Lee Harvey Oswald in Russia
FINDING MARINA'S LETTERS FROM 1962 - 1963
In November 1991 in Minsk, I met Valya Prusakova and Ilya Prusakov, Marina Oswald's aunt and uncle. (Contrary to Norman Mailer's inexplicable assertion that he died in 1989, Ilya Pruskov, a colonel in the MVD, died during the winter of 1991-92.) Prusakov told me that he and Valya had saved a series of letters Marina sent home from the USA prior to the JFK assassination. In May 1992 I videotaped an interview with Valya Pruskova including a segment in which she agreed to read the letters for us. Except for a short note in a Christmas card in December 1963, all these letters were written before November 22, 1963.
The significance of the letters is obvious. Written before the assassination and sent to Russia, they remained unseen and untouched until 1991, as if in a time capsule. Some of Marina's statements, recollections, and testimony after the assassination, can be tested against what she wrote her aunt and uncle in the eighteen months before the murder. But not entirely. One has to remember that Marina was writing for somebody--her aunt and uncle--and there were things that she did not share with them; things she kept from them; and things she misinformed them about. For example, Marina learned that Oswald's mother was alive only after she married Lee--prior to that, Lee had told her he was an orphan. Obviously her aunt and uncle were under the same impression, and Marina did not subsequently reveal to them Oswald's deception about his mother. In her letters, she refers to Oswald's mother as an aunt. There is confirming evidence of the extent that Lee deceived Marina as well: a reference to Oswald being employed in a job he never held in New Orleans.
The letters reveal what were the recent salient events in Marina's perception at
the time as she wrote her letters home: meeting Oswald's family,
de Mohrenschildt, a
sudden move to New Orleans, their daughter's health, Lee's search for
employment. There are several references to their financial affaires and
household budget. The letters reveal that Lee was already
considering returning to the USSR by December 1962, not the end of January
1963 as claimed in Marina's biography, Marina and Lee by Priscilla
Johnson McMillan. (Apparently Oswald told Marina to start drafting a
letter to the Soviet embassy in Washington regarding a return to the USSR
in October 1962, three months after their
arrival in the USA.)
Valya Prusakova, Marina Oswald's aunt.
LETTER 1: JUNE 20, 1962.
Hello my dears, aunt Valya and uncle Ilya:
The next day we got to Fort Worth in three hours by plane. We were met by Robert and Veda with their children. We were so tired after the journey that we looked very unattractive. Robert in life is very appealing -- more so than Alek and more than in his photographs. Veda looks better in her photographs. It was very uncomfortable that I do not speak English but now I am beginning to understand the sense of things. I know now maybe thirty or thirty-five words. They say I am calm and will soon learn the language. They treat me very well. They are very simple people. Veda grew up on a farm and has a sister Gloria -- a teacher. She has already come by twice. She is teaching me English and I am teaching her Russian.
In general everything is better than I had imagined. They are very surprised that I am thin and say I do not look like a Russian. They now have a different impression of Russians. Gloria and the aunt have a great interest and sympathy for Russians. They subscribe to Russian magazines and newspapers. The aunt I did not like very much but may that is because she does not live here and it is hard to form an impression when you see a person for a few hours only. Ostensibly she is kind to me and makes me eat. She has already brought me all sorts of tins with fruit juices so that I drink them more as I am still breast-feeding Marinka. They like her very much and are surprised that I do not bottle-feed her. They say Marinka is very fat. That is true and good. She has indeed gained a lot of weight and I do not know why. There is a great variety of food here but everybody eats like a bird. But I do not go around hungry -- I open the fridge and eat what I want. They say that I should not be shy.
We will probably be living here half a year until Alek can rent a house. He still has not started work. Robert says we should just rest for now. In the evening we watch television, take car trips. We have already gone to the lake. It is very hot here. I walk around in shorts and a white shirt that Gloria bought for me. She also bought me a nice robe. Robert has a very nice house, land, and a garden but the fruit has not begun to grow yet.
Alek has been promised work this month. I think we will be okay, do not worry about us. How is everyone? Write.
Alek, and Marina
LETTER 2: DECEMBER 26, 1962.
Hello my dearest uncle Ilya and aunt Valya:
How glad I was to at last receive the long-awaited letter from you. I hoped so much and how the letter arrived. Dearest aunt Valya, I sat reading your letter and cried like a fool. You must know that I love you very, very, much. I cried with joy reading the letter because such distance separates us. Alek was also very happy and read the letter himself. He always asked when he came home from work, "Is there a letter from aunt Valya?" He told me to reply immediately and send you the only color photograph of me that we have.
