Emigrant everyday life of Oleg Popov: What made the legendary clown leave the country after 60 years
A year ago, the famous circus performer, who was called the “Sunny clown”, Oleg Popov, passed away. He died while on tour in Russia, and for many the news of his death was a complete surprise, because back in the 1990s, after his mysterious disappearance, there were rumors that the artist was not among the living. For a long time, nothing was known about his fate. As it turned out, at the age of 60, Oleg Popov left for Germany. Although this decision was not easy for him, he considered it the only right one, and he had his own reasons for doing so…
In the USSR, the name of Oleg Popov was known to everyone. He was proud that he was called the clown #1 and that his services were appreciated: in 1969, he was awarded the title of people’s artist of the USSR, his performances were a great success with both Soviet and foreign audiences-in the late 1950s, he won the audience in Germany, Italy, Japan and Australia. In 1981, at the international festival in Monte Carlo, Oleg Popov was awarded the “Golden clown” award, equivalent to the “Oscar” in cinematography. “Yes, when the iron curtain first started to swing, the circus was one of the first to go abroad, and I was one of the first to go with the circus. There were a lot of impressions. It is very interesting for me to come to other countries and get acquainted with their customs,” the artist recalled.
However, with the collapse of the Union, which coincided with the artist’s retirement, dark times came in his professional life. Even during the perestroika period, circuses were empty, and the artists ‘ earnings barely allowed them to make ends meet. In the 1980s, Oleg Popov’s wife was diagnosed with cancer, and in 1990, when he was on tour in Hamburg, she died. The artist didn’t even make it to her funeral. The last straw was that he was given a pension of 2000 rubles, and all his savings on the book were burned. He realized that here he was waiting for a poor existence and a lonely old age, and decided to leave this country forever.
In 1991, Oleg Popov moved to Germany, to the small town of Eglofstein, where he began performing in a circus under the stage name “Happy Hans”. About his emigrant everyday life wrote in “Komsomolskaya Pravda”: “In a few minutes, the 77-year-old artist will spread the heavy rubberized wings and walk out on the dusty red carpet in front of the audience of a tiny German town. The audience, half made up of our countrymen, will burst into applause. Oleg Konstantinovich will work out four reprises and return to his miserable trailer again. All the other artists and did live in a van behind the tent. Once a week, this camp is removed from its place and moved to another tiny German town. Monday-Tuesday for preparation. From Wednesday to Sunday-two performances a day. For 2.5-3 hours. And so six months without days off…”.
The artist was no less popular abroad than at home. German Chancellor Angela Merkel congratulated him on his 85th birthday. In addition, he was lucky enough to meet love – in 1990, on tour, he met a fan who specially came from Germany to Austria to see him perform. Gabi (Gabriela) was 32 years younger than him, but the age difference did not become an obstacle. After 2 years, they got married and started performing together in the circus arena.
The famous clown claimed that he never regretted his decision to leave the country, which he resented for all these years. “I didn’t forget my homeland, but my homeland forgot me,” the artist complained. – I just don’t want to starve at home.”.. So many great artists in Russia live in poverty! And I would live on 3 thousand rubles. 40 years of collecting for old age – and all was lost with the collapse of the USSR.” However, when asked by reporters whether he was happy abroad, he answered evasively: “I Can’t say that I am unhappy. Because I love my job, and it makes me happy… I’m happy in Germany. I respect this country.”
At home, it was remembered less and less often. And soon there were rumors that the artist is no longer alive. Oleg Popov said that he even had to prove that he was him: “they say to Me:” Yes, Oleg Popov has been dead for a long time.” I say: “this is me – Oleg Popov, but here is the passport, look!”no, they don’t believe it anyway.”
“Sunny clown” passed away on November 2, 2016, during a tour in Russia, which finally took place after long negotiations. Until the last days, he continued to perform and remained the same. Clowns don’t age: 20 photos of Oleg Popov, who went to the arena at 86 years old.