It’s always a very pleasant surprise to receive signed items back in the mail – even more so when it’s from someone you REALLY want.
Mikhail Gorbachev was just such a prize. He is considered one of the 20th Century’s most influencial figures. The former and only President of the USSR was responsible for ending the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union through his ‘Perestroika’ and ‘Glasnost’ policies. TIME magazine named him ‘Man of the Year’ in 1987 and ‘Man of the Decade’ two years later. In 1990 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. I drew the biro sketch, based on a TIME photo. For some reason I liked the angle even though it didn’t emphasise his trademark port-stained birthmark, it did capture a man looking to the future.
I decided to send it to him via the Moscow State University, where he graduated with a Law Degree in 1955. As one of their more respected Alumni and an emeritius member of the Political Science Faculty I hoped it might get to him a lot easier than through ‘official ‘ channels. This was in the mid 1990’s, after he no longer held political office. After 6 months, I gave up hope… but on the 7th month a ‘crumpled’ A4 envelope, minus the backing carboard arrived in my letter box, covered with Russian stamps. The artwork was a little battered but a simple black felt pen signature in the lower left-hand side was all that mattered. Many years later, in March 2011 to be precise, I got to ‘meet’ him at London’s Royal Albert Hall to celebrate his 80th birthday. Gorby arrived early and while he wasn’t signing, he did chat away as he headed up the red carpet as the guest of honour at a Gala hosted by Kevin Spacy and Sharon Stone.