Dear aunt Valya, about your soup... it was very good and I made it last night. We invited some Americans over, our friends, and they even ate two bowls. They said that I and aunt Valya are very good.
In Dallas there are a few Russians -- good and bad -- different ones in general. We meet with one family, they are Russians but have never been to Russia and were born in China. They are very charming and good and travel a lot on foot. He himself is a geologist, loves Negroes and Russia. Soon he will be leaving to go to work in Haiti. His name is George de Mohrenschildt. Just a count's name remains, but otherwise he is a typical Russian guy by nature.
Now a little bit about myself. You probably know from my previous letters to work, but I'll write again. Alek is working in a printing house, in the photographic department. He prints photographs for magazines and newspapers. He likes to fool around with chemistry. He makes $230 and maybe more later. IT was hard for him to find work as he was in the USSR. At first we lived in Fort Worth and there he worked in a metal shop. But here our Russian acquaintances helped him find this job. It is an interesting job -- it is clean -- he is tired of getting dirty.
The weather remains warm as autumn. Occasionally there is a cold wind but no snow. Yesterday it was Christmas and it is very pretty in the city. Houses are decorated with little lights. It is very impressive, especially at night. Alka bought a Christmas tree but Marinka does not understand it yet. She just likes to stare at the bright decorations. But mostly she likes wooden spools and spoons to play with. She now has two teeth. She stands up in her bed hanging on the barrier. Soon she will be a year old. So fast, I cannot believe it, that I have a daughter. She has few light colored hairs. She is calm. Papa loves her very much. One day we had to take her to the hospital with a light flu. While the doctor was looking her over she was crying and Alka was crying with her, while I was laughing in my soul. Alka said he was ready to kill the doctor because he was an idiot. He treats me well. Occasionally we fight, but you cannot be without that. But I know he loves me with his insane love. He is jealous of everything although I give him no cause as I love him too. He is a good boy -- a little crazy but I am not much better myself.
We are so far repaying our debt to the government for our move to America. By the New Year we should be paid up -- it came to about $500. That is like 500 rubles in our currency. Right now we are renting an apartment -- two rooms, a kitchen, bathroom, etc. It is a big apartment but not a new one, but we can afford it. It is $68 plus the electricity. For food we spend $10-12 a week. If it was not for the debt we could live decently. Dear aunt Valya, I now have very much respect for you and uncle Ilya. I miss you. I have many clothes and dresses but no place to wear them to. Everything just hangs in the closet. I miss you very much. I think about the time we will meet again. Either we will visit you or you will visit us. Anything can happen in life. Alka often thinks about you and Minsk and says, either in jest or perhaps seriously, "Let's go back." I do not know how to understand that.
Dear aunt Valya, I am sending you my address. We have a postal box: number 2915. If we change our address we will still be able to get mail. You wrote my address with a mistake but it got to us. You wrote it as "Elizabeth" but I think letters will reach me just the same.
I am slowly learning English. Maybe we will move closer to the University and then I will be able to go study English. There is an English for foreigners class there, but I already am beginning to understand much. Alka speaks Russian but not very good now. In the evening he sings Russian songs: "Meadowlands" his favorite. Eric and Pavel write us, we received a letter from Ludka from Leningrad and from another girl with whom I studied. From Tanushka too. I am very happy for them. Dear aunt Valya, I would like to send you something but when I sent Tanya something and they had to pay much duty on it. Although it might cost relatively little here, over there customs could value it very expensively. What is the sense of sending presents? But I will think of something.
Aunt Valya, please do not be angry. Soon I will go to work and I will think of you. It is very hard on us. I am tired of sitting around at home. We are not getting any letters from Innesa and the magazines I sent her are not getting to her. I do not know why.
We are very happy that everything is very fine with Uncle Ilyusha and that he had a rest and freshened up. I wish you all the best. Please congratulate Irachka Kutsievna and Vova with their daughter, and say hello to Lialya. Did she get married? Please tell her not to be angry and to write. A big regards to the Andrianovs from me and Alka. A big kiss and a hug--how are Lyuda and Maria Josephina? Tell them not to be angry. I respect them very much. On this I end. I kiss you tightly, tightly my dears.
Marina, Alek, and Marinka
PS: Everyone treats me very good, there are good people here... like everywhere.