Galina Dzhugashvili

Stalin's granddaughter


Galina Yakovlevna Dzhugashvili, translator: born Moscow 1939; married (one son); died Moscow 27 August 2007.

Galina Dzhugashvili was the granddaughter of the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin (né Dzhugashvili), and a survivor in a family many of whose members were imprisoned or poisoned, or who committed suicide. Her father, Lt Yakov Dzhugashvili, was the bullied and unloved eldest son of Stalin by his marriage to Yekaterina Svanidze. Galina's mother was Julia Meltser, a well-known Jewish beauty and cabaret dancer from Odessa who was married to her second husband, Nikolai Bessarab, when she met Yakov at one of Stalin's receptions. He became infatuated with her: there was a fight at the reception and shortly afterwards Yakov organised Julia's divorce from Bessarab and married her as his third wife. Bessarab was later arrested by the NKVD, Stalin's secret police, and executed. Stalin, who often humiliated his son – to the point where Yakov once even tried to commit suicide – was against all his marriages .

Galina (known as Galya) saw her father for the last time when she was three years old. He was taken prisoner by the Germans three weeks after the beginning of war in the Soviet Union in 1941 and was kept at Sachsenhausen concentration camp. After Stalin refused the exchange of his son for Field Marshal Friedrich von Paulus (commander of the 6th Army at Stalingrad) – "we do not exchange marshals for soldiers" – offered by the German High Command, Yakov Dzhugashvili, according to one account, threw himself on the barbed-wire fence or, according to another version, was shot by a guard when he came close to the fence. He died on 14 April 1943.

Galya told me she believed that Stalin had tried to save her father; that there had been three attempts to free him from the camp which failed. Twice, she said, a group of Chekist operatives tried to break in to the camp and one attempt was made by Communist operatives from Spain who lived in exile in Moscow after the Spanish Civil War.

Stalin regarded Russian prisoners of war as traitors. He had been furious when he was told that his son was a POW in Germany. Julia was arrested shortly afterwards and spent nearly two years in the Lubianka, the notorious Moscow Cheka prison. She had been in Germany before the war for medical reasons and was accused of maintaining connections with some of those she had met there and probably influencing her husband. "This was a lie", Galya said. She also told me that her mother was released from prison by Stalin's security officer, General Nikolai Vlasik. But there were rumours that Julia had become Vlasik's mistress.

Galya Dzhugashvili, when I met her for the first time in 1990, was a stunning beauty, an elegant and intelligent woman. She worked all her life as a French translator and was married to an Algerian Communist living in exile in Moscow. I once asked her whether she was afraid of Stalin. "Of course we were afraid of him," she said, "but behind his toughness, Stalin was like everybody else; he had his weaknesses. Sometimes he visited me and Svetlana, his daughter, at a dacha where one time we lived together - Stalin had five dachas - and he used to say: "You look very much like your father" so he loved us children, otherwise he wouldn't say such words."

During perestroika Galya and her husband lived in poverty, as the institute where she worked as a translator was closed. They only survived thanks to the foreign currency her husband received from Algiers. Their son, Selim, was born severely handicapped.

For many years she was busy with a memoir trying to prove that her father did not surrender to the Germans, and that he had behaved honourably. Recently her book "Mystery of Stalin's Family: my grandfather and my father" appeared under the name Galina Yakovlevna Dzhugashvili-Stalin, and it was claimed she "had disclosed Stalin's many secrets". The name "Stalin" was added no doubt by the publishers.

Jeanne Vronskaya

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative / Forklift Driver

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Through a combination of excell...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company are looking for a ...

Recruitment Genius: Service Plan Champion

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a Service Plan Champi...

Recruitment Genius: Service Plan Champion

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a Service Plan Champi...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific