All about people: She brought her art from Russia, with love
Saturday, May. 17, 2014

All about people: She brought her art from Russia, with love

Alla Ostrovsky has come from painting sidewalk art with chalk in Russia to being a featured artist at J.Sam’s Place in SouthPark.

Alla Ostrovsky is an artist.

“I have liked to draw and paint for as long as I can remember,” Ostrovsky said. “As a little girl in Russia, I used chalk to create sidewalk art.”

She was born in Moscow, the oldest of two daughters. Ostrovsky’s father was a businessman and her mother was a teacher.

“I had a very cultural upbringing. Everyone in my family played string instruments, and there was always music and singing and dancing in the house,” said Ostrovsky. “My younger sister and her family still live in Moscow. She plays the piano.”

Ostrovsky earned her master’s in fine art from Polygraphichisky, a prestigious Moscow art institute.

Ostrovsky and her then husband, Dmitri, came to the U.S. more than 30 years ago, when their two sons were young. The family selected Charlotte because of the weather and location.

They wanted to immediately assimilate into the local scene; the boys’ Russian first names were changed to American names.

Ostrovsky said she didn’t speak much English then, only having learned a little (British) English in school.

“We only had $200, which was allowed at the time, and two little boys,” she said. “A Jewish organization helped us find a place to live, and word of mouth brought many angels to help us.”

The couple took whatever jobs they could find. Finally, her husband found work at Duke Power as an engineer.

“It was very tough in the beginning, but we wanted freedom so bad, and it was worth it. We were grateful for even the smiles we saw each day,” Ostrovsky said.

Ostrovsky worked hard and eventually started her own business, Metro Group International, an advertising and marketing communication agency, in the late 1980s.

“I had great people working for me and we made a successful business,” said Ostrovsky.

Her husband suffered a stroke during the time her sons were in college and died after being ill for several years.

“All the struggles made me a better person. I am grateful for everything and take nothing for granted,” Ostrovsky said.

She later married Jeff Wolfberg, and they’ve been together for 14 years. They live in the Alexander neighborhood off Providence Road, not far from the Arboretum.

The blended family consists of her two sons, Wolfberg’s two daughters and a granddaughter. She and Jeff have visited Russia several times, although Ostrovsky initially did not return to her native country for 20 years.

“I was considered an enemy of the state and was worried I wouldn’t be allowed to leave if they found me there,” Ostrovsky said.

She has been painting full-time for several years now.

“I paint and draw almost every day. To me, form and color are inseparable,” said Ostrovsky.

She has a studio off East Boulevard and is the featured artist at J.Sam’s Place in SouthPark until June. Her paintings and drawings also can be found in art collections worldwide.

Her website is

Karen Scioscia is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Karen? Email her at

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