The last wish of an immigrant Russian artist will finally be granted, thanks to help from Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah.
Veniamin Georgievic (Benjamin George) Vaganoff's last request before his death in 1981 was that his painting "Surrender, Never" be returned to his native Russia. His daughter, Mary Olsen, Salt Lake City,promised to fulfill that wish, but found it more difficult than she anticipated. The combination of cost, questions about whom to contact, and not wanting to part with one of her father's works put the project on hold.The painting, which Olsen said was completed sometime during World War II, shows an armored warrior pulling a broken sword from a sheath to continue the defense of Moscow, seen in the distance under bombardment from German aircraft, supported by the masses of weary Russian citizens. The painting symbolizes the Soviet Union's heroic stand against the German onslaught that eventually failed.
Owens became involved with the effort recently, at Olsen's request. A Soviet representative in Utah to coordinate the return of Russian art now on display at the University of Utah's Museum of Fine Arts agreed to hand-carry the work back to Russia. Nikita Fomin, who is a member of the Soviet Union's national art council, said the council will determine where the painting will eventually hang.
Vaganoff, who worked and lived in California from 1923 to 1976, died in Utah in 1981 at the age of 84. He was born in Archangel, Russia, in 1896. His works hang in several permanent art collections in San Diego, San Francisco and other California cities.