10: Separation and More Trouble
I Am a Patsy! by George de Mohrenschildt
Obviously the separation which we caused and worked so hard at was not the right solution for the couple’s problems. It was a heavy burden on this charitable Polish–Russian couple — the Mellers — who were used to their own ways and who had to share Marina’s temperamental problems. She would not help Mrs. Meller in her household chores and behaved like a primadonna. And for Lee the separation was much worse. He missed Marina and the child and came to our house daily, asking how they were, did June miss him, were they well taken care of. In other words he practically forgot that this separation was not a joke and that he had caused it to a great extent.
Lee Oswald Talks to George de Mohrenschildt
Again we had a chance to talk together, in a less cheerful mood than before. “One can arrive at truth by trial and error,” he said. “In my case I commit so many errors and I still do not know whether I arrive at truth.”
“It is possible, Lee,” I countered, “that you take things too seriously. Don’t do things which are unpleasant or uncomfortable because of some great ideology you may have. You see all the mess you are in. You must have read Arthur Koestler’s book where he repents for his years as an ideological communist revolutionary.”
Lee remembered the book.
“Stop living miserably, do like a normal person does, live pleasantly and keep your own ideology to yourself. Don’t disclose yourself.”
“You are right,” of course, said Lee. “But this society we live in, it’s so disgusting and degrading. How can you stand it?”
“Well, my friend, that’s why we have built in distractions, stupid TV, moronic movies, rock and roll music for most of the people.”
“And good books for us,” concluded Lee, rather aptly.
“Lee, you are too straight, your back does not bend enough. One of these days someone will break your back. You have to learn to bend, be resilient.”
“But look at the politicians here, most of them. They want to be praised publicly of their honesty and good will. Connally, the governor of Texas, for example. In reality they will do all the degrading actions and yet try to appear in good light.”
This was the first time he mentioned his loathing for Governor Connally. What caused it, we shall show later.
“What you need, Lee, is a good walk in the jungle, like we did. That would bring you back to the essentials of life – survival.”
“Marina is not Jeanne, she will not do anything of the sort. And we have the baby …”
Later we were asked many times with great suspicion — “why were you wasting your time on this crazy Marxist and his unappealing wife?”
The answer is — first to help a young couple in despair and secondly — more complex answer — I found Lee a most interesting and invigorating individual, he never bored me. Maybe the reader will agree …
Lee Harvey Oswald’s Opinion of President Kennedy
Talking to Lee was a balsam for his raw nerves, a sincere conversation calmed him down and it wasn’t bad for me either. Fortunately I remember well so much of what he said. I remember distinctly that one of those evenings together we talked of John F. Kennedy. Lee liked him and certainly did not include him among those despicable politicians he mentioned before. I showed him President’s picture on the cover of Time Magazine and Lee said — “how handsome he looks, what open and sincere features he has and how different he looks from the other ratty politicians.”
I don’t remember exactly the words but Lee spoke most kindly of the gradual improvement of the racial relations in the United States, attributing this improvement to the President. Like most young people he was attracted by Kennedy’s personality but he also knew that JFK’s father was a rascal who made money off whisky and being bullish on the stock–market which is betting against this country’s economy.
Lee often mentioned that the two–party system did not work well, that other points of view were not represented. He did not see the difference between a conservative democrat and a fairly liberal republican — and in that I agreed with him.
“Both republicans and democrats really did not oppose each other,” he mentioned one day, “they do not represent different points of view, but they are both solidly against [the] poor and oppressed.”
But regarding JFK, Lee did not have such a gloomy attitude and he hoped that after the Bay of Pigs fiasco Kennedy would accept coexistence with the communist world.
Lee Harvey Oswald and the Marine Corps
As I mentioned before, he did not like Marine Corps and considered it racist and segregationist. “Do you know that President Truman wanted to abolish this Marine Corps and I would agree with him on that.” Lee did not like any militarists, Russian or American, he thought that some day there could be a coup d’état in this country organized by the Pentagon and that the country would become a militaristic, Nazi–type, dictatorship.
Maybe this negativist attitude was the result of the separation, these days he was gloomy and did not smile at my jokes. Yet I tried my best. I remember telling him about the meeting of four girls, French, English, American and Russian. “The French girl said, ‘my lover will buy me a dress.’ The English girl said: ‘my husband promised to buy me a new coat.’ The American girl bragged: ‘my boss will buy me a mink stole’. And the Russian girl concluded: ‘Girls, I am a prostitute also’.”
