I’ve been wanting to write about Cheburashka for a long time. Now, although I’m no longer in Russia, I have time to tell you about this little guy who is loved so much by millions of children, their parents, and their grandparents, in Russia and the former Soviet Union countries.
Who is Cheburashka?
Cheburashka is a children’s animated character. He’s known as ‘an animal unknown to science’. He has big round ears and he is the size of a 5 year old child.
The story goes that he somehow gets into a crate of oranges, eats a lot of them, and then falls asleep in the crate. The crate is then delivered to a grocery shop somewhere in Russia.
In the cartoons/animations, it’s never said in which city he arrives, but it’s assumed to be Moscow.
The manager of the grocery shop finds this creature when he starts unpacking the orange crate, and takes him out of the crate, and puts him on a table.
Of course, having been squashed in the crate for so long, his hands are numb, and he’s unbalanced, and he immediately falls from the table, onto a chair, then onto the floor. And that’s how he got his name, because the verb ‘to tumble’ in colloquial Russian is ‘чебурахнулся’ (‘cheburakhnulsya’ in English).
He was born in a children’s story in 1966, and was very popular in the Soviet Union. He has a friend called ‘Gena’, a crocodile dressed in a suit.
In the story, there is also an antagonist, an old woman called ‘Старуха Шапокляк’ (Old Lady Shapoklyak in English), who plays pranks on Chebuashka and Gena and their various friends.
One day, in Tula, a city located a couple of hundred kilometres south of Moscow, and famous for its ‘пряник’ ( ‘pryanik’ or spice cakes/gingerbread in English), we found this Cheburashka spice cake and had to have it!
In fact, we never ate it, but just before we left Russia, we gave it to a Soviet style café in Moscow that we used to go to a lot, as a present to them.
He’s such a cute little guy, and Olivier even had a tattoo done of him, as a souvenir of our time in Russia. Although this Cheburashka has a Spiderman costume, as you would expect, knowing that Olivier is a Spiderman fan!
One day, about 5 or 6 years ago, we were in a souvenir market in Moscow. It’s a huge place, well known as being the best place for buying all kinds of Russian souvenirs. And at the very back of this huge market, is a flea market.
In the flea market, there are antiques, paintings, books, and many, many other second hand things for sale.
And here, in this flea market, we found our very own ‘Cheburashka’. He was with a very old woman, who we shall call ‘Babushka’ (‘grandmother’ in English).
After a little discussion with Babushka, Cheburashka came home with us, for about 200 roubles. It’s not a lot, just 2 or 3 dollars.
And he has stayed with us ever since. We kept him in our Moscow apartment, near the door. I guess he was some kind of guard.
And then, very recently, as you may know, we had the difficult decision of what to take with us when we left Moscow very suddenly. And, although I left behind, gave away, and even put in the bin, a lot of things that were very important to me because I didn’t have room in my suitcase, my Cheburashka was not going to be left behind. No way.
He came with us all the way from Moscow, in the plane, with us to Romania.
So, now he’s sitting with us in our little temporary apartment in Bucharest. Who knows what his future will be, but I’m sure he will be spending it with us – wherever we end up in the world.