The artist Efim Simkin was born in 1915 in Kiev, as one of many siblings. When Efim was six, his mother died of typhus. His father soon remarried – to a woman who had five children of her own. Because of the financial difficulties, including the inability to feed so many children, Efim was sent off to an orphanage. Upon leaving it in 1930, he entered a vocational school associated with a Kiev factory, where he stayed as a metalworker.
In 1936, Efim was drafted into the Red Army, while simultaneously serving as an artist at a club of the Kiev Artillery School. In 1940, he moved to Moscow, where he completed a course to improve his artistic qualifications. Afterward, he pursued his studies at the Moscow Art Institute.
Following the outbreak of the Soviet-German war on June 22, 1941, Efim Simkin was sent to the front with the rank of sergeant. He took part in fighting around Stalingrad in 1942 and 1943, where he was a gun-layer for an anti-tank cannon in a rifle division.
In 1943, Simkin was shell-shocked and seriously wounded in his left arm, which later had to be amputated. After his release from hospital, he was discharged from the army because of his disability, and returned to Moscow. Because of his shell shock, he developed problems with his eyesight.
Efim Simkin was awarded the Order of Glory, 3rd Class, and some medals.
Efim resumed his studies at the Institute, which had been interrupted by the war, and graduated in 1949. He took part in many exhibitions. In 1987, his works were shown at an international exhibition dealing with the Warsaw Ghetto. The war was a major subject in Efim Simkin's oeuvre. Some of his most notable works are: Collecting the Wounded (1972), The Soldier (1972), Smoke of War (1974), and Babi Yar (1979).
Toward the end of his life, Simkin produced other works – God and Death, Before Being Shot, They Are Going to Babi Yar, and At Babi Yar – which depicted the ravine near Kiev where relatives of his had been murdered.
"A frontline fighter cannot forget the war. I still dream about the war, embody it in my compositions, I write about the war for the sake of peace in the world. I want people to remember [that] tragedy and not to allow it to recur. Alarm Bell (painted in 1997) means 'People, do not forget!"1
Efim Simkin died in Moscow in 2001.
- 1. Iefim Simikin, Catalogue of the exhibition of the cycle of paintings entitled "Sign Posts of Memory," Moscow, 1980.