“I was born in Mariupol. At the age of 15, we moved to Kyiv,” says Alona Alymova, a successful Ukrainian actress and director who saw her life uprooted when she fled her home country for Israel after the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022. “I starred in many series shows on Ukrainian TV, which became very popular at home and abroad.” For over a year and a half, Alymova has been living in Israel where she is a member of a theatre troupe and works as a film professional. It is a piece of tragic irony that while two wars have followed her in recent years, her drive as a consummate theatrical artist remains unabated.
“The journey from Kyiv can best be described in this sequence,” recalls Alymova. “For the first four days of the war, we sat in our basement. When the first rocket hit a house in one of Kyiv’s districts, we decided to leave. We drove almost non-stop for twenty-four hours to western Ukraine. There were large traffic jams. A week later, we crossed the border into Poland and we walked for twelve hours as there were kilometer-long queues at the border. The main thing was that there were no rockets flying overhead. We made our way to my aunt’s place in Bratislava, and ultimately, we got to Israel. Some relatives of mine live in the country. My husband also has his grandmother, mother and brother here.” Alymova arrived in Israel on March 11, 2022, and has lived in Tel Aviv ever since.
“I starred in many Ukrainian TV shows, including the comedy series, Kogda my Doma (When We’re Home), the drama series, Greek Woman, which also was shown in Israel,” continues Alymova. “I also [portrayed] a princess in the film, Cool Fairy Tale. This was shot in Estonia. [In my younger days], I wanted to study acting or journalism but my mother suggested that I become a director. In this way, I could be both an actress and a journalist, so I decided to try it. At my university, I enjoyed it every day as it was all very interesting to me.” Alymova also tells me that her mother’s second degree was in TV directing. She went on to make documentaries and TV programs. “My father was a doctor and poet. He also was a theatre [critic] for a newspaper in Mariupol, and he told me his dreams of being an actor.” Alymova’s father was a Jew and so is her husband.
I first met Alymova during a conference at ICC Jerusalem in 2010 with hundreds of olim in attendance — many of whom were born in Ukraine. “My dream is to make movies in Israel and Ukraine,” she told me at the time. In late 2018, I met her for a coffee near Khreschatyk St., just next to Kyiv’s Independence Square. I vividly remember a young boy politely interrupted our chat and asked her for an autograph — surely recognizing her from the aforementioned Kogda my Doma (When We’re Home), which lasted for two seasons. Her directorial debut, Beautiful Woman, authored by the multi-nominated screenwriter Natalya Vorozhbit, also won a Special Jury Mention award at Odessa Film Festival.
With two wars raging in Ukraine and Israel, Alymova says, “There are no comparisons. It’s terrible everywhere. Here, with [the terror assault on] Oct. 7, I had a strong sense of déjà vu. These are the same feelings as I had on Feb. 24, 2022 on the day of the Russian invasion. The only difference is the weather. It’s interesting that when I was in Kyiv, Israel was very often in my dreams. Now most of my dreams are [set] in Kyiv.” Alymova works in theatre part-time in Tel Aviv while also editing and directing commercials and music videos.
“I think there is a reason for what’s happening in the world, so I’m trying to accept it,” observes Alymova. “I think of The Wisdom of Trauma, a documentary about [Hungarian born physician] Dr. Gabor Maté. He offered to create a culture where we don’t have to hide our problems and pain. [This concept suggests] vulnerability can be considered healthy and encouraged, and where physical and mental health are not separate. They are one.” Alymova credits the film as helping her process during these traumatic times. The subject of the film, Dr. Maté, has authored five books exploring topics, which include attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), stress, and developmental psychology.
In addition to working with her theatre troupe near Tel Aviv, Alymova has played the role of “Sveta” on the hit Israeli show, Kupa Rashit. “My dreams now are in other fields,” she says. “I still have the intention of making an 8-story almanac about the war in Ukraine called, Yellow Blue.”