‘Russian Doll’ Character Nadia Vulvokov & Her Family History, Explained


“Russian Doll” primarily revolves around Nadia Vulvokov, who can be described as whimsical, sarcastic, and intelligent. The past had always haunted her; in season 1, it came for her, and in season 2, she went in search of it. Even though she was self-sufficient, a part of her yearned for her mother’s love and believed that she might have been the reason she died. She is a laid-back person who might be surrounded by people but prefers to keep a few close to her. Maxine and Lizzy were her trusted friends, and Ruth was the maternal figure in her life. Later, Alan became an important part of her life as well.

Nadia Vulvokov has an iconic style that involves all-black clothes and her glorious curly red hair. She is a chain smoker who has also experimented with drugs at times. She had a lonely childhood that was spent reading “Emily of the Moon,” a character she resonated with. Even though she believed that she had moved on from the past, on her 36th birthday, the universe conspired to make her face it instead of ignoring it. Lenora was a single mother who struggled to keep her life on track, and Nadia tried to keep up with her mother’s whims. Even with the daily chaos and absurdity, Nadia obeyed her mother. After growing up, a thought haunted her. She believed that she was the one who chose to stay with Ruth instead of her mother, and it was her absence that resulted in her demise. By the end of the first season, Ruth reminded her that she had chosen her mother, but the child protection service did not find her fit to take care of her child. Ruth took on the role of her mother. She nurtured and cared for her endlessly, and in most of her alternative realities, her self-centered ideas ended whenever she thought of Ruth. She was the good in her life, and as a therapist, she was able to reason with every thought that disturbed Nadia’s mind.

Nadia Vulvokov was in a relationship with John, a married man, but she ended their relationship the moment she realized that it was getting serious. He had filed for a divorce and wanted her to meet his daughter. She broke up with him and never met his daughter. Natasha Lyonne, creator, actor, and director, questions whether or not everyday conversations or major decisions are a result of historical, familial trauma. Therefore, the fact that Nadia tried to run away from a serious commitment that involved trusting someone and allowing them the proximity of space can be connected with the way the past generations viewed the world. In the second season, when Nadia gets the opportunity to travel to the past and live the life of her mother and her grandmother, a sense of understanding develops. Her grandmother was a Jewish woman who lived in Hungary during the Second World War and had historical trauma associated where trust and faith were lost. Her mother, Lenora, wanted to be a better person but struggled with it as a result of her mental health. There was a lack of love and commitment in her life. Therefore, there might be a generational trauma that affected Nadia unconsciously, making it extremely difficult for her to trust and love. In the first season, she had to learn to keep herself alive. She wanted to stay alive for herself and for the ones she loved. She learned to value her life as a result of the multiple deaths. The fact that she wanted to quit smoking in the second season is a nod to the idea of taking care of oneself, something that she didn’t care for earlier. The second season taught her to live, acknowledging her family and the past that they had experienced. It is impossible to rewrite the past, but it can be soothing if one learns to accept it.

The fact that the universe always messes with her is perhaps because she had the will to break the loop, to find a way out. She was not restrictive in her thoughts; she was open to multiple possibilities when she experienced time differently, something that Alan was unable to do. She was eccentric, and she used her intelligence to figure out ways to escape the loop. She was not fearful of the absurd; she embraced it and tried her best to even decode it. Nadia’s will to fight her battles all by herself was evident in the game she designed. The central character, a woman, had to solve the whole thing without any external help, and that made the game impossible to solve. The need to trust others and care for them was one of the most important lessons that time taught her.

See More: ‘Russian Doll’ Season 1: Ending, Explained: Did Nadia And Alan Survive?

‘Nadia Vulvokov’ Family History Explained: Lenora, Vera, And Ruth, The Three Women Who Shaped Nadia

Nadia Vulvokov’s mother, Lenora, suffered from schizophrenia. As her mental health gradually started deteriorating, she could not take care of Nadia. They lived in New York City, and it was young Ruth who, from the time she was a Ph.D. student of psychology, helped Lenora and her daughter. The identity of Nadia’s father remains unknown. Her mother had many lovers, but none took the time to take care of her. Nadia met one of her lovers, Cazz, and figured her mother and him were responsible for stealing her college tuition fund from her grandmother’s house. Lenora trusted those she dated, and at that time, she wanted to buy a car and chose to give up on her unborn child’s tuition fund. She was unable to comprehend the impact her decision would have on Nadia, who traveled to the past hoping to save the money from being spent, only to realize that no matter what she did, it was impossible to change history.  Lenora’s suicide affected her to the point where she blamed herself. She believed that it was her absence that led to her mother’s death. She was young when she was taken away from her mother, and from then on, she was looked after by Ruth.

Ruth Brenner was a young, empathetic woman when she started looking at Lenora’s case and committed herself to it. For Lenora’s stability, she could give away things that were dear to her, even her engagement ring. Ruth spoke for her when Lenora’s mother, Vera, was against her keeping Nadia. She believed that if Lenora tried, she could take care of her. Ruth was by Nadia’s side at every moment of her life, and Nadia loved her with all her heart. It was Ruth who saved Nadia from her demons; she made her believe in herself.

Nadia’s grandmother, Vera, was a Holocaust survivor. Her family was sent to the camps, and she had managed to escape it. In 1944, when the Nazis started to invade Hungary, her mother dressed like a Christian widow to escape the scrutiny. Her house was completely ransacked. The Jewish building was abandoned, and a woman in black showed her a secret space in the building that would keep them safe. Dalia continued to be Vera’s best friend till the very end. After the war, she traveled to the United States with Dalia. Later in life, Vera struggled to understand Lenora. She was tired of her ways and found it difficult to accept her mental condition.

The women in Nadia’s life are crucial in understanding her and the journey she was forced to undertake. It revealed the struggles of her mother and her grandmother. By living their lives, she realized that even though she hoped to be a different person, these incredibly strong women, for good or bad, were a necessary part of her life. She carried them within her, just like they carried her in themselves.

Final Words

Nadia Vulvokov’s journey in the two seasons of “Russian Doll” is therapeutic. While one prefers to leave the past behind, therapy teaches us the importance of addressing and understanding the past to move ahead in life, and that is what Nadia’s journeys are all about. She travels to different realities under mysterious circumstances to learn not to give up and to love others and herself. The second time, she takes the time travel train to go to the past and understand the history of her family. We often dream of traveling to the past to fix mistakes that haunt us even after growing up. Nadia gets the opportunity to do so, but a visit to the past is more about acknowledgment than correcting them.

See More: ‘Russian Doll’ Season 2: Ending, Explained: Did Nadia Stabilize The Collapse Of Time? Did Ruth & Alan Survive?

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Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni has worked as a film researcher on a government-sponsored project and is currently employed as a film studies teacher at a private institute. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies. Film History and feminist reading of cinema are her areas of interest.

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