Alive and well... and living in Wisconsin: Stalin's daughter





An independent film is bringing to light a well-kept secret: Soviet Dictator Josef Stalin's only daughter, Svetlana Alliluyeva, has been living incognito in the U.S. state of Wisconsin.

It is unclear whether the 84-year-old who fiercely guards her privacy still lives here today, but Lana Peters has lived at several addresses in southern Wisconsin in the last 20 years.

And in the summer of 2007, a determined film maker tracked her down at an apartment at a retirement home in an undisclosed Wisconsin town for a rare interview that could be the last she ever grants.

A documentary based on the interview, 'Svetlana About Svetlana,' tells her complex life story, which is probably most noted for her defection to the U.S. in 1967. On April 18, the film will be shown at the Wisconsin Film Festival in Madison.

The film explores Alliluyeva's life and how she managed to 'disappear' while living in near Madison, Wisconsin.
On March 6, 1967, she first visited the Soviet embassy in New Delhi, and then went to the U.S. embassy and formally petitioned Ambassador Chester Bowles for political asylum.

This was granted. However, because the Indian government feared the potential ill-will of the Soviet Union, it was arranged for her to leave India immediately for Rome.

When the Alitalia flight arrived in Rome, Alliluyeva immediately went to Geneva. There the Swiss government arranged a tourist visa and accommodation in Switzerland for six weeks. Alliluyeva then went on to the U.S.

Upon her arrival in April 1967 in New York City, Alliluyeva gave a press conference denouncing her father's regime and the Soviet government.

Her intention to publish her autobiography, Twenty Letters To A Friend, on the 50th anniversary of the Soviet revolution caused an uproar in the USSR, and the Soviet government there threatened to release an unauthorised version.

Alliluyeva moved to Princeton, New Jersey, and later to nearby Pennington.

In 1970, Alliluyeva answered an invitation from Frank Lloyd Wright's widow, Olgivanna Lloyd Wright, to visit Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Olgivanna believed in mysticism and had become convinced that Alliluyeva was a spiritual replacement for her own daughter Svetlana, who had married Wright's chief apprentice William Wesley Peters, and who had died in a car crash years before.

Alliluyeva came to Arizona, and agreed to marry Peters within a matter of weeks.

Peters was a member of the Taliesin Fellowship, a group of architects and designers who had been Wright's apprentices and acolytes, and remained dedicated to his work.

Alliluyeva became part of the Fellowship community, adopted the name Lana Peters, and migrated with them back and forth between the Scottsdale studio and Taliesin om Spring Green, Wisconsin.

The couple had a daughter, Olga. By her own account Alliluyeva retained respect and affection for Wes Peters, but their marriage dissolved under the pressure of Mrs. Wright's influence.

In 1982, she moved with her daughter to Cambridge in England.

In 1984, she returned to the Soviet Union, where she and her daughter were granted citizenship, and settled in Tbilisi, Georgia. In 1986, Alliluyeva returned to the U.S. In the 1990s she moved to Bristol, England.
As of 2009, she is living in Madison, Wisconsin.

Peters initially refused to talk to film maker Parshina. She has dodged the media and the public eye for several years. But after several of Parshina's attempts and hours of conversation, Peters eventually trusted Parshina enough to allow her an interview.

'People say, 'Stalin's daughter, Stalin's daughter', meaning I'm supposed to walk around with a rifle and shoot the Americans. Or they say, 'no, she came here. She is an American citizen,' Peters said, reports the AP. 'No, I'm neither one. I'm somewhere in between. That 'somewhere in between' they can't understand.'
This brief but insightful look into the life of Svetlana will be screened April 18 at the Wisconsin Film Festival in Madison.

But don't expect to find Lana Peters there. Or in Madison in general.

According to Parshina and others, Peters moved on after the interview. She moved out of the retirement home apartment and changed her phone number.


comments powered by Disqus
History News Network