In the next few days, Olga Margedant Peters, the 14-year-old American-born granddaughter of Joseph Stalin and, in a way, a daughter of both East and West, is scheduled to fly from Moscow to a boarding school in England and the life she loves in the West.
Svetlana Alliluyeva, Olga's mother, who defected to the United States amid international celebrity in 1967 only to return to the Soviet Union 17 years later, says she has permission to leave, too. She has not said where she's going. "I can't think that far into the future," Alliluyeva told a reporter in Moscow.
The move will be only the latest in a lifetime of journeys for the 60-year-old daughter of the late Soviet dictator, one of the bloodiest tyrants of the 20th century. Almost every two years, on a dependable cycle, most often in November, the month of her mother's 1932 suicide (or murder), or in March, the month of her father's death in 1953, Alliluyeva changes houses, husbands or lovers, and flees.
But no matter how far or fast she travels, she has never managed to free herself from the ghost of her parents, the shadow of Soviet officialdom, the doubts and fears of her own heart and the deep dark depression of her own mind.
Life for both her and her daughter has been a tug of war between past and future, between East and West, and, perhaps most significantly, between the cultures of age and youth.
Nineteen years ago, Alliluyeva became the most celebrated defector and prodigal daughter of the Soviet Union, moving to the United States, writing a bestselling book and promptly becoming a millionaire.
In October 1984, Alliluyeva suddenly returned to the Soviet Union to what she once described as ". . . eternal Soviet mysteries, those high walls, closed-in fences, those gloomy dens inhabited by indifferent, comatose bears . . . "
With her she took the protesting child of her life in the West, a daughter who so embraced the totems of American pop culture she renamed herself "Chrissy" after the dizzy blond sitcomedian on television's "Three's Company."
Stalin's granddaughter, apparently, is not at all Russian. "In her 18 months in the Soviet Union, Olga learned to speak fluent and accentless Russian," but not how to remain silent in any of the four languages she speaks, says her father, American architect William Wesley Peters.
Olga has won, through her own persistence and that of her friends and relatives in two governments, the right to return to Quaker Friends school in Sussex, which she attended happily for two years before her mother carried her off to the U.S.S.R. In the summers, Peters says, she'll come to visit him at his home at the architecture school Taliesin, founded by Frank Lloyd Wright, in Spring Green, Wis.
Peters has spent a year working for Olga's return, and he is still worried about something interfering with her safe return. "I suggested that Olga be circumspect in what she says," Peters said, after speaking by phone with Alliluyeva in Moscow. "But her mother admits Olga still is outspoken. I am glad that she wasn't crushed. Olga has grown up a lot in this time."
Her mother, apparently, remains the same person she always was, quickly tiring of her own decisions.
"I've seen lots of Soviet defectors over the years," said Richard Helms, director of the Central Intelligence Agency when Alliluyeva defected to the United States. "They aren't used to making decisions, the hundreds of decisions Americans make every day. The Russians say, 'Oh God, how are we going to deal with it?' "
Shortly after Alliluyeva and Olga flew to Moscow, however, a former government official who knew them well said:
"Olga's remarkably mentally alert and strong. She will have a difficult job to stay in Russia. I woudn't be a bit surprised to see her back."
Olga was born in Mill Valley, Calif., during the brief marriage between Peters and Alliluyeva in 1970. Her parents separated shortly after she was christened. They had met when the widow of Peters' mentor, Frank Lloyd Wright, invited Alliluyeva to his experimental school Taliesin West near Phoenix. Stalin's daughter, who like her father is quick to love and to hate, fell in love with Peters and they were married three weeks after they met. But Alliluyeva soon grew disenchanted.
"Life in a communal setting of both Taliesin West and Taliesin in Wisconsin was not for me," she later wrote in "The Faraway Music." "In Arizona, we had a small room plus a terrace, but no kitchen. Our first morning started by my going into a communal dining room for breakfast. Even having coffee in my room would be a violation of rules, and Wes was determined not to change his lifestyle after marriage."
