They say she lives modestly on England's Cornish coast. She shuns anyone who would inquire into her affairs. Those who know her say Svetlana Alliluyeva, child of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, deserves the peace and quiet.
''She's a very private person,'' says a friend who asked not to be identified.
After her high-profile defection in 1967 to the US via India, Switzerland, and Italy, Alliluyeva at first reveled in the attention brought her by her memoir, "20 Letters to a Friend." Now she shies away from the public eye. "She feels the world's hatred of Stalin is on her shoulders," says her friend. "She has almost a phobia of reporters and news and public focus."
But Alliluyeva is still embroiled in family politics. Last year her cousin Vladimir Alliluyev published his "Chronicle of a Family," advocating Russia's return to Stalinism. Alliluyeva condemned the book in a letter to the Moscow-based Book Review: ''To present a philosophical tract on the rebirth of Soviet power in Russia disguised as the family album of Stalin's relative! What a dark nightmare!" she wrote.
Though she spent 1983 and 1984 in the Soviet Union at the government's invitation, Alliluyeva found she couldn't live in the state her father helped create. Harvard University researcher Patricia Blake says the invitation was a KGB ploy, a "long term conspiracy to get her back to Russia." The KGB hoped her triumphal return after almost 15 years in the West would bolster the failing Communist regime. Alliluyeva left again for the US, then Britain.
Alliluyeva's time now is reportedly occupied with daily phone calls to her daughter, Wisconsin artist Chrese Evans. She also studies religions varying from Hinduism to Christian Science. "Her grandmother was deeply religious, so she has that heritage,'' the friend says. "[I]t was forbidden to her during Stalin's era.''