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Russia Mourns Passing Of Popular Actress Lyudmila Gurchenko

  • RFE/RL

Lyudmila Gurchenko (right) in the film "Station for Two," directed by Eldar Ryazanov, 1983

Lyudmila Gurchenko (right) in the film "Station for Two," directed by Eldar Ryazanov, 1983

The legendary actress Lyudmila Gurchenko, a beloved star of the Soviet and Russian silver screen since the 1950s, died of heart failure on March 30 at the age of 75.

Gurchenko acted in almost a hundred films and worked with Russia's most prolific directors, such as Nikita Mikhalkov, Eldar Ryazanov, Petr Todorovsky, in the course of her glitzy six-decade career.

Todorovsky called her passing "sad, awfully sad news" in an interview with RFE/RL's Russian Service.

"A magnificent actress and a truly great star has passed away," Todorovsky said. "It is unlikely that another such bundle of talent will appear for years. She simply had the full range of talents. This actress captivated millions and her audience would stand to applaud her."

Todorovsky recalled working with Gurchenko on the film "The Beloved Woman of Mechanic Gavrilov," describing the experience as "incredible" and "a wonder."


Icon Of Soviet Cinema

Born in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv n 1935, Gurchenko moved to Moscow where she made her acting debut in the early 1950s.

At the age of 21, she won nationwide fame overnight for her performance in the musical "Carnival Night," Ryazanov's acclaimed directorial debut, which remains a staple of New Year's programming on Russian television to this day.

By the time Gurchenko won a state award for her part in the Soviet melodrama "Old Walls" in 1974, she had become an icon of Soviet cinema.

Gurchenko cemented her reputation as a singer in a series of musical comedies in the 1970s, including "Solomon's Cap" in 1974 and "Heavenly Swallows" in 1975. But she also proved to be a versatile actress.

Many Russians remember Gurchenko, first and foremost, as Vera, the waitress in the box-office hit "Station for Two," which came out in 1983.

The romantic comedy, again directed by Ryazanov, was entered in the Cannes Film Festival. Later that year Gurchenko was awarded the People's Artist of Soviet Union.

In the 1990s, after a long hiatus, Gurchenko returned to the stage, performing before sell-out crowds until the mid-2000s.

'Irreplaceable Loss'

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev have passed on their condolences to Gurchenko's family.

"I learned with profound sorrow that prominent Russian actress Lyudmila Markovna Gurchenko has passed on," Medvedev wrote in a telegram posted on his website.

"Her passing is an irreplaceable loss for national culture," he added. "She really was a people's actress who was loved by millions in our country."

On March 30 Gurchenko was rushed to hospital, but doctors were powerless to stabilize her.

Preliminary reports say she suffered a heart seizure, which may have been connected with surgery she underwent earlier this month after she fell and broke her hip.

She is survived by her husband, Sergei Senin, a daughter, and a granddaughter.

Gurchenko will be buried on April 2 in Novodevichy cemetery in Moscow.

RFE/RL's Russian Service contributed to this report