6: We Are Becoming Close Friends
I Am a Patsy! by George de Mohrenschildt
From time to time my wife would prepare a special Russian or French dinner for the Oswalds, always keeping in mind that both of them were undernourished. And I would talk with Lee in the meantime, often late into the night. Although he unquestionably had had some unpleasant experiences, as the slashing of his wrists proved, Lee was never hostile or emotionally upset about his life in the Soviet Union. He spoke of his co–workers humbly and engagingly. “They were hospitable, friendly and sincere, they invited me to their homes, fed me from their meagre supplies and we discussed all the subjects frankly as we do it here.”
“Did they tell you any jokes about their regime?” I asked.
“Here is one I remember,” Lee said. “An American worker comes to the Soviet Union and sees big apartment complexes. He asks: ‘to whom do they belong?’ — ‘To the state,’ comes the answer. ‘How about these factories and the big black cars?’ — ‘They belong to the state also.’” Then Lee smiled. “The Russian worker comes to visit United States. He asks: ‘these huge factories, to whom do they belong?’ — ‘To the capitalists’ comes the fast answer. ‘Aha,’ says the Russian, ‘this is terrible!’ Then he notices nice suburban homes, new cars. He asks: ‘to whom do these belong?’ — ‘To the workers’, comes an immediate answer.”
Then I asked Lee: “did you ever hear that one about a Soviet worker who was wandering from one factory to another asking ‘is there a place that would pay as little as the little work I intend to do?’”
Lee did not laugh. “That is a rather vicious joke. Soviet workers work almost as hard as here and certainly they get paid much less.”
Lee Oswald’s Life in the Soviet Union
Then he reminisced: “nobody in the Soviet Union tried to intimidate me or influence me. But I encounter these tendencies here. Nobody ever tried to make a communist out of me. I was a sympathzed but I never joined the party.”
He is probably on the level, I thought.
“And what were your living conditions there?” I asked.
“Not bad at all, ample meals, clean surroundings, good companionship.”
“And they pay?“
“Sufficient; the apartment cost me five per cent of my pay, and I don’t eat much, as you know. With Marina’s additional salary we could manage quite well.”
“Expensive but adequate and I am not interested, as you know, in stylish clothes. Of course, the Cubans dressed to kill.” he smiled.
Marina must have missed good clothes there, I thought.
“And how about transportation?” I asked.
“Of course I could not afford a motorcycle, but I like to walk and the public transportation was cheap and good.”
“What was most annoying to you in the Soviet Union?” asked Jeanne who was listening in.
“Those endless, endless meetings we had to attend after work, listening to those deadly, monotonous speeches. You were lucky if you were in the back and could take a nap …. We listened to those bureaucratic outpourings half–dazed, like children during a very boring lesson. Then we voted, rather indifferently, on various trivial issues. Later we would file out, exhausted and would return home. And,” Lee smiled, “we never received any extra pay for the hours lost, and we certainly deserved it.”
I approved his attitude, nodding agreement. I would also hate to waste my time on such meetings.
Lee Oswald and Women
Lee spoke of other foreigners living there, some Cubans whose names I forgot, one family of refugees from Argentina; the father was an experienced engineer and Lee had a great respect for him. It wasn’t once that he mentioned this family to me, taking mainly of the daughters who “were so pretty” and so friendly to him. All in all Lee spoke frequently to me of his interest in women and he even bragged amusingly and somewhat naively of his conquests in Russia.
Here in the United States Lee wasn’t certainly a ladies’ man, he felt depressed and confined. I think he frequently regretted having left Minsk.
But there I can visualize him cutting a path of Casanova among the Russian women. And why not? He was a foreigner, he acted freely, he looked pleasantly and his interest in Russian people was warm and genuine.
Marina admitted herself one day. “He was something out of the ordinary. He looked like an American, he was easygoing, loose and alert — not like the other guys.” That Lee was a perfectly normal and well adjusted individual of Minsk — Marina insisted frequently. “The only trouble with him was, his interest in books — serious books — serious books, politics, discussions, rather than sex.”
Maybe it is not nice to talk about confidential sex matters, between the Oswalds, but might as well do it, they show light on the personalities of this interesting couple. Marina was close enough to my wife ot be completely one with her. “Lee does not have sex with me but rarely,” she admitted, “very rarely, about once a month and he is in such a hurry, poor fellow, that I do not get any satisfaction. It’s most frustrating.” When Jeanne repeated this matter to me, I laughed and told Marina a well–known Texas joke translating it, probably for the first time, into Russian.
“Mandy was a good–looking black prostitute. A handsome, tall Black by the name of Rastus came to see her. How much do you charge, Mandy?’ — ‘For fifteen dollars I does it all, for ten we does it, for five you do it all!’ Rastus had only five dollars, so they agreed and went to bed. But while Rastus began making love to Mandy he turned out to be such a formidable male that in ecstasy Mandy wailed: ‘Rastus I shall do it all on credit, you have such an honest face!’“
Naturally in Russian it did not sound very hot, but we all laughted and possibly it was the beginning of Marina’s ardent interest in our racial minority — the Blacks.
Lee and Marina Oswald Emigrate to the USA
But aside from such foolishness, we talked with the Oswalds of their lives in the Soviet Union. And soon we acquired a certainty that Marina wanted a richer and materialistically more rewarding life then the one she had at home and it was she who convinced Lee to go to the American Embassy, to ask for the return of his passport and for money all this in view to go with him to the United States. Another interesting fact: the first time he went from Minsk to Leningrad or Moscow he did it illegally, but the second time he obtained a legal Soviet permit to go there by train. As a foreigner Lee was not supposed to leave town without notifying the police and obtaining a permit. Not an easy matter for some of the people who had tried to leave Russia.
