Political cartoonist Boris Efimovich Efimov (Борис Ефимович Ефимов) died yesterday, aged 108 (born September 28th, 1900 (Gregorian calendar) in Kiev, died October 1st, 2008 in Moscow). He had to serve one of the most evil men of all time, Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, called Stalin. Several times, he escaped death only by a hair’s breadth. Despite all this, he never lost his humor.
One anecdote always makes me smile: When the USA stationed nuclear bombs in Alaska, he envisioned a cartoon of the north pole, with American bombs and planes threatening a bedazzled-looking Eskimo. Suddenly the phone rang; a voice at the other end of the line said
Comrade Efimov, stand by, Comrade Stalin is going to talk to you in a moment. Out of habit, he jumped up and sprang to attention. Then Stalin told him to draw a cartoon about the bombs and planes and to draw an intimidated Eskimo. Efimov replied
That’s an excellent idea, Comrade Stalin, I will draw it exactly as you told me (of course, he didn’t mention that he had the same idea beforehand). When he drew the cartoon, he also added a polar bear and a penguin. He sent copies to Stalin and to the Pravda. When he arrived at the Pravda office the next day, the whole editorial staff was roaring with laughter:
Comrade Efimov, when did you see a penguin at the north pole? He simply replied:
Comrade Stalin personally approved the cartoon. Total silence followed.