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Nablotska retired in 1956 and died thirteen years later. While she was slowly forgotten by the public, theater connoisseurs remember her as a determined woman who introduced a new style of acting to her adoptive homeland, and whose cosmopolitan spirit changed theater in Slovenia forever. (The picture is symbolic) Foto: Reuters

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An Immigrant’s Love for the Stage

Slovenia Revealed
24. October 2017 ob 06:45
Ljubljana - MMC RTV SLO

A Russian actress named Maria Nikolaevna Borislavska found refuge in Slovenia following the Russian Revolution. Adopting the name Nablotska, she brought a touch of cosmopolitan spirit to the Slovenian stage and eventually became a theater legend.

Born in 1890 in the southern Russian city of Astrakhan, she had theater in her blood. Her father was a theater manager and her mother was an actress. As a young woman, Nablotska (or “Nablocka” in the Slovenian transcription of Russian) studied acting with several respected Russian practitioners of the art and eventually performed at stages from Odessa to Tbilisi.

In the wake of the Russian Revolution, her partner Vladimir Putyata moved to Ljubljana. Nablotska wanted to follow him but was mobilized by the Red Army. After several months, she finally managed to leave the country, but arrived in Slovenia penniless.

However, she quickly learned the Slovenian language, having received first-rate instruction from the Slovenian writer Oton Župančič. She spoke the language with a distinctive Russian accent, and when she took to the stage as part of Ljubljana’s Drama Theater company, her exotic background gave her performances a special flair.

Nablotska brought a modern, realistic approach to a theater – a change from the relatively hide-bound, provincial approach typical of Slovenia at the time. She soon took on some of the most powerful female roles in dramas, particularly in Russian works by the likes of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, some of them staged by Putyata. She received widespread acclaim as Nastasia Filipovna in Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot. But she was no stranger to other genres, and some of her most memorable performances were in comedies.

After World War II, Nablotska – who had fled Lenin’s Russia – was viewed with suspicion by the newly installed Communist authorities, and was marginalized for several years. In 1953, however, she was cast in the film Upstarts, which gave her work a much larger audience than ever before.

Nablotska retired in 1956 and died thirteen years later. While she was slowly forgotten by the public, theater connoisseurs remember her as a determined woman who introduced a new style of acting to her adoptive homeland, and whose cosmopolitan spirit changed theater in Slovenia forever.

Jaka Bartolj
Slovenia Revealed
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