After Olga's birth, on May 21, 1971, she left their quarters at Taliesin for a house in Phoenix, but Peters, who had spent most of his adult life at Taliesin, wouldn't leave.
From Phoenix, Alliluyeva and her daughter began a series of moves, living at several places in California and twice in Princeton, N.J., as Alliluyeva searched constantly for a "better life."
"Svetlana felt uneasy about bringing up an American child. She was very critical, never a relaxed mother," said Margedant Hayakawa, Peters' sister and the wife of former senator Samuel Hayakawa.
In the United States, Olga could choose from dozens of different kinds of toothpaste. With her television remote control, she could push the button, turn the president green, mute the bad news, switch the channel from tragedy to comedy.
Alliluyeva's own young years had been vastly more circumscribed. She was born in 1926 and grew up when her father was absolute ruler of Russia, from 1929 to 1953. In her autobiography, "Twenty Letters to a Friend," she writes of Stalin:
He drove me to tears more than once with his nagging over what I wore . . . He insisted that I wear dresses that hung on me like sacks . . . Later I learned . . . that in Georgia older people don't tolerate short dresses, short sleeves or socks.
Once, when he thought her dress too short, "He went off to his room and came back with two cotton undershirts" and ordered her nurse to "make her some bloomers to cover up her knees."
Olga, born many years after her grandfather's death in 1953, "never talked about her grandfather," said Pamela Stefansson, once Olga's baby sitter and still a confidant of Alliluyeva. "I think she once did a report on him at school, but we never discussed it."
At 11, Olga was taller than most of her friends, very pretty, intelligent and talented in music and languages, a girl who spoke her mind.
Alliluyeva didn't mind calling her daughter Chrissy, though in Russia she was always known as Olga. Svetlana had changed her own last name many years ago from Stalin to Alliluyeva, her mother's last name. And in recent years, even after her divorce, she called herself Lana Peters. But she had other problems with her daughter.
"She looks older than she is," Hayakawa said of Olga. "She likes cassette tapes, boys, horses, makeup, nail polish and fooling around with her hair. Olga could try on earrings by the half hour."
Artist Patty Kaeser of Spring Green, a friend since Olga was a baby, said she's "a dear, very sweet and helpful. She loves to ride horseback and braid my horse's hair. She likes to cook, make cookies (she loved my Mixmaster, they didn't have one) paint goose eggs, design place cards and baby sit my stepdaughter's children."
But like most American girls on the edge of womanhood, Olga didn't always agree with her mother.
"Olga had fights with her mother about boys, clothes, movies, what to watch on television -- the basic parent/daughter conflicts," said Stefansson.
Peters, like many other divorced men, said he found it difficult to be a father by long distance.
In 1982, Olga and her mother had moved from Princeton to Cambridge, England, in search of a boarding school for her daughter and a "better life" for herself. Olga was enrolled in the Quaker Friends School at Saffron Walden, 12 miles south of Cambridge.
Alliluyeva explained her reasons in the third volume of her autobiography, "The Faraway Music," published in 1984 only in India:
"From the beginning, Olga was much more independent" than Alliluyeva's two children born and brought up in Russia.
Sociable and exuberant, a true extrovert, Olga needed a large family . . . and the constant company of many friends. All this was hopelessly missing from our lives, and the idea of a good boarding school in Switzerland or England came to me in those last years with growing persistence. I liked to be more and more alone. I increasingly needed solitude and meditative silence and this was not good for a young girl . . . She invited friends home and was visiting them much more . . . I was not the type of mother to be happy turning my home into a club for youngsters . . . I knew that one day she would enter her tempestuous teens, and then a boarding school could be a realistic solution for both of us . . . a traditional boarding school for girls as has existed in England for many generations.
Stefansson said Olga had wanted to stay in Princeton because she had "changed homes, neighborhoods and schools so many times . . . But afterward, she was devoted to the new school [in England]. Her first experience with boarding school! She was in like crazy."
Alliluyeva, on the other hand, found that in England, as in other lands, her troubles had traveled with her.
Olga and her mother "were fond of each other, but they did have disagreements. In the small apartment, the two of them got on each other's nerves," said Jessica Denman, their first Cambridge landlady.
