The Daily Cross Hatch’s Brian Heater chats with Laika creator Nick Abadzis:
The primary female character, Yelena—is she based on a real person?
She isn’t—or she is…This is an interesting story. When I first read up on the Institute of Aviation Medicine, where she was supposed to have worked, I was aware that there would be female character there at the time, but there was no record of a female dog carer, until years later—’60, ’61.
That particular lady worked in the Moscow Space Service, and she trained dogs as part of the experimental animal program that continued after Sputnik 2. But around ’55 or ’57, I wasn’t aware of anyone like that existing. So, as far as I was concerned, when I was writing the book, she was a figment of my imagination.
But after I had finished the book, I was speaking with another author who had written a factual book about space—Chris Dobbs. I got ahold of his book, and there was this remarkable picture of this one woman, dated from around 1957, which looks exactly like the character that I had drawn. So it was a case of one of those bizarre coincidences, where truth is stranger than fiction.