MOSCOW -- Not long after Boris Pasternak died, the KGB came and took Lara away.
Olga Ivinskaya had been Pasternak's lover and helpmate in the great writer's final years and the model for Lara, the passionate heroine of his novel "Doctor Zhivago." The petty and spiteful bureaucrats of the Soviet regime, envious of Pasternak's international reputation and suspicious of any genius untamed by politics, miraculously never arrested the writer himself. But once he was gone, in 1960, they tossed Ivinskaya into the gulag, where she suffered for four years.
Now Ivinskaya, 82, is waging one last battle against the bureaucrats of Moscow, and once again the odds are stacked against her. Though her request seems simple enough -- she wants the papers the KGB stole from her apartment 34 years ago -- and though Russia's regime has, in principle, changed, Ivinskaya has bumped into one roadblock after another.
The government is reluctant to return the Pasternak papers -- they include part of the original manuscript of "Doctor Zhivago" with a dedication to Ivinskaya; a copy of a Pasternak play, "Blind Beauty"; and letters written to him -- which it confiscated as seditious literature but now claims as cultural treasure. It is a situation common to Russia's museums, archives and libraries, which are crammed with priceless works expropriated by the Bolsheviks and now claimed by the dispossessed or their heirs.
Ivinskaya's case is complicated by personal grudges that have sprung back to life after 40 years, no less bitter than when Pasternak caused them by vacillating between wife and mistress. But it also reflects a continuing ambivalence here about private property, moneymaking and the rule of law.
"It is difficult to understand why this should be happening in the new Russia," the newspaper Sevodyna recently wrote.
Indeed, Ivinskaya's troubles raise a question of how different the new Russia really is. She said her demand for her confiscated papers has been met with a combination of nationalist rhetoric, insinuations about her role as mistress to the married genius, and self-righteous pettifoggery that she finds all too familiar.
"The same pseudo-patriotic demagogy was poured over Pasternak in 1958, when I stood near him and supported him in his terrible trials," she wrote this month in an open letter to Russian President Boris Yeltsin. "Twice I was sent to the gulag, and today I can no longer abide such demagogy.
"I am 82 years old," Ivinskaya added, "and I do not want to leave this life insulted and spat upon."
Pasternak and Ivinskaya met and fell in love in 1946, when he was 56 and she 34. For much of the rest of his life, the author would spend nights with his wife in their Peredelkino dacha and, in the morning, walk to the smaller, rented dacha nearby where Ivinskaya waited.
When he traveled with his family, he wrote letters to Ivinskaya pledging his undying love. "Oliusha, my precious girl, I give you a big kiss. I am bound to you by life, by the sun shining through my window, by a feeling of remorse and sadness, by a feeling of guilt," he wrote. "... I hold you to me terribly, terribly tight, and almost faint from tenderness, and almost cry."
In 1949, because of her association with him, she was sent to the gulag for the first time, for four years of hard agricultural labor. Their child was stillborn in prison not long after her arrest.
Just before her return, Pasternak told Ivinskaya's 15-year-old daughter, Irina, that he was ready to break off the affair, speaking with what Ivinskaya later described as his typical "mixture of candor, guileless charm and undeniable heartlessness." But -- as so often in Pasternak's life -- he changed his mind, and their relationship continued until his death.
Sympathizers of Pasternak's wife, and many intellectuals in his circle, derided Ivinskaya as a gold digger and a seductress, the U.S. scholar Victor Erlich recalled.
"She's been judged very harshly, and unfairly," Erlich, professor emeritus at Yale University, said in a telephone interview. "She was an attractive woman of little substance. ... But the notion that she was an adventuress who seduced him and tried to profit by his fame -- I don't buy it. I don't buy it at all.
"At a certain period, she gave Pasternak a great deal of joy. And whatever can be said against her, she suffered because of him."
Nor is there any dispute, according to Howard University professor Josephine Woll, that Ivinskaya served in large part as the model for Lara in what Pasternak saw as his masterpiece.
In the United States, Pasternak may be best known as the source for the 1965 epic movie of revolution and romance starring Omar Sharif and Julie Christie and featuring the haunting "Lara's Theme." In Russia, now as during his lifetime, Pasternak is most loved as a poet of surpassing beauty and honesty.
An early supporter of the Bolshevik Revolution, Pasternak never went into outright opposition. But as Stalin's terror unfolded in the 1930s, the author refused to become a sycophant, the only kind of writer the regime would tolerate. He stopped creating altogether, earning his living for years as a translator and enjoying a mysterious immunity as most of Russia's other great writers were vilified, jailed, killed or hounded into suicide.
