22: A Message from Lee
I Am a Patsy! by George de Mohrenschildt
In February of 1967 we finally found a suitable place to settle down, before that we moved from one place to another and visited our children in California and Mexico. The place called conveniently “La Citadelle” was exactly fitting to us and was ample enough to accomodate all the furniture which had been stored in the warehouse since the beginning of 1963. It was about time to settle as four years’ storage at the Southwestern Warehouses began to exhaust us financially.
I thought of abandoning the whole junk and leave it to the warehouse — it’s good sometime to start anew, but there were books …
And so we went to the warehouse with an old, faithful friend, always ready to help and to pick up some old junk for himself, and, before our furniture was taken out, we began looking through the accumulation of various and sundry items that could be eliminated. I was less interested in this task, so I chatted with my friend, a good guy who had followed us on many of our trips, while Jeanne was finishing the selection of things to take and to discard.
Suddenly, she rushed out of the warehouse with a crazy look on her face, shouting excitedly: “Look, look, what I found!”
She dragged me to the pile of open crates and I saw inside a slightly familiar–looking green box. “What the hell is this?”
“This is the box with the records I gave Marina before our departure,” she shouted.
“How did they get there? We left them such a long time ago?”
“I haven’t the slightest idea, I considered them lost.” Jeanne was short of words, this was so weird. “I had used them myself to learn English when I came to this country. They served me well. Then I loaned them to Marina long before our departure for Haiti.”
“Remember how punctiliously honest Lee was,” I said. “He would not keep any of our belongings. But how the hell did they [sic] into this warehouse? Possibly he remembered where we were storing our furniture. Or, maybe he have the package to Glover to whom we had loaned some of our furniture and who finally added it to the rest of stored boxes at the Southwest Warehouse?”
This remains a mystery to this day, because we lost track of Glover, a good guy who got so frightened of his very slight acquaintanceship with the “President’s assassin” that he moved out somewhere without leaving an address.
“Hunter of Fascists”
My wife began taking the albums out of the box and as she opened to see if the records were not broken, she shrieked almost hysterically.
“Look, there is a picture of Lee Oswald here!”
This was the same, so controversial picture of Lee, which appeared on the cover the defunct Life. Many newspapermen and “investigators” had assumed and had written hundreds of pages that this picture was a fabrication, a “fake”, a superimposed photograph. Frankly we did not care but now, right there, was a proof that the picture was genuine.
We stood literally frozen stiff, Lee staring at us in his martial pose, the famous rifle in his hands, like in a Marine parade. It was a gift for us from beyond his grave.
“What did he mean by leaving this picture to us?” I wondered aloud. “He was not a vain kind of a person.”
Then Jeanne shouted excitedly again: “look, there is an inscription here.” It read: ‘To my dear friend George from Lee.’ and the date follow [sic] — April 1963, at the time when we were thousands of miles away in Haiti. I kept looking at the picture and the inscription deeply moved [me], my thoughts going back when Lee was alive.
Then I slowly turned the photograph and there was another epitaph, seemingly in Marina’s handwriting, in Russian. In translation it reads; “this is the hunter of fascists! Ha! Ha! Ha!”
Here Marina was again making fun of her husband, jeering Lee’s very serious anti–fascist feelings, which we knew so well and described in several chapters of this book.
It’s hard to describe the impact of this discovery on us, especially Lee’s dedication and Marina’s enscription. This message from beyond the grave was amazing and shocking. From the grave we did not even dare to visit, because FBI considered with suspicion all the visitors at Lee’s burial place. The confirmation that Lee considered me his best friend flattered me but Marina’s message expressed a chilling scorn for her husband. Anyway, if he were a hunter of fascists, and we agree with such a description, who was the making fun of him?
First of all it makes in doubt her assertion that Lee tried to shoot General Walker, secondly for a Soviet Russian refugee the word “fascist” is not a laughing matter — some fifteen million people lost their lives fighting them. And how many more died of cold and hunger?
We kept this photograph for ourselves and showed it only to a few close friends. Their reactions were interesting: to some the photograph indicated that Lee was a maniac, a killer, it constituted a proof of his aggressiveness, of his guilt. To others, just the opposite — it gave him the aura of a militant idealist. The man of such anti–fascist inclinations COULD NOT be the assassin of the most liberal and race–conscious president in the history of the United States.
We did not show the photograph to any authorities. To them Lee Harvey Oswald’s case was closed and we did not want any further involvement. Neither did we show it to any investigators or reporters in the United States.
Life Magazine and the JFK Assassination
But I did write a letter to a friend, one of the editors of Life Magazine, explaining that I had a message from Lee Harvey Oswald and I did ask him to keep the matter confidential. I added to my letter a short resumé of the facts — how this picture got into our possession.
Immediately I received a call from my friend saying that Life had a team working on Oswald’s case, a team of investigators, because the magazine had doubts of Warren Committee’s conclusions.
The next day a reporter assigned to the assassination case called me and we talked for a long time. He was intimately familiar with all the details, psychological and technical, of this unbelievable complex case, having worked on it since November 1963. Like ourselves, he was at Marina’s inscription and gave it the same meaning as ourselves.
“We shall use it as a main feature of our special edition if and when we know something definite about Oswald’s involvement or of his innocence,” he said.
Again I asked the man to keep this matter confidential temporarily and he promised to do so.
Obviously either Life’s people were talkative or, more probably, our telephone was tapped. This we found on several occasions.
Now we know much more about “Watergate” type tactics of our government agencies, especially FBI, but at the time we did not have anything to conceal — except the existence of this picture — and this only for our own sentimental reasons. Whenever we heard a suspicious noise on the telephone, we laughed, spoke in foreign languages or made offensive remarks at whoever was listening in. Some voluminous files must be hidden somewhere contaning “transcripts”, translations and obliterations of our conversations.
Again, being faithful taxpayers for years and years, we could but marvel at the unbelievable waste of our money. But what was it compared to 140 billion U.S. dollars spent in Vietnam. But one bad habit leads to another …
Marina Oswald and the de Mohrenschildts
Now something should be said as to why we did not contact Marina regarding [the] picture. Naturally she knew of its existence from our mutual friends, the Fords. But as this story clearly indicates, there is no love lost between Marina and us. We had helped her with the baby care, with her own health and finally made a supreme effort trying to solve her insoluble conflict with Lee. We never received a word of thanks from her. But this is not important, we helped her when she was poor and desperate.
Unfortunately, after Lee’s death she showed herself a real “operator”. She created an appearance of a helpless victim, of a woman searching for God, and naturally God–fearing Americans sent her substantial contributions or donations, all tax–free. We heard from some reporters that donations were sent frequently stuck between the pages of Bibles and she would grab the money and fling the Bible furiously on the floor.
We did not treat her very nicely in our testimonies, but we were utterly truthful. Marina should have recognized it, had she taken the trouble of reading our depositions. She might have come then to a true evaluation of herself and of her dead husband.
Well, she is settled now, when we see each other we say “hello” politely. As a matter of fact the last time I even did not recognize her. She looked prosperous and spoke excellent English.
Marina Oswald and Ruth Paine
Another reason we did not contact Marina and haven’t had a serious conversation with her, was her attitude towards Mrs. Ruth Paine. Ruth was a perfectly charming, charitable Quaker, a Christian in the true sense of this word, who, like us, helped the Oswalds out of pure humanitarian impulses. Actually she did more for them than anyone else. Marina lived with her on and off, took advantage of her hospitality. Ruth drove her to New Orleans and back. She showed utter kindness to her, occasionally Lee, and especially to baby June. She and her husband were simply admirable people. Yet Ruth had her own family to take care of as well as her teaching profession. Her only reward consisted of lessons in conversational Russian.
Lee, on the other hand, seldom accepted hospitality and certainly did not ask for it. And yet, Ruth’s and Marina’s great friendship ended abruptly after the assassination.
As Ruth told us later, upon our return from Haiti, Marina said that she did not want to see her ever again. And Mrs. Paine was too proud a person to insist.
It is possible that Marina was advised by the authorities to shy away from her former independent–minded friends and she must have been scared stiff of authorities. Time will tell. But still many years went by and she still does not see Mrs. Ruth Paine.
Short sketches of various incidents involving Marina will prove to the reader these peculiarities of her character, which may incidentally appear admirable to many readers. Her dreams of America bristling with high buildings, criss–crossed with high–speed roads, blessed with luxury for everyone and especially with fast automobiles for all teenagers and adults. And she was right, some economist calculated fifteen years ago that if the automobiles kept on proliferating at the same rate, each family in America would possess five hundred automobiles at the end of this century. A paradise on earth!
Yet we never disliked Marina, there was really nothing to dislike, there was no substance in her. She was amusing sometimes, witty, naive mostly, like some Russian peasants, yet with great deal of shrewdness underneath. My wife used to call her affectionately — “that rascal Marina” — and that description fitted her perfectly.