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Sport 27: Spring 2001

Virginia Fenton — About Our Previous Hero

page 38

Virginia Fenton

About Our Previous Hero

Mathias Rust now works in a Berlin grocery store.
He is serving behind the counter, or pricing tins of corned beef, or
sweeping floors,
Or restocking the shelves. Maybe it is after hours. The metal shutters are
He is drinking beer in the kitchen with his wife. It might be later still. He is
Sleeping and dreams so vividly it is like instead the world is dreaming of

Mathias Rust thinks often of May, 1987. It is a pleasure to recall his famous
Exploit, when he flew, ghost-like and undetected, five hundred miles
Fiercely guarded Soviet territory, landed on the bridge by St Basil's
Taxied onto the Red Square cobbles, next to Lenin's mausoleum. He was
Especially in the West. We called him the teenage Red Baron.

Since this time, Mathias Rust has been somewhat down on his luck.
In 1991, he was sentenced for stabbing a student nurse who had refused
him a kiss.
It was then the truth emerged that he really was crazy, the German papers
He returned to Moscow and tried to rekindle the attention he had received
Years earlier. But people weren't interested. They went on with their

Later, it was thought our previous hero, Mathias Rust, had died.
False rumours of his death had started to emerge from Moscow. But then
page 39 Reappeared in a Hamburg court. This was in 1996. He was filing for
Though it was believed he had made his fortune from his aviation
He claimed to be broke, unable to pay the costs of a newspaper libel case
he'd lost.

Recently, when returned to the spotlight after years of obscurity,
Mathias Rust took the opportunity to talk, once more, about his flying
‘It was as though I had reached beyond the borders of reality,’ he told the
It seems he is most reluctant to return. He has a child's amazement at
Flying makes us into gods of a kind. It made Mathias Rust a hero.

It made curious onlookers gather near a Hamburg court last month to
Catch a glimpse when he was convicted for what was described as a
‘brazen act’.
Mathias Rust had shoplifted a cashmere pullover from a department store.
The judge imposed a heavy fine but said he'd worn his best tie on the
occasion of
Having a such prominent person with international court experience in
the dock.

Mathias Rust likes to talk about his Russian adventures.
He no longer flies, however. They took his flying licence away from him.
To get it back, he told the journalist, he has to prove he is not around the
And then he added, the last line of the newspaper article I am reading
about Mathias Rust
Is a quote saying, ‘I'm just not prepared to do that.’