March 7, 1910
Today is the birthday of circus balance artist Yevgeny Milayev. Milayev was highly skilled, able to balance a nine-meter ladder with platform, on which gymnasts performed acrobatic feats. Another of his famous tricks was called “Ladder on Ladder.” The gymnast on top of the ladder balanced by Milayev balanced another ladder, on which a third gymnast performed. But Milayev was also infamous as the source of much gossip: he was briefly married to Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev’s daughter Galina, before Brezhnev was at the height of his power. Galina fell in love with the strong and handsome athlete during one of his circus performances in Kishinev in 1951. Galina abandoned her university studies and eloped with Milayev, who was 20 years older; soon after, he had his first heart attack. Milayev and Galina had a daughter, Viktoria, named for Galina’s mother, and Galina traveled with the circus, working as a costumier. A year later, she returned to her parents, though she did not officially divorce Milayev until eight years later. Even after the divorce, however, Brezhnev did not forget about his grandchild’s father and made him one of the first acrobats to receive the much-coveted title of the People’s Artist of the USSR, and the only gymnast to become a Hero of Socialist Labor. Milayev also was appointed Director of the second Moscow Circus, on Vernadsky Prospect – some even said that the Circus was built specially for him. He died of a heart attack in 1983.
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