Russian actress Natalya Gundareva, known for her roles of caring but often unhappy middle-aged women, was born and raised in Moscow. Initially she did not plan to become an actress and spent a few years working as an engineer in one of the capital's construction bureaus. In 1967 Gundareva enrolled in the Shchukin Acting School and graduated in 1971. Since then she committed herself to Moscow's Mayakovsky Theater where she worked throughout her acting career. Though Gundareva first appeared in the movies in 1966, her big-screen breakthrough did not come until the leading role in Zdravstvuy I Proshchay(Hello and Goodbye) in 1972. Then came her most celebrated film performances in Osen (Autumn) (1975), Sladkaya Zhenshchina (The Sweet Woman), Podranki (Orphans) (1977), Vas Ozhidaet Grazhdanka Nikanorova (Miss Nikanorova Is Waiting for You) (1978), and Osenny Marafon(Autumn Marathon) (1979). In 1979 she also reached the pinnacle of her stage career playing Katerina Izmailova in Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk District. In 1981 the actress was lauded for the warm and affectionate screen performance as a mother of 10 children in Odnazhdy 20 Let Spustya (Once Upon a Time, 20 Years Later). Three times -- in 1977, 1981, and 1984 -- Gundareva was voted Best Actress of the Year by the readers of the popular film magazine Sovetsky Ekran. In 1990 she received an award at the Montreal World Film Festival and a Nika (the Russian Oscar) for her role in Sobachy Pir (Dog's Feast). In 2001 the actress suffered a stroke from which she was not able to fully recover.