Olimpiya Dobrovolskaya

Olimpiya Dobrovolskaya

Ukrainian theater actress and director
Date of Birth: 12.08.1895
Country: USA

  1. Biography of Olympia Dobrovolska
  2. Early Life and Education
  3. Early Career
  4. Acting Career
  5. Arrest and Exile
  6. Later Years and Emigration

Biography of Olympia Dobrovolska

Olympia Dobrovolska was a Ukrainian theater actress, director, theater teacher, and theorist in the 20th century Ukrainian theater arts.

Early Life and Education

Olympia developed a passion for theater from a young age. She studied at the Kyiv Music and Drama School named after Lysenko.

Early Career

In 1917-1919, she performed in the "Young Theater" in Kyiv under Les Kurbas. Her notable roles during this time included Rita in "The Black Panther and the White Bear" by Vynnychenko (1919), and roles in productions such as Hauptmann's "The Sunken Bell" (1919) and Galbe's "Youth" (1920).

In 1920-1921, she worked at the Franko Theater in Vinnytsia and Cherkasy. It was here that she met Iosif Hirniak, who had recently arrived in the Ukrainian SSR from Western Ukraine, and they got married.

In 1922, Olympia and her husband joined the creative association "Berezil," which was founded by Kurbas in Kyiv. In 1926, they relocated to Kharkiv with the theater.

Acting Career

Olympia Dobrovolska excelled in both comedic and dramatic roles, performing in works by Ukrainian and world classics, as well as contemporary productions and revues. Some of her notable roles include Ellen in Sinclair's "Jim Higgins" (1923), Mazayliha in Kulish's "Mina Mazaylo" (1929), and many others.

Arrest and Exile

In December 1933, Hirniak was arrested by Stalinists and, in 1934, was exiled to labor camps in Karelia, accused of participating in a "nationalist terrorist organization." Dobrovolska remained in Kharkiv and joined the troupe of the Shevchenko Ukrainian Drama Theater in Kharkiv from 1935.

In 1937, Hirniak violated the conditions of his exile and went to Kharkiv to be with his wife. As a result, both of them were arrested and, after four months of imprisonment in Kharkiv Prison, were exiled to Karelia.

Later Years and Emigration

In 1940, the couple received permission to return to Ukraine and settled in Cherkasy, where Dobrovolska worked at the Cherkasy Drama Theater.

In 1942, Dobrovolska and her husband moved to Lviv, where she performed in Hirniak's productions at the Lviv Opera Theater, including the famous first Ukrainian production of Shakespeare's "Hamlet" (Gertrude, 1943).

In 1944, Dobrovolska was forced to emigrate to Austria, then Germany, and finally to the United States in 1949. From 1945 to 1956, she performed in the Hirniak and Dobrovolska Ukrainian Theater and taught at the acting studio affiliated with the theater.

From 1956 to 1964, she led the Theater of Ukrainian Word in New York, where she also established her own school of artistic reading. As a director, she staged productions such as Lesya Ukrainka's "Forest Song" and "Orgy," as well as Ibsen's "Ghosts."