She has her grandfather’s eyes, but overall that’s one of the few things she inherited from him.
With her punk haircut, baggy clothes, tattoos and her job as an antique store owner in Portland, Oregon, Cress Evans is so American that no one would ever guess she’s the granddaughter of Soviet dictator Joseph Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili – Stalin.
Already 51 years old, Kress tries to be as far as possible from the image of the merciless “man of steel” of the former USSR.
Kress, born Olga Peters, was the youngest of three children of Svetlana Alliluyeva, Stalin’s only daughter, who fled the Soviet Union in 1966 and settled in the United States.
By that time, the cult of the former dictator had already been broken, and although Leonid Brezhnev had replaced the revanchist Nikita Khrushchev, the pressure on Svetlana and her brother Vladimir was considerable.
Svetlana took advantage of Brezhnev’s opportunity to go to India to send the mortal remains of her then-partner, the Indian communist Brijesh Singh, and while in Delhi entered the American embassy to seek asylum.
After a complicated diplomatic game, in which Svetlana’s memoirs, written in Moscow, were also involved, she managed to leave for the United States. For her book, she received 1.5 million dollars from the Harper & Row publishing house, with which she established her new life.
She left her other two children behind in the USSR – 22-year-old Joseph (by Grigory Morozov) and 17-year-old Ekaterina (by her father’s close associate Yuriy Zhdanov).
In the USA, however, in 1970, Svetlana married the architect William Wesley Peters, from whom in 1971 she also gave birth to Olga – the woman who would later change her name to Cress Evans in order to distance herself as much as possible from her inheritance.
She was only two years old when her father left the family, and so the girl was raised only by her mother, who, however, kept his surname Peters.
In America, Cress and her mother constantly move and never manage to settle in one place. In 1978, Svetlana became a naturalized American citizen and this gave her the opportunity to travel a lot. In 1982, he settled in Britain and received British citizenship, and Olga / Cress was sent to a Quaker boarding school to study with the children of the British elite.
Kress told the British newspaper “Daily Express” that for a long time she did not know that her mother was the daughter of the Soviet dictator, and her mother taught her that Russia was a foreign country.
Born Olga Peters, Stalin’s granddaughter decided to change her name at a young age. Cress, on the other hand, comes from the address Chrissy, with which her friends address her because of her favorite character from the series of the same name.
“For me, Stalin was one of the three people who won the Second World War – Churchill, Roosevelt and him. But then my mother asked me to listen to her. That’s how I found out about his crimes,” she says.
That’s why it was a huge surprise for everyone when Svetlana and her daughter arrived in Moscow in 1984. Her son Joseph made this request to her, and the Soviet leadership welcomed her with open arms, and her citizenship was immediately restored.
However, this attempt to live in the homeland – first in Moscow, and then in the homeland of Stalin himself – Georgia, was unsuccessful. Despite all the luxury with which she is surrounded (luxury by the standards of the USSR), Svetlana has a bad relationship with the authorities, and at the same time, she never manages to establish a meaningful relationship with her children.
So less than 2 years after her arrival, she and Kress returned to the US with the permission of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
To this day, Kress describes that brief period as “nightmarish.” At that time, she still bore her birth name – Olga, but it was this experience that made her want to break away from the relationship with Stalin as much as possible.
“My mother’s whole life was about experiencing this relationship with Stalin as she tried to lead her own new life. Of course she abhorred what Stalin had done, but there were periods when so many people she was held responsible for his actions that she actually began to think that maybe it was true. It was so unfair,” she explained to The Daily Telegraph years later about her decision to distance herself as much as possible from her grandfather.
After returning to the United States, Cress also had a turbulent life – she married at the age of 16 (from there she also took the surname Evans), but for a short time. And after this short adventure, he enrolled in college, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and tax law.
This gives her the choice of a career in the all-powerful US Internal Revenue Service or running her own business. For her, the decision is easy.
“One had the potential for something exciting, the other was just cool,” she says. After graduating, she found herself first in a fashion boutique in Portland, and then opened her own antique shop there.
Her passion is antiques from Asia – India, Nepal and Bali. She herself helps many different artists from the region get a place to perform in the US.
In parallel, for some time Kress also developed a career as a stand-up comedian.
On social media, she shows herself as a bright rebel against the standard look – punk clothes and jewelry, experiments with hairstyles and a number of experiments with the overall way she looks.
Until her mother’s death in 2011 from colon cancer, the two maintained a close relationship, although Svetlana lived in a nursing home in California.
In one of her interviews, Evans said that the two argued a lot – about clothes, appearance, about the boys she goes out with, but they maintained their close relationship.
“She was always proud of me when I hadn’t even accomplished anything. It’s an unconditional love that I’ve never felt from anyone else, ever, because she was my mother. And I’ll probably always look for that warmth and that friendship in other people. But I know it’s possible,” Evans says.