5: The Oswalds in Minsk
I Am a Patsy! by George de Mohrenschildt
The stories related by Lee and Marina about Minsk were especially interesting to me. It seems that Lee was very unhappy at the beginning of his stay there and he even tried to slash his wrists out of despair. Since he was supposed to have done it already in Moscow, in order to obtain a permit to remain in the Soviet Union, the wrist–slashing became somewhat of a habit if not a subterfuge with him. Marina held a job of a pharmacist in the hospital where Lee was treated, she took care of him flirted with him very nicely and began conquering his heart. Later he polyps problem [sic] and so he kept on going to the same hospital. And that’s how the romance began and flourished.
Marina Oswald’s Family
Marina came from a fairly good family from our point of view, since her father belonged to a former Tsarist officer group. After his death her mother married a man called Prussakov. Later her mother died and Marina got tired of living with her stepfather and her half–brothers and sisters. And so she decided to move from Smolensk to Minsk where she received soon a degree of a registered pharmacist. I remember Marina’s amusing repartee when I asked her if she liked her half–brothers and sisters.
“They were good, normal children, not like me. I was a bad one.” And she laughed, showing a good sense of humour and a great deal of charm.
After the hospital meetings, Lee and Marina began going out together to dances and movies and eventually the relationship of affection and love developed between them.
“I remember looking at the new apartment building near the river Svisloch,” reminsced Marina, “but only high technical and political personnel lived there, as well as some foreigners, Lee among them.”
It was a wonderful setting for a Soviet romance — love, an American refugee, a river and a new apartment building…. Actually the building belonged to the factory where Lee worked at the time, his staying there was no particular favor. But for the girl who had lived in crowded rooms with a stepfather and several children, this new house seemed a real paradise.
And so they married and moved to that apartment building. Why did she marry him? She could have cohabitated with him, this happened frequently with young couples in Russia. the reasons are unknown to me and known only to Marina: love, pity or desire to come to the United States. Probably the latter, as soon after their wedding Lee decided that he wanted to go back to the United States. He traveled to Moscow without a permit, went to the United States embassy, got back his passport and borrowed there $500 for the return.
While in Texas, he paid religiously back each month installments due on that loan. Marina freqently complained that he was too punctual in his payments — but he was. I ask you where do you find another man in Lee’s position, on the verge of starvation, who would be in such a hurry to repay a government loan, which would be very difficult to collect from a poor man like Lee. But somehow Lee felt this obligation very sincerely.
Marina Oswald is Allowed to Leave the USSR
Another question puzzled and still puzzles us: how come the Soviets permitted Marina to leave her homeland so easily, while it was hard for Lee to obtain a permit to leave USSR. The had to make another trip to Moscow to arrange it and he never explained to me clearly how he got the permit to take Marina along. “Well, I did it,” Lee smirked, “because all bureaucrats, all over the world, are stupid …”
Marina had an uncle, a colonel of special forces NKVD – KGB to–day – Department of Interior, called Medvedev; I think he was her mother’s brother. For some time she had lived with him, in Smolensk I think, and Lee told me that this important man was dead set against his niece marrying him. Later something made him change his mind. We were not interested at the time in the why’s and the wherefore’s of this colonel’s activities, now it is too late to find out. Maybe this colonel for his own reasons helped his niece to get out of Russia. Possible it was a good riddance of a Prussakova niece, possibly something else…
The loyal decrepit Russian refugees liked Marina only because her real father had been a prerevolutionary officer or some Tsarist official. This matter was indifferent to us and we did not inquire further. But the permission to leave USSR was puzzling to us, uncle or no uncle, because we knew of many cases of Americans who never obtained a permit to leave Russia for their Soviet wives. Personally I know of one case, one of the reporters of the Christian Monitor successfully extracted his wife from Russia at the time of Stalin.
One day Jeanne asked Lee a straightforward question: “why did you decide to go to USSR, answer frankly! You risked never to return to your country.”
“I was looking for an ideal,” Lee answered sadly.
“And why did you decide to return here?” Jeanne insisted.
“Because I did not find my ideal. Obviously utopia does not exist. I could travel and change countries the rest of my life and never find it.”
We liked this statement and agreed with Lee.