Olga Peters Back at Her English School
SAFFRON WALDEN, England (AP) _ The 14-year-old American granddaughter of Josef Stalin returned to her Quaker school Wednesday, tearfully embracing teachers and classmates and saying her mother was sorry she made her move to the Soviet Union.
″It’s a very emotional moment. I didn’t think I’d get back,″ said Olga Peters, in the assembly hall of the Friends’ School in Saffron Walden, 12 miles from Cambridge.
She left the boarding school in October 1984 when her mother, Svetlana Alliluyeva, abruptly left her home in Cambridge and took Miss Peters to the Soviet Union.
Life in the nation her grandfather ruled for 29 years was strange for a girl raised in the United States, and from the outset she wanted to return to the school and friends she knew, Miss Peters said.
She spoke no Russian or Georgian, the language of Soviet Georgia where she and her mother lived, and she said she missed her native English.
Also, her half-sister and half-brother ″were not supportive to me,″ she told reporters. ″We didn’t know what to say to each other.″
Miss Peters said her mother ″deeply regretted taking me away from school so suddenly without saying goodbye to anyone,″ and ″she was really thrilled I was coming back.″
But in general, she added, ″It was a great experience and I don’t regret any of it. ... It’s not every kid that gets to see three different countries - three of the most important countries in the world.″
Miss Peters, who first enrolled at the Friends’ School in 1982, flew to London from Moscow on Tuesday, traveling on the Soviet passport she was given when she arrived in the Soviet Union.
She was brought to the school by two Soviet diplomats and walked into the assembly hall where teachers, pupils and a throng of reporters waited.
Headmaster John Woods brought forward four girls and two teachers, all particular favorites of Miss Peters. There were kisses and hugs, and Miss Peters was in tears.
The tall teen-ager embraced the school’s matron, Ida Coton, and her cello teacher, Mary Mileson, who said: ″Super to see you. Are you going to learn the cello again?″
Schoolmates Rebecca Gatward and Emily Richardson asked her if she got their letters and birthday present. She had, but the letters she wrote to them never arrived.
Miss Alliluyeva, who uses her mother’s last name, defected to the West in 1967 and lived in the United States where she married architect William Wesley Peters in 1970. Their daughter was born the next year, and the couple divorced in 1973.
Miss Alliluyeva later moved to Britain to give her daughter an English education. She took her daughter to the Soviet Union in October 1984, saying she had never been happy in the West and had been hounded by U.S. intelligence agents. She also said she wanted to be close to her two grown children from previous marriages.
She has recently told reporters she was also free to leave the Soviet Union, and Miss Peters’ father said Miss Alliluyeva had told him she planned to move to Switzerland.
Asked why her mother decided to return to the Soviet Union in 1984, Miss Peters said, ″We went there for the sake of the family. She wanted to save the family and ... I didn’t want to hurt her.″
She added: ″I wasn’t unhappy at all. But I feel that I want to learn in my own language and see my old friends and old teachers. It was very difficult to study in a different language.″
Asked whether she would soon see her father, who lives in Arizona, Miss Peters said ″He’s capable of doing anything. He could come over as a surprise.″