"About space?" began cosmonaut Dobrovolskiy when asked the inevitable question by the famous space journalist Alexandar Romanov, "I must admit, I never dreamt about it." The interview occurred in July 1969 during the tour by Frank Borman, the first American astronaut to visit the Soviet Union. All the TsPK's cosmonauts -veterans and rookies - gathered in Zvyozdniy to meet the man who commanded the Apollo 8 mission which orbited the Moon in December 1968. Dobrovolskiy had been seated on one of the rear benches, and Romanov took the opportunity to talk to him in advance of Borman's arrival. "I'm from Odessa," Dobrovolskiy continued, "where people dream only of the sea and travelling across the ocean. The majority of my friends joined the navy.''
"But you became a cosmonaut?'' Romanov prompted.
Dobrovolskiy smiled and looked at the sky: "First, there was aviation. I devoted ten years of my life to aviation; my happiest years. I cannot imagine myself without flying. It is an awesome feeling to sit in the cockpit of a plane which is totally in your control. And in front of you - blue heavens! I am still in love with the sky. I'm not saying I 'love' it, rather I'm 'in love' with the sky. But, now I don't fly so much, and without flying, I'm like . . .''
''But in space nothing is really blue,'' Romanov interjected, ''it's black.'' ''In space something else attracts you. I wish so much to look at the Earth from the altitude of space! Gagarin was the first to see her blue aureole. Now we call her the Blue Planet. Listen to how that sounds: the Blue Planet! I don't think the beauty of space could ever extinguish our love for Earth. Do you remember the song with the lyric: 'Anywhere carried away by our rockets, we always return to you, the blue Earth'?''
Although it was brief, this interview painted an accurate picture of Dobrovolskiy. His colleagues, to whom he was Zhora, said he was born to fly. His flying biography includes the phrase: ''He flies calmly.'' This is a very rare description to hear, even when talking of the best pilots. Yes, peace and wellbeing are probably the real words to describe the character and life of Dobrovolskiy, a surname which, fittingly, means "a man of goodwill". Blond, tall, broad-shouldered and tough, he was kind-hearted and had a contagious belly laugh. His accent remained 'broad Odessa', and he had a sense of humour typical of someone from that region. At the Air Force school, his friends nicknamed him 'Odessa', and he was proud of it.
Life was tough on Georgiy Timofeyevich Dobrovolskiy.1 He was born on 1 June 1928 in Odessa on the coast of the Black Sea, in Ukraine. His family was Russian, and lived in the suburb of Blizhniy Melnitza ('the mills neighbourhood'). His father Timofey Trofimovich left when Zhora was two years old, and he was raised by his mother Mariya Alekseyevna. ''She is a marvellous woman,'' he said of his mother. ''She represented an ideal. She faced hardship. Without a husband, she had to work to feed us. Firstly she worked in a shop, then in a cannon factory. No matter how tough her life was, I never saw her complain, be sad, in bad mood or in despair.'' As a little boy Zhora often asked about his father, but his mother did not say and only later did he learn from relatives that his father had been a member of Soviet counterintelligence, and one day had left home and never returned.
Zhora liked his hometown, the sea and the sky. Lying on the shore, he spent hours watching the ships pass by and enjoying the beauty of the cloud formations. He ran and played with his friends on streets which, 20 years previously, a student of the technical high school had walked - Sergey Korolev. Four years prior to Zhora's birth, Korolev designed a light plane and dreamed of rockets and space. A quarter of a century later, they met.
''I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth, and no good fairies brought me
1 TeoprHH TMHO^eeBHq ,0,O6BO.IE.CKHH
gifts," Dobrovolskiy observed. "Of course, I had plenty of catapults and scooters -but I made them myself."