One of those evenings Lee spoke for the first time of his discharge from the Marine Corps. “I received an honorable discharge and then those bastards, in the Navy, changed it into an undesirable discharge, just because I went to Russia and threw my passport in the face of the American consul.”
“Didn’t they do it because you lied? You were supposed to go back to the States to help making a living for your mother …”
“Oh, hell, that was just a crooked excuse,” He said sullenly. “And Connally signed this undesirable discharge.”
Those days Lee was bitter about religion, which he generally seldom mentioned. He explained his avowed agnosticism: “money wasted on these innumerable churches, garish and costly, should be spent much more usefully on hospitals, asylums, homes of the poor and elderly, on eliminating slums.”
Lee Oswald and Political Parties
But Lee did not like the Communist Party either. “In Russia party members are mostly opportunist, carrying their cards proudly in order to get better jobs, or they forced into the party by the circumstances or families.”
Again I tried to cheer up Lee by telling him a joke I heard in Yugoslavia.
An uneducated Montenegian communist arrives in Belgrade where he sees for the first time changing lights in a main intersection. ‘Comrade,’ he asked a passer by. ‘What are these lights for?’ He asked timidly. The slyde [sic] answer was: ’the red lights are for the communists to cross over, the yellow for the communist sympathizers, the green for all the others.’ And so the reasant tried to cross on the red light, almost got killed and strongly admonished by the policeman: ‘what kind of fool are you?’ — ‘But I am a member of the communist party, but I didn’t really wanted to join it, I was forced into it.’
He did not laugh but concede that the joke proved his point. “People without any party affiliation were the nicest among those I met in Russia,” he concluded.
I remember that Lee did not like any political parties, anywhere. He was just a native–born nonconformist. But he told me that when he used to teach his co–workers English in Minsk, he tried to present United States in the most favorable light and wasn’t too popular with the authorities because of that. In USSR he defended USA, in USA he defended USSR.
This type of attitude I like very much and I tried to do the same when I worked in Yugoslavia in 1967. I remember deeply offending the secretary of the communist party of Slovenia comparing him to my ex–father–in–law, ex–chairman of the Republican party of Pennsylvania and an extremely rich man. Both of them, communist and a super–capitalist were made in the same mold. When he heard this, Lee finally smiled.
And so Lee tried to create good feeling in two opposing countries, in two opposing systems of government. This is not an attribute of a violent man, just the opposite. I must say that I never considered Lee capable of a truly violent act. Marina annoyed him, he beat her up, but she scratched him back and hurt him worse. Lee regretted his acts but Marina did not. Lee threatened to destroy toys and clothes but he did not do it. Look how he accepted our intervention … I am not a very violent person, but I would not stand for somebody else to take away my wife and my only child, whatever the reasons were.
Baptising June Oswald
Unquestionably Lee was a very sincere person, he meant what he said, even if it meant trouble for him. Marina, I remember, had the same feelings regarding the religion as Lee, she found all religions absolutely ridiculous, a childish farce. But at the same time she had her baby baptized — just in case. She knew it would create a favorable impression among Americans and Russian refugees. She did it at the time of this separation, we did not know about it, and she did it without Lee’s consent.
And so baby June was baptized in the Russian–Orthodox church, where the priest, father Dimitri, was a good friend of mine. Being a neophyte himself — he had been a strong Baptist — he was somewhat fanatical about his new faith and considered this baptism a great achievement. And he did well in the church and at present time he is bishop of California.
When Lee heard of this baptism, he became infuriated and it led him into more religious or rather anti–religious discussions, which I remember well.
“You know all those theories of immortality leave me cold,” said Lee. “And who would be this mysterious judge who would punish or reward me? It’s out of sight.”
“Yes, I agree with you but becoming just gas after death seems too simple to me.”
“Eternity, immortality, what highfaluting ideas,” continued Lee. “Anyway I have a hard enough time in this short existence of mine,” he smiled bitterly. “What shall I do with immortality?”
“Somebody said,” pursued Lee, “this man is not intelligent to doubt — he is a BELIEVER.”
“My friend,” I said, “hope and religion are a peculiar mixture. They make lots of people happy but they also made Jewish people go to gas chambers singing Hebrew songs, instead of fighting the Nazis.”
