photo: Julia Nitsberg

Ella Opalnaja a former Russian actress and theatre director, educator and poet was born in Moscow in 1935.

She belongs to a generation of romantics that grew up under Stalin regime and during the 60s became the core group of religious awakening and political dissidents.

From an early age Ella displayed a talent for poetry and interest in acting, possibly influenced by her mother, who in her youth attended the acting classes. In 1952 unable to get into Institute for Literature due to the growing wave of anti-Semitism, she entered Pedagogical Institute and has graduated with a degree in Germanistics. She worked briefly as a language instructor in the Timirjazev Academy and then 5 years in the Museum of Sport as a cultural guide, but decided to change her carrier and pursue her dreams to becoming an actress. She was admitted into the Theatre School and started to work as a puppeteer in the Moscow puppet theatre. She recited prose and poetry both for the radio and live audience and worked in the college theaters as a creative director and acting coach.

Ella's artistic practice is firmly rooted in the theatre. She has embraced performance and installation art as a form of visual expression in the early 60s, inspired by the First American exhibition in Moscow during the time of Khrushchev's “Thaw”. Ella is still remember this exhibition vividly and considers it the most significant cultural event of that time. With the help of her husband, Abram Nitzberg, painter and sculptor, she created installations, happenings and performances in their apartment and his studio, which was then a famous underground artistic laboratory, where young artists, musicians, poets and philosophers met, collaborated and exhibited.

In 1978 due to increased political repressions Ella's family was forced to emigrate and in 1980 she left Moscow for good and came to Germany as a political refugee. Heart-broken and nostalgic about her past she started collecting Soviet artifacts and ephemera that associated directly with her life in the U.S.S.R. Therefore her huge collection, that had been formed under her attentive and loving eye, has a vibrant kaleidoscopic quality and the juxtaposition of familiar objects is often surprising and fresh.

With Perestrojka, the Soviet era that supposed to last forever has ended.