The Second World War had a deep impact on his life. He was 13 years old when it began for the USSR. He recalled how the ships of the Black Sea Fleet put up a heavy barrage against German bombers, illuminating the dark sky with shell bursts and the tracers of machine-gun bullets. But bombs still fell onto the city, destroying buildings and killing many people. In autumn 1941, after 73 days of defending the city, the soldiers of the Red Army and the sailors of the Black Sea Fleet were forced to abandon their positions and evacuate. In the city, only the partisan cells remained to continue to offer resistance. Zhora, who had just finished his sixth grade at high school No. 99, remembered for the rest of his life the day that the invaders entered the town in which he had been born. From behind the corner of one building he saw one young saboteur make a bomb attack on a column of tanks. He wanted so much to participate in the resistance, and soon he was in action. In his first act of sabotage, he and one of his friends punctured the tires of military trucks. But his life changed dramatically when he encountered a real partisan, and then became an enthusiastic member of the underground. He began by providing information on the movements of the enemy forces, and by carrying ammunition. His next action was much braver: one night he and a friend attacked a German soldier. However, knowing that the SS officers were the cruelest, he yearned to kill at least one of them. In February 1944 his neighbour gave him a Beretta revolver. He was so proud. But on setting out for his next action he was stopped near his home, and the revolver that he carried was found. At the local headquarters of the SS he was beaten by a rubber truncheon and subjected to electric-shock torture. He lost consciousness several times. His fingers were broken. As a result of this ordeal, his hands and fingers remained marked. He refused to name his friends, and did not disclose the location of other weapons. At his tribunal he pleaded guilty only to possessing a revolver, for which he received a 25-year sentence of hard labour. In the 23 February 1944 edition of Molya, a news sheet issued by the Nazis during the occupation of Odessa, it was reported that the Military Field Tribunal had ordered "Dobrovolskiy, Georgiy, of Odessa, 5, Pishenin Lane, 25 years of penal servitude for possession of a Beretta revolver which was in working order." In fact, by the standards of the time, he had been treated leniently: all adult saboteurs arrested with a weapon were summarily executed.
Dobrovolskiy had resolved to leap from the lorry which was to take him away. He knew the back streets well, and was sure that he would be able to escape. But his mother came to see him off. Running alongside the truck, she cried: "Don't worry, son. It will be all right.'' He realised that if he tried to escape, the Nazis would seek out his mother to punish her. In fact, the situation was not without hope, because the Red Army was approaching Odessa. On the other hand, this drove the Nazis to ever greater oppression of the city. More than 20,000 people, including many prisoners, were executed, and Zhora feared that the remaining prisoners would be executed as the Nazis prepared to flee from the city. But at the last moment one of his relatives bribed a guard, and on 19 March, after less than a month in prison, Zhora managed to escape. As he made his way home, he saw a large pit full of executed prisoners just outside the city. Three weeks later, the Red Army liberated Odessa. Zhora went to join the Red Army to fight to liberate the entire country, but was refused owing to his age - he was not yet sixteen.
It was difficult to resume the school routine after a three-year hiatus, but under pressure from his mother Zhora passed his seventh and the eighth grades. The war in Europe ended in May 1945. With a strong sense of love of the sea, he applied to enter the Odessa Nautical School but his application was submitted too late and he was unsuccessful. A friend suggested the recently opened Odessa Special Air Force School, observing that there he "would have the new uniform and, more important, good food". Zhora therefore turned to his second love - the sky - and decided to enroll at the Air Force School. This was another of so many strange turns in his life. The Air Force School trained future military pilots. As an 18-year-old student there, Zhora flew solo for the first time. Although still in love with the sea, on discovering the beauty of the blue heavens he knew that the sky would be his life. It was a tough time. He studied during the day, and unloaded ships in port at night. On graduating with a diploma in 1946, he had no difficulty in enrolling at the famous Chuguyev Military School for Air Force Pilots. He achieved maximum scores for his flying skills, but was not so strong on the theory side. He attempted to prepare himself for the physical loads of flying, especially liking dumbbell gymnastics and rod, jumps from a tower into water, and swimming. Remarkably, on one of the school's breaks he had an opportunity to meet his father, who had remarried, and discovered that he had a 16-year-old half-brother, Aleksandar.
In November 1950 Zhora graduated from Chuguyev as a fighter pilot of the Navy and was posted to the Sevastopol aviation regiment in the Donbas region, where he met many experienced pilots, even some who had participated in the Second World War, now working as instructors. Sometimes the 'old' and 'young' pilots simulated 'dog fights' in the air. On one such exercise, Zhora managed to escape one of the attackers commanded by a veteran pilot and then, using a complex manoeuvre, was able to get behind his 'enemy', becoming one of the few young pilots to 'defeat' a veteran. But he would remember this period of his life not for this 'victory', but for an unprecedented event concerning his first love: the sea. One day, while resting on a small hill enjoying the view of the stormy sea, he heard a cry for help and saw the head of girl, completely exhausted, in a foamy spray of pounding waves. Without a second's thought, he jumped into the sea and managed to catch her before she sank. After struggling with the waves, he brought her to the shore. Meanwhile, seeing the drama, several people rushed to assist him. At first the girl was unconscious, but she soon recovered. If he had not spotted her from his position up on the hill, she would certainly have drowned. It was her fate to survive. Many years later, someone with the same determination would pull his body from a landed spacecraft and attempt to save his life - but in vain.