Still, by the time he met Ivinskaya, Pasternak had resolved to write a novel that would capture the truth of his time, the story of one individual unable to come to terms with the barrenness of revolution. The martinets who controlled the Soviet book industry could not bring themselves to reject the book, but they also dared not publish it. It confused the regime because it was neither pro-Soviet nor anti-Soviet but apolitical in a way that soared beyond their control.
In the end, the novel was published abroad, to great critical acclaim, but not in Russia. When Pasternak won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1958, the Soviet Establishment hounded him into renouncing the award and apologizing for his novel. "I am caught like a beast at bay," he wrote soon afterward.
He was denounced, in rhetoric disturbingly similar to that of today's nationalists, as a mercenary who had abandoned his people to seek fame and gold overseas. "A poet should look to his native country for glory, not to a rich transatlantic uncle," proclaimed the poet Boris Slutsky.
In the spring of 1960, Pasternak fell ill for the last time. As he lay dying, screened from Ivinskaya by his wife and family, Pasternak still scribbled letters to her. "Everything I possess of value, I am passing on to you," he wrote, mentioning specifically the manuscript of "Blind Beauty," which he was then writing.
On May 30, 1960, Pasternak died -- exhausted, Ivinskaya believed, by unending attacks and insults. On Aug. 16, the KGB ransacked Ivinskaya's apartment and took her and her daughter to Lubianka, the dreaded secret-police headquarters from which so many Russians had never returned.
Ivinskaya's interrogators accused her of turning Pasternak against his country, of profiting from his foreign sales. One agent triumphantly cited a loving dedication from Pasternak to her -- "You guided my hand and stood behind me, all of it I owe to you" -- as proof that Ivinskaya had in fact written the treasonous masterpiece herself.
In the end, Irina was to spend two years in the camps, Olga another four. In 1988 -- the year "Doctor Zhivago" was finally published in Russia -- Ivinskaya and her daughter were officially "rehabilitated," the state's acknowledgment that their arrest had been unjust. But Ivinskaya's documents remained in government hands -- some in KGB archives, some in the State Literary Archives.
By then, Irina and her husband, Vadim Kozovoi, were living in France. Their marriage was the result of a "camp romance"; Kozovoi had been sent to the gulag at age 19 for helping to write an unacceptably honest history of the Soviet Communist Party. Although they could never meet in prison, they were put in contact by a mutual friend and began passing notes and poems to each other. They married soon after their release.
In 1989 Kozovoi, on a visit to Moscow, began seeking the return of his mother-in-law's papers. And in the liberal period following the failed hard-line coup of 1991, he was promised the documents, he said.
"Now of course we should return everything that was confiscated by the KGB," a senior official told Kozovoi then. "Naturally, we will be sorry to do it, but it is our duty."
But a change of heart followed, and Ivinskaya appealed to the Moscow City Court. She won there, but a deputy prosecutor ordered the archives to ignore the court ruling. She appealed to the Supreme Court and won again, but again the archives refused to turn over the papers.
Now the widow of Pasternak's younger son has joined the fray, saying she wants the documents to remain in the archives.
"There is no proof that those documents belonged to Ivinskaya," Natalya Pasternak said. "They could have just been given to her as the secretary."
Ivinskaya's critics have predicted she will sell the papers outside Russia for money -- once again betraying the motherland. Ivinskaya said she would like her relatives to dispose of them as they see fit. And if there is anything new in the papers -- which have been closed to scholars all these years -- "let it be published by those who truly love Pasternak and his poetry," she wrote.
Natalya Volkova, who has headed the State Literary Archives for 30 years, said in an interview that by holding on to the documents she is simply following the law. The archives director also said she had always thought it unfair that scholars paid so little attention to Pasternak's wife, "who created conditions for his work and stayed with him to the end."
Ivinskaya has been too weak to grant interviews lately, her son-in-law said. When she manages to walk from her living room to her kitchen, she jokes that she has "traveled from Moscow to St. Petersburg."
When Ivinskaya turned 60, her memoirs were published abroad. She dedicated them to Pasternak's memory: "The greater part of my conscious life has been devoted to you -- and what is left of it will also be devoted to you." But that has proven only partly true, Kozovoi said; to this day, Ivinskaya takes a great interest in politics and life around her.
Indeed, until recently, she was a great supporter of Yeltsin, her son-in-law said, which makes her recent disillusionment all the more bitter. In her letter to the president, Ivinskaya said she no longer wanted any part of her "rehabilitation" or her Russian citizenship.
"Peaceful and unpunished, the former executioners walk our land," she wrote, "while the victims of the totalitarian regime are consigned to oblivion or, as in this case, open abuse."
Perhaps Pasternak himself understood best. In a poem he attributed to his hero, Zhivago, the author wrote: "It is not seemly to be famous/ Celebrity does not exalt/ There is no need to hoard your writings/ And to preserve them in a vault."