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.”
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!