law. Then I decided not to lose time in vain to get money. I came to conclusion that I would build the monument to Y. Gagarin free of charge. The only point was to get building materials.

I was a teacher in Odessa State College by Grekov,s name at that time. That, s why I could use my two months leave to go to Kirgiziya. And in 1989 I began my work at last. The building materials, clay, ferro-concrete reinforcement, welding equipment were brought to the canyon. My friends helped me. But August was over and I came back to Odessa. My work was temporarily stopped. Next year I returned to Tamga but before that I told some of my students about my work. They wished to see the Tyan-Shan (the mountains). I started to my place of work with special feelings but I found nothing-neither materials nor frame, everything was dropped into the river. Only the rock with its wonderful signs, was on its place. Besides two big yurtas (nomad, s tent in Central Asia) appeared there. The cooperators used them as Shashlychnaya and Snack Bar. The cooperators told me that a month ago the Party Leaders had been there and the work had been banned, the Shashlychnaya and Snack Bar were told to destroy. Thus they put everything in order. I was indignant and went to Regional Party Committee. The cooperators asked me to help them too or otherwise they would prevent from my work. The second secretary listened to me attentively, asked me to wait a little bit and left me. Then she came back and invited me to the first secretary. She asked me to repeat the history of the monument birth again. I found out that the building had been banned by him personally. Now he was in front of me. He exclaimed If somebody told me the story told by you I would do nothing to prevent from your work. Go and work, nobody will prevent from your creation. But the bazaar (market) will be cleared off. Nobody will litter the territory around the monument. And tell them if they resist we shall send militia to solve this problem. I came back to Tamga and told everything to sanatorium direction . They promised to help what they could do. Soon five students from Odessa arrived and the work was in full swing. The tourist camp of three tents and fire appeared near the future monument. V.Kapustin sent his son, the tourist centre sent a stazher, sanatorium direction sent us meal.

We worked from sunrise up to sunset. We had breaks only on Sundays to climb the mountains. It was decided to unveil monument ceremonially in the end of August. It reminded the flying starplane with its shape and sizes 6x4.5x12m.
Gagarin, s portrait in space helmet is placed on the front side of the rock. The rock itself was painted as if it were a bronze alloy (fusion). Five days before my work was over the workers for territory improvement around the monument arrived. We put the memorial sign in front of the site. It says that the first cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin visited this place.
That, s all. We commemorated one of the Greatest Sons of our Great People. All the difficulties were overcome. Our enthusiasm, love and respect to the first cosmonaut and people who created this space technology helped us in creative work. We were proud of our old lapotnaya Russia that began the opening up of the Space.

Valentin Dmitrievich Barskov
10 Transportnaya str. Ap 111
Odessa- 39
Ukraine 65039
h/tel +38048 776 02 96,
mobile +38098 063 93 09,
e-mail: feninaz@ukr.net

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