"One could understand. Lana was fond of her daughter. But Lana was also Edwardian, old-fashioned." Olga, on the other hand, "was a typical modern girl. She wanted to do what other girls did. Mrs. Peters had preferred an all-girl school for her daughter -- that's why she came to England. But the school was not what she quite had in mind -- mixed boys and girls, both men and women on the staff." But Olga "loved her school and was very happy with it, especially the fact that it was a boarding school."
Faye Black, once a French teacher at Olga's school, said Olga "didn't like vacations. She wasn't allowed as much freedom at home. At school she could be herself. They were allowed to wear makeup and blue jeans after class. Her mother disapproved.
"Chrissy is a very bright child, though her grades were only average, not exceptional. Her mother worried she didn't get high enough marks. I couldn't have stood a mother like that, but Chrissy could shout her mother down."
Black broke with Alliluyeva over her daughter. Olga "loved music. She played in school. I thought she'd enjoy playing in the Cambridge Holiday Orchestra so I borrowed a cello for her. Lana told me not to interfere. She was afraid Chrissy would know too many English people. She wasn't allowed to mix with Cambridge children. Chrissy would strike up friendships with boys and that worried her mother."
In England, Alliluyeva began to pine for her older two children, still in Russia, the daughter and son of her earlier two marriages whom she had rarely mentioned in America, and the grandchildren she'd never seen.
Her son is Joseph Morozov, now near 40 (he was 22 when she left Russia) and a physician. Her daughter, Yekatarina Zhdanova, a geophysicist, is now about 35; she was 17 when their mother left them behind.
Alliluyeva had not talked with her older children for many years, but gradually, perhaps by design, her son Joseph was allowed to call her.
In the meantime, she had been disappointed that publishers thought her third book needed more work.
In the fall of 1984, Joseph, who had said he might visit his mother and sister in England, fell ill in the Soviet Union. And overnight, the impulsive Alliluyeva packed up their apartment, left food in the refrigerator and had Olga fly with her to Moscow.
Peter Mansfield, a tenant who lived above Alliluyeva in the Cambridge apartment house, said the night before they left, he overheard Olga protesting to her mother, "Why didn't you tell me? Why didn't you discuss it with me?"
At 13 1/2, Olga found herself, overnight, transplanted from her Quaker school in England to Moscow and again to the far-off Soviet state of Georgia. Within a few hours, her life was as different as East and West, and Alliluyeva had not prepared her daughter to live in the Soviet Union.
She wrote of Olga in "The Faraway Music":
She spoke only English from the start, since I decided that it would be much better for her to feel completely at home in the USA, not a half-emigre child . . . she never regards Russia as her second, faraway Motherland . . . she belongs to America.
A former U.S. government official who remained friends with Alliluyeva long after his official interest was over talked about Olga's education. "Svetlana's indoctrination of her was anticommunist, with scorn for Russia. Svetlana's rejection of Russia was so vehement that I thought she felt an attraction and allure for it that she didn't want to voice."
Back in Russia, Alliluyeva in a press conference said: "I never forced any one of my adult children to do what I want. But while she is a schoolgirl, she will live in accordance with what her mother deems right."
Yesterday, Stefansson, just back from a trip to visit Olga and her mother in Soviet Georgia, said, "Olga has not been locked up in a dungeon, for heaven's sake. She's had a good time."
Olga herself, in a telephone interview with Washington Post correspondent Celestine Bohlen in Moscow, said she was "thrilled" to be going back to school in England -- her school term starts April 16 -- but hoped to be able to return to her grandfather's native province for a visit someday.
"I myself became pretty attached to Georgia," Olga said. "I really love the place."
She said she now speaks Georgian better than Russian, which she knew nothing of before she arrived 18 months ago.
Peters said Alliluyeva plans to come to the United States before settling perhaps in Switzerland. "But," he added, "she may have changed her mind about that overnight."
Olga, however, said she did not know her mother's plans. "All she has told me is that she is sorry she ever came back," she said.