She grew up in Kiev, after she studied art.
She married Osip Mandelstam in 1921, and lived in Ukraine, Saint Petersburg, Moscow, and Georgia. Osip wrote a poem about the Russian leader, called Stalin Epigram. It angered the Russian government, and in 1934 he was arrested, and ordered to live in Cherdyn, Perm region and later to Voronezh. The government of Russia often used internal exile (sending people to live in small towns hundreds of miles from the big cities) instead of sending people to prison. Nadezhda went into exile with Osip.
Osip Mandelstam was released but arrested again in 1938. Before the government could decide where to send him he died in a camp near Vladivostok.
After this Nadezhda Mandelstam never lived in the same place for long, and she often changed jobs. She did this to hide from the NKVD (Russian Secret Police). When she was living in Kalinin the police came to arrest her her, but she had moved to a new house the day before.
She decided to spend her life collecting and publishing all of her husband's poems, and most of the poems she learned by heart (memorised).