Tereshkova — First Woman in Space
[The following is excerpted from an article by Daisaku Ikeda, published in the September, 1999, Living Buddhism.]
Ms. Tereshkova was raised by her mother. Her father was killed in WWII when she was three. Her mother's quiet sobbing remains a bad dream in her memory. Her mother was widowed at 27 with three children. Every day, Valentina's mother left the house before daybreak to milk cows.
Eventually they moved to the city. Her mother and older sister worked in a textile mill. At seventeen, Valentina joined them there.
On her first payday, she bought a flower-print scarf and some sweets for her mother. When her mother saw these gifts she burst into tears.
After Yuri Gagarin's historic space flight, everyone at the factory was filled with excitement and jubilation. The first man in space! A Soviet youth in space!!!
On returning home that day, Valentina's life changed forever when her mother said: "Now that a man has gone into space, next time it'll be a woman's turn."
She was so excited that she couldn't sleep!
After Gagarin's flight, anyone in the Soviet Union could volunteer for the space program. Valentina volunteered and was chosen for the program.
The program was very challenging. Both physically and mentally.
She had to study
very hard, including rocket science. Each day was a battle, but she believed
that "when you have a dream and dedicate all your strength to it, you can
achieve it without fail."
She recollects: "It was breathtakingly beautiful, like something out of a fairy tale. There is no way to describe the joy of seeing the Earth. It is blue, and more beautiful than any other planet. Every continent, every ocean, had its own distinct beauty."
As she circled Earth, she thought of her own mother and then, all the mothers of the world. She saw mountains and knew that mountains were full of birds and they had mothers. She saw forests that were full of insects and animals who also have mothers. She saw a planet teaming with life due to mothers. Passing life from mother to child — a single broken link and we would not be here today.
"It's every mother's wish that their children have good lives." She couldn't help feeling the Earth is filled with the sounds of these mother's prayers.
Then Valentina vowed: "I want to make sure that there are no more war widows like my mother, and no more children like me who don't even know their own fathers."
The Earth gives people life; nations take it away from them. The Earth nourishes life; nations destroy it.
If nations are the product of men squabbling for territory, then the Earth is the realm of mothers.
Life is greater and grander that the nations created by men.