The Disco Ball

Collaborate with us on Grisha’s backstory by detailing his kind disposition and how he rose the ranks of the Russian space system while maintaining such a nice guy attitude.

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Co/Create: Grisha Petrovich Backstory
This was the most difficult backstory to write. What makes anyone eternally happy? It was a nice challenge to try and answer.

Grisha Petrovich Backstory


June 1995 Moscow Russia.

Grisha voiceover: It was June 1995. I was 7 years old. I was sitting deep in thought on the back steps of our home in Nemchinovka, a comfortable suburb in Moscow. My Grandfather walked over and sat next to me.

Grandfather: What is on your mind little friend?

Grisha: What does my name mean?

Grandfather: Do you mean your family name or Grisha?

Grisha: Both

Grandfather: Well Petrovich means “the son of Peter” vich in Russian, means “son of” and many families believe they are descended from St Peter. You know St. Peter from your bible.

Grisha: Yes, but is that true?

Grandfather: It is true that we are called Petrovich so it must be true that we are descended from St Peter.

Grisha voiceover: I considered this new information for a short period before proceeding.

Grisha: So why am I called Grisha?

Grandfather: Do you know what my name is?

Grisha: Papa!

Grandfather: That is what you call me, however my name is Mikhail Grigori Petrovich.

Grisha is a nickname for people called Grigori. You were named after me.

Grisha: Is that true!

Grandfather: It is, and do you know why I was called Grigori?

Grisha: After your grandfather?

Grandfather: Good thinking but no. I was called Grigori because my father was one of the medical officers in the court of Nicholas II, the last Tsar of Russia. At that time the Tsar had employed a man that became famous and is still famous today. I was named after that man.

Grisha: Who was that man?

Grandfather: His name was Grigori Rasputin. He was a spiritual advisor to the Tsar. He also taught people how to be happy.

Grisha: Really, teach me how to be happy. I want to be happy.

Grandfather: Well, his secret was very simple.

Grisha voiceover: I stared at my grandfather intently.

Grandfather: Do you know how happy your dog Mischa is when you arrive home? She jumps up and down, runs around in a circle and licks you and jumps again and is the happiest dog in the world when she sees you.

Grisha: Mischa is so funny when I come home from school. She makes me feel happy.

Grandfather: Well, Mischa is happy because you are happy. Rasputin taught people the secret to making other people happy is by being happy themselves. He taught them whenever you see anyone, to always be as excited as Mischa is when you come home. Whenever you meet or see anyone else, be as happy as Mischa.

Grisha voiceover: I thought about this and decided that I would be the happiest person in the world. Every time I saw anyone. No matter who they were. I would be happy. The more I practiced being happy, the happier I became. Being happy became second nature to me.

Flashback 2013,

Grisha voiceover: I clearly remember the day that I met Marsha. It was 2013 and I was 25 years old. It was the first day of my Master of Aerospace Engineering at Moscow Aviation Institute, the most prestigious program in Russia for aspiring Cosmonauts. Upon leaving school I joined the Russian Air Force. I completed my undergrad avionics degree whilst training as a fighter pilot. Flying came naturally to me. It felt like I was an extension of the plane rather than someone trying to wrestle control. I loved flying, it gave me a sense of freedom that is not possible on the ground. I wanted to fly as high as I could fly. I wanted to fly into space.

As it was a time of peace, I was allowed to transfer to MAI to follow my dream of becoming a Cosmonaut. I dreamt of not only being the happiest man on earth. I wanted to be the happiest man in space.

A class of 100 of the brightest students in Russia sit in a lecture hall. A middle-aged man stands alone in front of the class.

Professor: Welcome to your future. I am sure that all of you dream of one day going to space. Put your hand up if it is your dream to go to space.

Grisha voiceover: 100 hands went up in the air.

Professor: Look around you, there are 100 of you here today. Only one of you will make it to space. Some will fail this course; some will choose a different life, the lucky few of you will join the hamster wheel that is Roscosmos and just like a hamster, most will go nowhere whilst expending a tremendous amount of energy.

