Cheburashka is a popular Russian cartoon character that was created by Eduard Uspensky in 1966. When my parents were children, this oddball of a character was one of their major sources of entertainment, which was rather scarce in the Soviet Union. Kids would wait patiently for the cartoon program appearing twice a week and lasting only thirty minutes. The little bear cub like creature with greatly disproportionate sized ears and huge eyes was adored by Soviet children. He not only represents my parent’s childhood, but also represents my own. As a first generation American, I found myself exploring two different cultures simultaneously. My early connections to Russian culture was primarily through cartoons, that helped me to develop basic Russian language skills. Interestingly, Cheburashka can be viewed as an immigrant himself. He was accidentally found by his friend to be, crocodile Gena, in the crate of oranges that was being delivered to a grocery store. He is assumed to be exotic, just like oranges themselves in a Soviet Russia. Gena tried to look him up in a dictionary, but could not find “Cheburashka” in there. So he is an unknown species from a far away place in a new country. Just like my parents, as adorable as he was, Cheburashka’s needed to win friends and make a living in a new place, which was not easy. Nonetheless, just like my parents, he succeeded.
– Mark Rayev