When Roxana Kadyr first moved to New York nearly a decade ago at the age of 24, she felt an overwhelming sense of loneliness. She was from Moscow and always enjoyed the thrill of being alone in a new place, but this time was different. Her English was not very strong then, so language became another barrier to connection.
“It was such a hole of endless, terrible loneliness. And in this city where everyone is on top of each other, you live under the weight of that all the time,” said Ms. Kadyr, 34, artist. She threw herself into a relationship as an escape. She found solace in love and lived with her partner for the next eight years, first in the West Village and then in Greenpoint, as she pursued her acting career.
But they broke up in April 2022. In order to do the work she wanted to do, Ms. Kadyr said, she needed to be alone and feel again that she was not tied to anyone or anything. She needed uncertainty.
Thrown into the apartment search for the first time in years, Miss Kadyr was not prepared for what was to come. She moved her belongings into a storage area (which she described as a “weird, scary place”) and was sleeping on her boyfriend’s couch when the hunt began.
Looking at listings on StreetEasy was fruitless – every broker she met presented her with a “Kafkaesque” list of documents she would need to apply. She had no references, a negative credit score, and no regular paychecks (her income mostly came from freelance photography).
Finally, she came across a sun-drenched loft-style apartment in Bushwick, Brooklyn, advertised on a Facebook group that connects renters directly with landlords. It seemed like the perfect place to live and use as a studio. When Ms. Kadyr came to see in person, the owner told her that the unit posted online was already rented, but showed her another apartment in the same building.
The owner of the apartment used to be an artist, so he understood her situation. Ms. Kadyr now lives in a converted factory in Bushwick.
BUSHWICK, BROOKLYN | $2,350
Roxana Kadyrova, 34 years old
Cast: Ms. Kadyr is an artist and photographer pursuing a Master of Fine Arts at Columbia University. She was also formally trained as an actress in Moscow.
About grounding: “I’m very connected to furniture because when you leave your home, the furniture becomes your home and becomes this gravity,” Ms. Kadyr said. “I think I got attached to it when I left my partner. It was just random things like things I found on the street or some stupid sales. It gave me a sense of the past because I felt that I had no past when I came to this city. If the city can’t give you gravity, maybe the objects will.”
Art: “I do a lot of extra things photography. I’m working on this kind of alter ego character right now, which is this giant man but without a head, and I’m in it. It’s like a wearable sculpture,” she said.
Mrs. Kadyrová began her career as an actress mainly for theater and soap operas in Moscow. While living in Morocco in early 2010, she had a role in the Season 3 finale of “Game of Thrones.” The role gave her the confidence to move to New York, Ms. Kadyr said. “I was like, wait a minute, there are no limits. Why am I in this one place? I want to move on,” she said.
She continued to play when she got to New York, but after Ms Kadyr’s father died during the 2020 pandemic lockdown, she was overcome with grief. That’s when she discovered the photograph. “There was no outlet. And so I just started creating these paintings to express all these things inside of me,” Ms. Kadyr said. “And then I realized that every picture can be the whole world. And you have so much power and control in the fact that you create the entire world.”
A month after moving into her new apartment, in May 2022, she was accepted into Columbia University’s Master of Fine Arts program. She was ecstatic – this could help establish her as a visual artist.
But there would be one problem: the commute from Bushwick to Morningside Heights, past West 116th Street in Manhattan.
Ms. Kadyr has to take three different trains, and the trip from home to campus can take anywhere from one to three hours, depending on the time of day and how long she has to wait between transfers. It hasn’t been easy, but he uses the commute to read to class.
This is the first apartment that Ms. Kadyrová has all to herself. She enjoys being able to do whatever she wants with him and use him as a blank slate to anchor her newfound independence. Ms. Kadyr sleeps with a mattress on the floor, a habit she developed during her 20s moving from sublet to sublet, but now an aesthetic choice.
The space is completely open, with no walls to separate the sleeping area from the kitchen from the living area, so she hung curtains to create movable barriers between the spaces. The curtains are also useful for hiding her furniture when she does photo shoots in the apartment. Income from these projects goes to pay the rent, Ms. Kadyr said.
Ms. Kadyr also discovered unexpected neighbors: a pair of sparrows that made a nest in a hole next to her window. “Their names are Andres and Pedro. I like to watch them,” she said.
Another peculiarity of the apartment is that it is adjacent to the train station, with windows facing the tracks.
“It’s like living in a train station,” Ms. Kadyr said. “You see people, you see tracks, you see everything that’s going on. At night, there are a lot of sad-looking people just looking at their phones and wrapped in jackets.”
At first, Mrs. Kadyr had to get used to the rumble of a train passing by every few minutes. The person she’s currently seeing is a light sleeper, so she stretches his ears at night so the train doesn’t wake him, she said.
But now that familiar sound is like a lullaby and she can tell time with it and calls herself a “pulse keeper.” “I wake up in the morning because the heartbeat is extremely intense,” Ms. Kadyr. he said. “And then I know it’s 10 or 11 p.m. when it slows down.”