French woman of Russian origin Nadia Leger isn’t really well known in Russia, although she did a lot to strengthen the ties between the USSR and France in the second half of the twentieth century. 

Born in 1904, the cousin of the poet Vladislav Khodasevich, she connected her life with modern experiments in art and tried to master or at least try all the fashionable trends of her time. In her youth, she studied at the Smolensk Higher State Workshop, where Kazimir Malevich taught, and in 1924 she became a student at the Fernand Leger Academy. Years will pass, and Nadia will become a model, muse and wife of this master, will popularize his creative legacy by founding a memorial museum named after him in the south of France.

After the Second World War, Nadia actively helped many thousands of Soviet citizens return to their homeland, sought ways to get closer to her unforgotten Homeland, participating, if possible, in its cultural life - organized exhibitions of French artists and supported Soviet actors, including Ilya Ehrenburg, Lyubov Orlova, Lilya Brik, Konstantin Simonov, Rodion Shchedrin, Sergey Yutkevich, on foreign tours and film festivals. Nadia came to the Soviet Union several times and gave some of her husband's works to our museums – paintings, ceramics, more than two thousand excellent reproductions of masterpieces of world art, as well as her own mosaic works.

She turned to the mosaic technique in 1969, when she was already 65 years old. The idea arose when creating the mosaic facade of the Fernand Leger Museum, which was made by the Italian mosaicist Melano. Nadia decided to make portraits of people she loved, including her personal acquaintances – Fernand Leger, Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Maurice Thorez... She went to Ravenna, Italy, famous for medieval mosaics in the Byzantine style, attentively studied ancient art and in January 1972, in the Paris suburb of Malakoff, arranged a solo exhibition. The series of panels included 65 portraits made of multicolored pieces of smalt which she created relying on the photographs.

Several such portraits can be seen today in Dubna near Moscow. This is one of the city attractions - bright colorful images created in the mosaic technique. At the bottom of each panel there is the author's signature "НХЛЕЖЕ" - Nadezhda Khodasevich-Leger. Harsh winters turned out to be merciless to the fragile pieces of smalt, and some of the work was irretrievably lost, but most of it was preserved thanks to the restoration carried out in 1996. All depicted people are recognizable and famous, those who have strengthened the glory of our country with their personal achievements.  

Four portraits are installed on Cosmonauts Square. These are Heroes of the Soviet Union, cosmonaut pilots - Yuri Gagarin, Vladislav Volkov, Vladimir Komarov, Georgy Dobrovolsky. In 1961, Nadia perceived the human flight into space as a miracle and the fulfillment of the prophecies of one of her teachers Kazimir Malevich, who showed a world without gravity in his suprematist paintings. Impressed by Gagarin's flight, she took out her drawings, created back in Russia in 1920s, and made new versions of them. By the way, Picasso also drew a pencil portrait of Yuri Gagarin in a space helmet in 1961, inscribing the cosmonaut in the silhouette of a flying bird. All the backgrounds on the panel are abstract, with colored semicircles, free lines, geometric shapes - associations with man-made developments and orbital views. Nadia wrote: "... for Gagarin, the background is a demonstrative run-up of lines, something rhythmically sonorous."  

A very small memo in the form of information about astronauts is next to their portraits, like a newspaper clipping, black and white, tragic. And the cheerful faces on the colorful panels categorically disagree with this dry note - their so short life was bright, tense, difficult and happy, because that's what they chose for themselves. And the memory of these beautiful people should be "ringing" in its vivid colors, as depicted by Nadia Leger…