Shuttle-Mir Stories

John Blaha

Blaha on Life in Russia

For the U.S. Mir astronauts, training was intense, but they did what they could do to experience Russia. In his Oral History, John Blaha describes his life in Russia while training for his mission.

He says, "Every Saturday evening Brenda and I would go into Moscow to dine at a restaurant or go to a theater. We especially enjoyed the concerts, ballets, and plays. We also made two overnight trips to St. Petersburg, spent the weekend, and returned to Moscow Monday morning. We felt like real tourists during these trips. Brenda, of course, had a lot more time to learn about Russia than me (I was having to study all of my courses in the Cosmonaut training program). Therefore Brenda and I saw Russia a little differently.

"The way I could explain this best is by describing what occurred when I returned to my home in Houston ...

"Brenda said, 'John, look at these two beautiful books I've put together on our experience in Russia.' I thought, 'Man, that's great, Brenda. So I opened them up. I started looking through the albums. There were pictures and there were words written below the pictures. After I looked at the albums I said, 'Brenda, these are really great books, but that's not what I saw of Russia.'"

Blaha describes what he saw as, "a desk in a small little room in my apartment, where I was studying my lesson material."

And on a "typical workday," he "would get up in the morning, sometimes at four-thirty in the morning or five, to study for my classes that day, sometimes six-thirty if I was tired, but not much later than six-thirty. I would, at a minimum, do a little studying. Somewhere around eight or eight-fifteen, [my wife] Brenda would walk into my little study room, she would say, 'Your breakfast is ready.' I'd go around and I'd eat breakfast with her, and talk, and eat my breakfast. Then I would go off to class. Starting at nine o'clock was the class. So I'd leave at quarter of nine. I would arrive home in our lunch break after two classes in the morning. There was a class from nine to eleven, a class from eleven to one. A one-hour lunch break. Class from two to four, class from four to six. It was like going to college. The instructors used a blackboard and a piece of chalk. Then I'd arrive home for lunch. I'd run home real quick, and I'd eat lunch with Brenda. I did that so that Brenda and I would have some time together. She would have lunch ready for me, I'd come in, we'd eat lunch together, we'd talk a little bit, I'd go back to class. At six o'clock I would arrive home, I'd walk in, I'd relax a little bit, I'd start studying until ten-thirty, eleven o'clock at night. Somewhere in between, she would say, 'John, dinner's ready.' And we'd go and sit down, and we'd eat dinner together, and talk.

"A typical weekend would be as follows. On Saturday I would study until four. At four o'clock Brenda would knock on my door and say, 'It's time.' And what that meant to both of us was, I would go take a shower, and at five o'clock a vehicle was arriving, and we went to Moscow to do whatever Brenda had planned.

"A real nice thing in Russia is that you can arrive at a theater thirty minutes before the performance, pay your one dollar a person for a ticket, and at seven o'clock the concert starts, and at nine o'clock it's over. So we did that a lot. The only rule I had on Saturday night was I had to be back by eleven, eleven-thirty so I could get a good night's sleep, because I knew I needed to study on Sunday. So that was essentially the way we spent a lot of our time in Russia."

Related Links:
Star City Life
Cultural Background
Blaha Increment
Profile: John Blaha
John Blaha Oral History (PDF)

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