“Colonel Ščukin, do you copy? Here is Sergeij Bogdanov from the Martian orbit. The courgettes are ripe for the picking, sir. Me and Afanasija we are both in good health… Sir, do you copy?”
It was mid-September 1992, when we heard Sergeij’s voice on my gran’s old transistor radio for the first time. A static suddenly interrupted the broadcasting and someone started to speak Russian. My gran had moved to Italy from Serbia just a few months before, because of the war, and she stared at the radio with her eyes wide open. “It’s a cosmonaut”, she whispered.
“Colonel Ščukin, do you copy? Here is Sergeij Bogdanov, do you remember me, sir?…”
And a cosmonaut he was. Once a year, we could hear his messages to Colonel Ščukin about the vegetables he was growing in space. Mainly courgettes, as tomatoes had a tendency to wither away and potatoes tasted bad. We found out that he was in space since 1989, waiting for the next Soviet mission that would bring him back together with his cat, Afanasija. The botany experiments were quite a success, but now all he wanted was to come back home from the Martian orbit.
“Colonel Ščukin, I’m afraid to confess I’m a bit disappointed… I’m still here, waiting…”
We were living in a small town, in the middle of a plain: cows, pigs, corn, barley and a true Soviet lost cosmonaut. It doesn’t matter if the USSR didn’t exist anymore. People rushed to the town hall, where our old radio was placed, as soon as the mayor let everyone know Sergeij was back on all frequencies. My gran was the official interpreter of his messages and the other women had collected all sort of courgette recipes they wanted to send to the cosmonaut.
“Colonel Ščukin, where have you gone, you fucking idiot? I want to come back home…”
In 1994, my gran went to speak to the local secretary of the Communist Party, asking him to ring Moscow and let them know that they abandoned a cosmonaut in space. That poor guy should be brought back immediately. Enough for their botany mission. But there was none left to call in Moscow, so the secretary said. There was no direct phone number to dial anymore, no USSR, no space missions to Mars. Nothing. It was all over.
The last message from Sergeij came in 1995. We resigned ourselves to the fact our space friend was dead. Many years have passed since then, sometimes local newspapers still write about that weird story. Russia still denies they ever sent a cosmonaut to Mars. But yesterday I was listening to a local web radio, and suddenly… “Colonel Ščukin, you damn motherfucker… !!!”. Some things refuse to die and, after disappearing for a while, they just come back, stronger. Goodnight children.wrr005 35
Chiara M. - Voice, Text, Playlist, Creative Direction
Mirko S. - Voice
Denis U. - Voice, Translation into Russian
Silvana T. - Voice on Announcements and Jingles
Paolo C. - Production & Technical Direction, Original Background Music
Theme Song: Western Mantra by Cabaret Voltaire, Three Mantras 12" EP - Rough Trade RT038 - 1980
A special thanks goes to Denis U., who kindly flew to the Martian orbit and back for us