Zhora flew a variety of MiG, Yak and Lavochkin planes in all weather conditions, and often his inner peace and cool thinking enabled him to overcome difficulties. In contrast to many other pilots, he liked parachute jumps, making 111 jumps in total. In fact, when he joined the cosmonaut group he was appointed as an instructor for parachuting. In October 1952, soon after finishing studies at the Evening University of Marxism-Leninism, he was posted to East Germany to defend the border. On the NATO side, he could see American aircraft patrolling. He became fluent in German. In January 1955 he became a deputy squadron commander, responsible for political work, and soon thereafter, at the age of 27, he was promoted to the rank of captain. A local newspaper wrote about him in its serial, 'Story of the Air Combat Masters'. In the autumn of 1956 he was posted once again, this time to the town of Valga in Estonia, pleasantly located by the Baltic Sea. He was very pedantic, always striving for perfection. With his height, stature and looks, he stood out amongst the pilots. On a visit to a local dance club he met Lyudmila Steblyova, a mathematician, and in 1957 they were married.
As a pilot and commander-educator, Zhora began to appreciate that he was weak on the theory side. He decided to enroll for a correspondence course at the Military Aeronautical Academy for Command and Navigation Staff of the Red Army Air Forces.2
Meanwhile, Lyudmila resumed her studies via the correspondence department of Leningrad University. In 1959 she gave a birth to daughter Marina. But when the physicians refused to permit the delighted husband and first-time father to visit his wife and baby, he found himself outside the hospital with a large bouquet of flowers. He had to resort to communicating with his wife via letters! In one, written when Marina was just a few days old, he wrote cheekily: ''I don't believe that she yet does not yet say 'dad'. You are hiding this fact from me; confess!'' To his father he sent a telegram - in fact, a poem - announcing the birth of his daughter.
In July 1961 he graduated from the Air Force Academy, specialising in command headquarters for the Military Air Force. One interesting detail - he passed the exam for fluency in a foreign language in German!
As an aeronautical engineer he continued to fly, served as deputy to the squadron
War time left indelible traces on young Zhora. Left: when he was 14 years of age. And 20 years later, Major Dobrovolskiy with his wife Lyudmila and daughter Marina. (From the book Triumph and Tragedies of Soviet Cosmonautics, courtesy www. astronaut.ru)
2 In 1968 this institution was renamed the Y.A. Gagarin Academy.
commander, headed the political section of the regiment, and was an instructor for parachute jumps. But he also had to become deeply involved with staff management. Although he was extremely happy, he sometimes had difficulty with some of his colleagues and would go home in the evening thoughtful and sad. With his family, however, he was stable, sensitive and attentive. Recalling this period, Lyudmila said that although he could come home exhausted, he was always ready to play with his dear daughter. "He was never violent, never rude, and never insulted me - although, of course, I wasn't always right! Softly and kindly, he knew how to calm my anger, reducing my issues to nonexistent quarrels or pointless conflicts, and then, once the storm had abated, we laughed at the stupidity and absurdity of the dispute. He was very easy to live with.'' His daughter Marina has many good memories: "For me, my father was the closest friend in my life. He always supported me. He used to tell everyone that he had the most beautiful daughter; that she was an excellent student; that she swam expertly; and that she was a remarkable dancer. When saying these things, he would look at me with a big smile. And naturally I would set out to learn something else in order to gain additional praise.''
Three months before Zhora graduated from the Academy, Yuriy Gagarin became the first man to orbit the Earth, and shortly after Zhora's graduation Gherman Titov spent an entire day in space. Across the Soviet Union, young pilots began to talk of making space flights. But Zhora, who at 33 was seven years older than Titov, was not one of them. He presumed that flying in space was for younger men. In any case, he liked to fly aircraft, liked his squadron, and liked to work with young pilots. But then in early 1962 the managers of the space programme decided to recruit military pilots possessing greater experience, test pilots, aeronautical engineers and officers knowledgeable of rocketry to fly the more advanced space missions planned for the future.
Was this article helpful?
The use of dumbbells gives you a much more comprehensive strengthening effect because the workout engages your stabilizer muscles, in addition to the muscle you may be pin-pointing. Without all of the belts and artificial stabilizers of a machine, you also engage your core muscles, which are your body's natural stabilizers.