Raisa Maximovna TitarenkoDagdya
5 January 1932 – 20 September 1999
Raisa Maximovna Titarenko was born in the city of Rubtsovsk in the Altai region of Siberia. She was the eldest of three children of Maxim Andreyevich Titarenko, a railway engineer originally from Chernihiv, Ukraine, and his Siberian wife, Alexandra Petrovna Porada, originally from Veseloyarsk. She spent her childhood in the Ural Mountains, and met her future husband while studying philosophy in Moscow. She earned an advanced degree at the Moscow State Pedagogical Institute, and taught briefly at Moscow State University.
They married in September 1953 and moved to her husband’s home region of Stavropol in southern Russia upon graduation. There, she taught Marxist Leninist philosophy and defended her sociology research thesis about kolkhoz life. She gave birth in 1958 to their only child, Irina Mikhailovna. When her husband returned to Moscow as a rising Soviet Communist Party official, Gorbacheva took a post of a lecturer at her alma mater, Moscow State University. She left the post when her husband became a leader of the Soviet Union in 1985. Her public appearances beside her husband as first lady were a novelty at home and went a long way in humanizing the country’s image. She was one of the few wives of a communist party leader to have a high public profile of her own.
In 1989, after a personal address by Professor A.G. Rumyantsev and others, Gorbacheva contributed $100,000 to the charity International Association of Hematologists of the World for Children. This and further donations raised by Gorbachevs helped to buy equipment for blood banks and to train Russian doctors abroad. As a result, country wide children’s leukemia survival rates have improved (Transcripts 2000).
On 1 June 1990, Gorbacheva accompanied U.S. first lady Barbara Bush to Wellesley College in Massachusetts. Both women spoke before the graduating class during the commencement service, touching on the role of women in modern society. All the American TV networks covered the addresses live; CNN provided live cable TV coverage round the world. The events of the Soviet Coup of 1991 left a scar on Gorbacheva.The political turmoil that followed pushed aside the Gorbachevs’ life from the headlines.