By John Leland
21 August 2020
This obituary is part of a series about people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.
Nina Popova was a celebrated ballet dancer who escaped the Bolsheviks in Russia and the Nazis in Paris. It was the coronavirus that ultimately caught up to her.
She died on Aug. 7 at Flagler Hospital in St. Augustine, Fla., with a nurse holding her hand, her daughter, Irene Arriola, said. She was 97.
Nina Popova was born in Novorossiysk, Russia, on Oct. 20, 1922, two months before the Soviet Union was established. Her parents, Paul Popoff and Natalie Yacovleff, decided it was time to leave the country. They landed in Paris with their new baby in their arms. Mr. Popoff, who had been a hydroelectric engineer in his home country, joined the ranks of Russian cabdrivers there; his wife found work as a seamstress.
They envisioned a career in ballet for their daughter, enrolling her in a school with the children of other poor Russian refugees. Nina had a gift. At 12 she danced with the Russian opera in Barcelona, Spain, and at 14 she joined the Ballet de la Jeunesse, founded by the Russian ballerina Lubov Egorova.
As World War II and the Nazi occupation of France approached, she joined the Original Ballet Russe, directed by Wassily de Basil, which took her to Australia and eventually to Cuba, where she came to the attention of the directors of what would become American Ballet Theater in New York.
Read the full obituary here.