Lana Peters died today of colon cancer. I knew her as Svetlana, occasionally calling her Mrs. Peters. She and her husband Wes Peters frequented my shop in North Scottsdale in the seventies, though never together.
I managed two businesses during these years; one was a frame shop, the other was Valley Staging Company, Inc. As president and founder of VSC, I was seeking business relationships with Museums in Eastern Countries, most of which at that time were Iron Curtain Countries. This would become the thread of communication which bound my new friend and me to each other. Until meeting Svetlana, my knowledge of Eastern Europe was limited to having been stationed there in the military for the minimal 140 days, during which time I spent as much time as possible visiting the art museums and private , well established art galleries, building a network of friends and acquaintances, promising myself that when I returned to the States I would reestablish communications with some of these people, the curators , the art directors and consultants, the people who really understood the world of art and who were instrumental in educating the world to its history.
When Svetlana introduced herself to me she was alone, though a chauffeured automobile waited at the curb. She was wearing a diamond studded tiara and a fluffy, white chiffon dress. I did not know who she was though I figured it out after she left. I was absolutely certain that I was in the presence of royalty, though from what country I did not know. She spoke very few words, was highly composed and bore a presence I had seen only in news clips of British royalty.
She and her husband spent most of the year in Taliesin in Wisconsin but wintered in Arizona at Taliesin West. Since The Framery created most of the custom picture framing for the residents and architects there it was natural that we should meet. When we eventually realized that we had mutual acquaintances in Yugoslavia a strained relationship emerged. It was uncomfortable for me because Svetlana rarely smiled. She asked me once why I was staring at her. I replied that since it was normal to smile, I assumed that she would eventually do so and that when that moment came, I did not want to miss it. Immediately, an almost imperceptible trace of hidden mirth lifted the corner of one side of her lips and then just as quickly left. I did the laughing for both of us. There were perhaps a dozen visits as I recall, in three short weeks. And then she was gone.
And now she is gone forever.
Goodbye Svetlana (Lana Peters) Alliluyeva, Stalin.