At Roscosmos you will be surrounded by the most brilliant minds from all of Mother Russia. You will not be unique; you will not be special. Everyone is smart, driven and wants what you want. To succeed you will have to work, day and night; night and day. You will have to convince your superiors that you are worthy, every single step of the way.

Grisha voiceover: I turned toward the beautiful young woman sitting next to me.

Grisha : Will it be you or me that goes to space?

Marsha: Why not both of us?

Grisha voiceover: I caught my breath as my heart jumped a beat.

I now knew how I could become the happiest man on Earth and in Space.

My courtship of Marsha was short but intense. We were very much in love. I was 25 and Marsha was 24. We were both ambitious. We studied hard and both accepted jobs in Roscosmos upon graduation. Having an ally in Roscosmos is advantageous. Having the most beautiful ally in the world at your side in Roscosmos is downright magnificent.

Marsha’s family were well connected in Political circles. My family was well connected in the world of Medicine. My father had followed his father and grandfather as had my 2 brothers and sister into the Medical Field. I was the only member of my immediate family to take a different path.

We married a year after joining Roscosmos. It was a beautiful wedding with many from the space agency in attendance. Senior Political figures mingled with people from across the spectrum of Moscow’s Medical Elite. Roscosmos officials mostly stood back and stuck to themselves. Those nerdy bureaucrats did not fit with the other guests. However, from where they stood, it was clear to all from Roscosmos that we were a couple that were destined to go far.

Over the next few years, Marsha and I worked hard and remained on track towards becoming Cosmonauts. We built our skills through endless repetition of drills, and long hours of study. We learnt from each other and encouraged each other. When either of us had doubts, the other was there to provide a motivational word. Promotions were regular but hard earned.

The bureaucracy would grind against us. The petty and simple minded would erect obstacles which slowed but did not stop our progress. Having the right connections did help, having the right partner though was key. I helped Marsha and she helped me. We did not get to space alone. Our success was a joint effort.

Politics is always a part of life in Russia. At Roscosmos, family political connections and influence both helped us and hurt us. We tried to stand on our merits but our families were always there, silently in the shadows. Marsha grew up being diplomatic and could navigate the corridors of power with ease. I learnt so much from her experience.

My grandfather survived the purge after Nicholas II as he was a doctor. A useful person to the revolution. Politics is always uncertain. I knew that I had to be a useful person for any future revolutions. I saw that Russia would always have a future in space. No matter what future revolutions may occur we would be useful.

As a Cosmonaut I could stand clear enough from the political winds of change and still be part of any rebirth of Mother Russia. Mother Russia always survived in the end. There is a saying in Russia, “Rossiya ne pogibnet” which roughly translates to “Russia will not Perish”.

Marsha made it to space before me. Her 3-month voyage made her the 6th Russian woman in space. Marsha was a flight engineer by training. However, in space, she mostly performed biophysical and medical experiments.

I found out that I was going to space a week before Marsha returned to Earth. The joy I experienced at being notified of my upcoming mission was only surpassed by my joy when Marsha safely returned to Earth. Her landing safely was the happiest moment of my life. That is, until the day Marsha told me that we were pregnant with a little girl. I cried tears of joy for days, weeks. I cannot wait to be back home and to be at the birth of our beautiful daughter. I truly am the happiest man in the universe.

Background notes

The voiceover in the second half is intended to be in contrast to Jora’s backstory.

  • Jora came from a humble background, Grisha came from a privileged background
  • Jora’s wedding was sparsely attended, Grisha’s is a society event
  • Jora stole and backstabbed his way to the ISS, Grisha worked hard to get there
  • Jora killed his partner (Kolya), Grisha is deeply in love with his partner (Marsha)
  • Jora wants glory and recognition, Grisha wants love and to survive
  • Jora is from the Soviet Era, Grisha is from the Post Soviet Era
  • Jora is a hard nosed climber, Grisha worked hard with the love of his life
  • Jora did not want to go to space, Grisha wanted to fly in space
  • Jora wept when his only friend died, Grish wept when he found out Marsha was pregnant
  • Yulia is happy because she got away from Jora, Marsha is happy because she is with Grisha
  • Jora wanted to die in space, Grisha wanted to go home to his family

The artwork to accompany the voiceover would likely be the same style as the Jora artwork but showing the contrasts.