I remember Marina telling me without any emotion that she had been discharged at the time from the Komsomol, an organization of communist youth, and that it happened because she had married an American. In the Soviet Union it was a disgrace, but she did not attach any importance to it while in Minsk, because obviously she know she would leave her country anyway. Both Lee and I laughed about her naive belief that the streets of the United States were paved with gold and that the poor people were the ones who had to wash themselves their Cadillacs. I remember Lee telling us a joke, which circulated at the time among the young Russians. Capitalism to them meant champagne, luxurious cars, jazz, caviar for dinner, and Gina Lollobrigida for a girl–friend. Marvelous! Communism to them meant vodka, dirty tramway, balalaika, black bread and their own mother!
Marina laughed goodnaturedly.
Very often people ask me with suspicion why I, a person with several university degrees and of fairly good financial and social standing – with friends among the rich of the world – became such a friend of that “maladjusted radical” — Lee Harvey Oswald? Well, I hope that this book clarifies Lee’s personality and endows him with a lot of most attractive features. I already spoke of his straightforward and relaxing personality. of his honesty or his desire to be liked and appreciated. And I believe it is a privilege of an older age not to give a damn what others think of you. I choose my friends just because they appeal to me. And Lee did.
Was Lee Harvey Oswald an Undercover Agent?
It never occurred to me that he might be an agent of any country, including United States — although he might have been trained in Russian for some ulterior motive — Lee was too outspoken, naively so. In this way I was similar to him. In 1946 when I was working in Venezuela for William Buckley’s family company — Pantepec Oil Company — I met the soviet Ambassador there who had been before World Was One a roustabout for Nobel Oil interests, and my uncle was a director of that outfit. So the Ambassador knew my name and was extremely friendly to me. We spent many an evening talking and drinking vodka. As a result he suggested that he would offer me a contract to work in the Soviet Union. But after listening to me and my outspoken opinions, he advised me: “my friend, you talk too much, you critize too much, you would be a babe in the woods in my country and would end up in Siberia.”
Also Lee was very interested in other people, in their work, he tried to improve his own education by reading, observing and studying. Sometimes he was amusing when he used long, difficult words in English — words like charisma, politicomania, extravaganzas, elitism — the knowledge of which he liked to display. We even laughed together about his use of such words, the exact meaning of which eluded him. Occasionally Lee’s constant search for truth, for the answers to the mysteries of life, seemed tragic and disturbing to me. But this proves also that it seems highly improbable that any government would try to make an agent of such a man. He own element of self–inquiry, self–denial and self–doubt, mixed with instability, worried Lee. But I told him not to worry, in my opinion instability, doubt, constant search were elements of youth and were indicative of exuberant life.
I told Lee that I pitied people who did not possess such characteristics, were living dead, they form the mass of obedient slaves in all countries.
A strong desire for adventure was also one of Lee’s motivations. That’s why he became a marine, that’s why he switched jobs just because he did not like what he had to do so far. And routine was deadly to him. However his last job at the printing company fitted him well and he seemed fairly happy.
“Why didn’t you stay in the Marine Corps?” I asked him one day.
“Oh, did not care for the military, not much fun being and underline, not much adventure either.”
“You could become an officer, you are intelligent enough,” I countered.
“Oh, no, to hell with being an officer, I don’t like to command other guys.”
Often I was asked with suspicion, long before the assassination, “how did you get along so well with Lee Oswald?”
“In my life I have done many things, I was often a promoter, an originator of new ideas, so I liked now ideas, even if they seemed strange and outlandish, I enjoyed meeting people of various types, evaluated their thoughts, did not criticize them,” I retorted.
Later on, when I was in the hot water because of my friendship with Lee, a friend of mine testified: “George always liked stray dogs and stray people.”
Lee Oswald the Misfit
Many people considered Lee a miserable misfit, an insult to the American way of life, and completely disregarded him. A Russian refugee living in Dallas told me once: “I am scared of this man Oswald, he is a paranoid.”
“Paranoid or not, he is as intelligent as you are. Listen to him, there is a lot of sense in what he says,” I would reply.
Probably to annoy Lee, the Russian refugees and some ultra–conservative Americans showered Marina with gifts and gave her too much attention. Since Americans could not communicate with her, their efforts were wasted. But the gifts give his wife by the refugees annoyed Lee. Unquestionably Marina added oil to the fire bragging about the gifts and talking how successful some of the donors were — owning their own homes and two automobiles. He might have been wounded in his pride, although he never complained to me.
At the time Lee did not want Marina to learn English. She could only say yes and no and if she went to the store, he had to point out the articles she wanted. “It’’s very egotistical on your part Lee,” Jeanne told him, “you have to let her study English so she can communicate with other people than the Russian refugees. You cannot keep her a recluse.”
Sensing that Lee resented them, the members of the Russian colony gave Marina some hundred dresses. Baby June received a new crib, a carriage and a lot of toys. Unquestionably it annoyed Lee. The more people gave Marina, the more it disturbed Lee. Disturbed is not the right word — maddened. And so he declined invitations to these “benefactor’s” homes, he was often rude to them. That situation had very sad consequences for this family.
As far as we are concerned, we continued our good relationship with the Oswalds, even after the situation in Soviet Russia and in Minsk especially have been thoroughly discussed. Instead of questioning them, we became concerned for the welfare of this couple. Be nice to the poor was always Jeanne’s motto.
Seeing that Lee’s situation was also gradually deteriorating, I became even nicer to him. Never kick a man who is down, help him, was my belief. Sometimes Lee’s action and his sensitivities annoyed me, but I did not try to show any resentment and attempted to find a solution for him and his wife.