On April 12th 1961, Major Yuri Alexeyevich Gagarin became the first man in space – he spent 108 minutes in orbit. The published report at the time that he had landed in his capsule was a propaganda lie. He had in fact ejected and parachuted to the ground from a height of 7,000 m/4.35 miles.
Wild Flowers for a Starman
I was helping babushka
cleaning the potato beds
There are two kinds of wild flower
Babushka always said. The bad ones:
we pull them up and throw them in a pile.
The good ones, the pretty ones: I am allowed to pick
and keep. I take them home and put them in a vase
in my room sometimes, but usually on the table.
We had never seen such a creature
as the one that came across the field.
Babushka crossed herself
and pulled me to her side.
But I wanted to know what it was.
It looked a bit like a man, but dressed all in orange
and on his head was a big white bowl with a glass to see.
He slowly took off the bowl; inside it was just a man after all.
Babushka asked him a funny thing:
“Is it possible you have come from outer space?”
Yes, he said, yes , but he was Russian like us!
“Look!” he said. On the head bowl it said C.C.C.P.
He had been to space
and come back again.
He wanted to telephone
To telephone Moscow!
No-one from Smelovka had ever telephoned Moscow!
Babushka was always helpful,
so she told him the way to go.
I reached up to him on my toes
and gave him my good flowers.
“I am Rita, I am six.” I said.
“Welcome to Earth”
“Welcome to Mother Russia.”
His name was Yuri.