A Glass of Gagarin Grog

Technically, tomorrow is Tatiana Day, but since it falls on a Saturday this year, it is being celebrated today in Pridnestrovie.

Perhaps a bigger deal in Ukraine than in (the Republic of) Moldova, it is definitely a big celebration around these parts, especially in Tiraspol. That’s because Pridnestrovie’s largest university, named after Taras Shevchenko, Ukraine’s greatest writer (equivalent to Shakespeare in English or Eminescu in Romanian), is here in Tiraspol.

Besides being a religious holiday and the Orthodox name day for anyone named Tatiana (a very common name), it’s also a big deal because Tatiana is considered the patron saint of students.

As such, the Shevchenko University in Tiraspol is throwing a big party today, and one of the keystone events is the director serving everyone a glass of “Gagarin Grog.”

Serving students glasses of Gagarin Grog on Tatiana Day, 2019

I spoke to a view graduates of Shevchenko University here in Tiraspol, and they told me that Tatiana Day is quite a lot of fun for students, especially seeing the “high and mighty” director (equivalent to the “rector” or “head dean” of a US/UK university) donning an apron and serving the students.

But none of them quite knew what was in “Gagarin Grog” (in Russian, it’s just called “Gagarin Drink” but I changed it to be more alliterative).

The drink is named “Gagarin” because most of the main buildings on the Tiraspol campus are located on Gagarin Boulevard.

Yuri Gagarin, of course, was the first human being to ever leave Planet Earth, a truly historic achievement, and his accomplishments are still commemorated around here on April 12 because that’s the day (in 1961) when he told ground control “Поехали!” (English phonetics: pah-yeah-hall-lee) before blasting off into space.

When I first started learning Russian, the name of my textbook was also “Поехали”, which is a little hard to translate due to Slavic complexities involving “verbs of motion.” The closest way to approximate what “Поехали!” means in English is “Let’s get this show on the road!”

Anyway, Gagarin later became infamous as a chronic alcoholic, so I was thinking that Shevchenko University’s “Gagarin Grog” must be some kind of alcoholic punch.

Instead, though, it’s a “secret recipe” for a blended non-alcoholic energy drink somewhat similar to a Red Bull or Monster drink. The thinking is that it’s supposed to energize the students as they power through their final exams which are taking place right now.

As mentioned, nobody except the school director quite knows what’s in “Gagarin Grog,” so I have no idea how to replicate it. But I’ll be lifting a virtual glass of it today for all the students cramming for their finals.

Happy Saint Tatiana’s Day, everybody!

3 thoughts on “A Glass of Gagarin Grog

  1. Hi Sam,
    I have read some of your texts and in the last period of time I have thread feeling that you are somehow approving transnistrean and Russian politics as opposed to Romanian and Basarabian politics in Republic Of Moldova.
    You seem very happy with the status qvo in the regions located after the Nistru River that where once part of România. Yes, it was in some cases for a short period of time and in others for centuries part of Moldavia.
    On the other hand you are calling yourself “SAM Cel Roman” and this is what made me interested to read about how you find my country and for a while is worked – I even learned new things from you, now, in the last posts you using a degrading vocabulary in regard to Romania Leaned Parties and leaders like Maia Sandu and Andrei Nastase. I wander why are you so involved in smearing pro România parties?
    Is it because you live in Tiraspol and you must follow the official line? I whish you all the well, and I hope fir your sake to never meet the modern rule if law în this territory from where Russian Brigades are still making a weekly show of invading Moldavia, yes by so called military games!

    PS Also, for your love of Russia, do you know by chance in which circumstances Gagarin died?


  2. Sam, had no idea that Yuri Gagarin has become an infamous alcoholic. It would be very interesting if you could write more extensively about this. And especially about alcoholism in Moldova, Russia and Ukraine as well. Not to mention Romania..Alcoholism as many other addictions are related to childhood trauma. Not sure if you are interested or aware of the subject. But you could be if you are listening to Dr Gabor Mate’s presentations or read his books, to name just him among others who studied the problem..


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