Tuesday, November 29, 2011


It was no surprise this morning to see the obituary for Stalin's daughter occupy three front page columns of today's NYT, below the fold.  When I heard yesterday that Lana Peters, the last name the daughter came to be known as, had passed away, I knew there'd be coverage.

The obituary didn't run anywhere nearly as long as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's, but then again, they were completely different people. But the obituary does what all obituaries do for someone who leaves us at an advanced age, in this case 85.  We get a long look back at their beginnings and a linkage to a world most of the current living can only read about.  The deceased goes so far back that a sepia toned family photo that's likely 75 years old hits the front page showing one of the most despised world leaders lifting and hugging his daughter.  And she came to live among us in the United States.

My own first awareness of her was when she came to the United states and took up residence, publishing an autobiography that became a best-seller in the late 1960s. Her name appeared in the paper with some regularity, and she lived on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. I seem to remember reading of her in connection with writing mysteries as well. Her death was even a bit of a Russian mystery, with no consensus that she died November 22nd, or even several months ago in a remote area of Wisconsin.

A sad, ragged life is described. However, seeing a picture taken of her last year in Wisconsin where she is seen walking outdoors in what looks like a park with a cane, brings to mind a Russian Dr. Ruth Westheimer, moving kind of slow, but ready to tell you something.

Like most good obituaries, there is a final word from the subject. She said her father's name made her a political prisoner. And along that way she expressed a wish that her mother had married a carpenter.

Walt Disney's father was a carpenter who worked on the building of Chicago's World's Fair of 1893. Perhaps if the mother had made that union, she really would have been happier.


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