“That won’t happen to me,” said Lee. “I don’t need hymns to pep me up when I die. And I don’t know where I shall go after death and I don’t care. But I shall not be like a rich American — who eats, sleeps, drinks, amuses himself, and then dies painfully leaving all his belongings and a large bank account. I shall die poor and free.”
Was Lee Harvey Oswald a Good Husband?
I was frequently asked — was Lee a good husband? Now we have seen his unpleasant characteristics. But he often helped Marina in the household work. He gave her all the money he earned. Sometimes he complained that she was too lazy — and so he did the job himself, cleaning dishes, even washing clothes. He was tender to the baby. As far as sex is concerned, we have heard Marina’s complaints but we know that the greatest mystery in the world is what happens between the married couple at night, behind the closed doors. And we never looked in the keyhole.
I don’t remember Lee ever saying that he would go back to the Soviet Union, even when his marriage was going on the rocks.
If Marina had any brains, she should have known that a man like Lee, who was not a money–maker but a barely a wage earner, would never provide her with all the luxuries, all those desirable items, that America seemed to possess in such limitless quantities. She picked at him, annoyed him, as if she desired a separation, which she finally achieved through us.
This letter from Marina’s ex–lover that Lee intercepted, why did she let it drag around. Maybe she wanted to end this unsuccessful marriage?
What annoyed us also was that Marina liked to ridicule Lee. She called him a fool, a moron. “You are always thinking of politics instead of making money – you act like a big shot!”
Marina had a bad habit of constantly correcting Lee when he was speaking Russian and that annoyed him and me. Lee, for a man of his background, had a remarkable talent for Russian and Marina foolishly tried to blow up his occasional mistakes or ridicule his slight accent. It’s difficult to know two languages to perfection and Lee’s English was perfect, refined, rather literary, deprived of any Southern accent. He sounded like a very educated American of indeterminate background. But to know Russian as he did was remarkable — to appreciate serious literature — was something out of the ordinary. He had affinity to the Russian ways of life, customs, music and food.
Therefore to criticize this remarkable fellow was an act of nastiness or idiocy, especially for Marina who knew only two English words — “yes” and “no”. That’s how she went around and did her shopping pointing at the articles with her finger.
Lee asked me once — “what is your philisophy of life? You make me talk a lot but tell me jokes instead of being serious.”
“Well, jokes sometimes express more than thick, serious doctoral theses,” I answered. “Frankly I am not interested in politics, I lost most of my relatives — and so did Jeanne — through various wars and revolutions. What I believe in — live and let live. But let the minorities and the poor live decently, then I [sic] for that type of a government. I had voted Republican so far but I am considering switching to the Democratic party. There is a guy there by the name of Eugene McCarthy whom I like. I also consider that each country deserves the government it has, let the communists live the way they want, same goes of the socialists or even dictators. For instance the Germans definitely deserved Hitler.”
Lee nodded agreement.
The FBI and George de Mohrenschildt
“This country has too many damn problems to bust into other countries and impose our ways. We must solve our problems first.”
FBI later annoyed me to no end and intervened in my life. Immediately after the assassination and Lee’s declaration that I was his best friend and the only one he respected, I became marked as a suspect number one by the FBI and CIA. Various agents, in disguise and officially representing their agencies, invaded my friends and business acquaintances asking: “is he a communist, is he an anarchist, is he an agent provocateur, what country is he working for?” Some even intimated that I was a hypnotist and that I held Lee under my spell.
Just imagine the effect of such massive inquiries! And both my wife and I had left Dallas for Haiti eight or nine months before the assassination, working on the geological survey of that country.
Some moronic agent comes to your friend and asks: “Is George a potential killer?” Then your best friend begins to worry. The same thing happened to my wife, a famous designer: “is she a Marxist? Why was she born in China? Is she an agent of Mao Tse Tung?” Stupid questions, but your business contacts begin to worry and you lose them.
You have to investigate like Scotland Yard does, or do it through the private detectives, cautiously, not by innuendo, gossip or plain brutal imposition. Finally, assembling a bunch of such depositions into volumes of gossip at a large expense to the taxpayer — and that’s what the Warren Report is — is a height of foolishness and a bureaucratic nightmare. But we shall talk about these matters later.