Biochemist, author, art collector, Soviet émigré. How Vladimir Torchilin became a renowned scientist on both sides of the Iron Curtain

Every wall of Vladimir Torchilin’s Charlestown apartment has a story to tell.

Every inch of the Northeastern University professor’s apartment is covered with paintings, prints, ceramics and lusciously illustrated, artfully bound books. They range in style, age and artist, but most of them are of Russian origin, just like Torchilin. 

Each piece of Torchilin’s collection, which, split across his Charlestown apartment and house on Cape Cod, includes close to 2,000 items, has a memory attached to it. A section of his apartment features the work of Moscow underground artist Oscar Rabin, a good friend of Torchilin’s, alongside the work of Rabin’s wife, Valentina Kropivnitskaya, and son, Alexandre Rabin. A glass cabinet along one wall contains plates, ceramics, porcelain and Jewish artifacts that he brought with him when he left Russia with his wife in the 1990s.

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