Eastern European Cartoons of My Childhood

By Alex Gryciuk 

Both of my parents were born in Eastern Europe. My mom is from Romania; my dad, Poland. When they were both kids, they grew up on Eastern European cartoons that were hand drawn and colorful. They didn’t have anything else, such as computer generated animations from the United States. They stuck to the classics that were funny and interesting. So, as a child, my parents showed me these exact same cartoons in hopes that I would also enjoy the shows just as they had.

After watching almost all the shows they showed me, I can confidently say that there’s something timeless about those cartoons because I loved them even so many years after their initial release. They were simple enough to understand but entertaining enough to enjoy—the perfect combination for a child’s entertainment. 

Since moving on to more sophisticated shows like The Great British Bakeoff and The Office, it’s been interesting to look back on these cartoons and fondly look back on simpler times. Included below are some of my favorite cartoons that were shown to me as a  child growing up in an Eastern European household.

  1. Bolek y Lolek 

Bolek y Lolek, a Polish show developed by Władysław Nehrebecki and Leszek Lorek, was first released on August 12, 1962 in Poland and eventually released 174 episodes. This slapstick comedy that does not feature much dialogue, follows Bolek and Lolek, two brothers, and Tola, a cute girl living in the forest as they go on fun adventures in the outdoors. The show ended up airing in English as Bennie & Lenny, Jym and Jam, and Tim & Tom on Nickelodeon’s Pinwheel from 1977 to 1991, CBS’ Captain Kangaroo from 1963 to 1984, and also on YTV from 1989 to 1992.

  1. Cheburashka

First created by Eduard Uspensky in 1965, Cheburashka follows the story of a creature, unknown to science and from a jungle forest, that arrives in the Soviet Union in a box full of oranges after falling asleep in it. After being found by a grocer, he is left at the zoo. There, Cheburashka befriends Crocodile Gen, a zoo employee. Cheburashka is featured in many stop-motion animated films by Roman Kachanov such as Gena the Crocodile and His Friends released in Russia during 1969.

  1. Reksi

Produced by Lechosław Marszałek, Reksi depicts the life of a piebald dog and his animal friends: other dogs and their owners, hens, and cats. It first aired in 1967, the series consists of 65 episodes and was created with Bielsko-Biała, the company that also created Bolek y Lolek. Interestingly, Reksi is one of the most recognized Polish cartoon characters from animated movies for children and is the subject of a monument built in 2009. 

  1. Well, Just You Wait (Nu, Pogodi)

Well, Just You Wait, was created by Feliex Kandel and Arkady Khait Aledsandr in June of 1969. The animated series is a slapstick comedy that depicts the adventures of the Wolf and the Hare. The Wolf (a hooligan that always breaks things, smokes, and drinks) tries to eat and capture the Hare (a model citizen) for the majority of each episode. But, the Hare always escapes with athletic skill or simply because of the Wolf’s stupidity. When the Wolf’s plan fails, he shouts “Nu, pogodi!” or “Just you wait!” The show ran sixteen episodes up until 1987 and would be most notably remembered for its soundtrack of jazz and techno that would perfectly sync to each animation.