News / Europe

Lee Harvey Oswald Remembered in Belarus

Kennedy Assassin Remembered in Belarusi
X
November 22, 2013 3:04 PM
For more than two years in the early 1960s, Minsk, then the capital of the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, was home to Lee Harvey Oswald. To mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty interviewed people who knew Oswald during his time in Minsk.
Kennedy Assassin Remembered in Belarus
RFE/RL
For more than two years in the early 1960s, Minsk, then the capital of the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, was home to Lee Harvey Oswald. Later on, he would fire the shots that killed President John F. Kennedy. To mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty interviewed three people who knew Oswald during his time in Minsk. It's the first time the three -- including Stanislau Shushkevich, the first post-Soviet leader of Belarus -- have appeared on camera to tell their stories. They agree that there was nothing to indicate that Oswald could become a president's assassin.
 
Lee Harvey Oswald, a self-declared Marxist, lived in Minsk following his defection to the Soviet Union.
 
The man later accused of assassinating President John F. Kennedy tried to renounce his American citizenship and was sent from Moscow by Soviet authorities to work at a Minsk radio factory.
 
During his stay in Minsk, Soviet security services kept a close watch on Oswald, on his movements around the city and on those who surrounded him.
 
Stanislau Shushkevich was the first post-Soviet leader of Belarus. Long before entering politics, Shushkevich worked at the same factory with the American defector. He and another man became Oswald's Russian teachers.
 
"He was a rather closed person and it was hard to tell how educated he was. But his knowledge of Russian was pretty decent and he could exchange views when Sasha and I started teaching him, that's for sure," remembered Shushkevich.
 
A lengthy and highly detailed account of observations about Soviet living and working conditions, called The Collective, was attributed to Oswald during the investigation into Kennedy's death.
 
Shushkevich scoffs at the thought of Oswald authoring such a report.
 
“You know, if I had been asked to take him into my research team, I would have refused immediately, even though I would have been curious to work with an American. I didn’t see any inclination of inquiry or creativity in him. Maybe I'm being unjust, but he showed absolutely no interest in the things that seemed important to me," said Shushkevich.
 
Oswald was not only receiving language education; he was receiving an education in music as well. His new friends took him to hear classical music at Minsk's philharmonic concert hall.
 
Inna Markava met Oswald for the first time at a performance of Mendelssohn's "Violin Concerto in E minor." She later visited Oswald at his small apartment, which was located in an exclusive section of Minsk.
 
Markava returned to the apartment to share her impressions of him.
 
"I can’t say he was easy to communicate with. He didn’t evoke any feelings that would leave an impression. Sometimes you meet someone and think, 'Goodness, what a pleasure.' I don’t remember having that feeling with him," recalled Markava.
 
Markava said she thought Oswald was rather ordinary, unathletic, generally reserved, and even boring most of the time. However, she also recalled seeing flashes of something else.
 
"Once, I saw anger in him. Someone said something he didn't like and he became so angry that his face even contorted… He controlled [his emotions] to some degree -- but every now and then, they jumped out," said Markava.
 
At the Institute of Foreign Languages, located near his apartment, Oswald was known for his keen interest in the female students, regularly socializing at the dormitories there. He later wrote of his successes with women, but Markava says not all were impressed.
 
"The girls and I often wondered why he had left America. He could have studied there, worked there. But he cut all his ties. Everybody thought he was odd, like he had crossed some line," remembered Markava.
 
Markava also remembered Oswald teaching language students how to dance "The Twist," and him sometimes going dancing at the Palace of Culture of Trade Unions. It was at one of these events that he met Marina Prusakova.
 
Just six weeks later, in the spring of 1961, Oswald married Marina. Within a year, his wife gave birth to their daughter, June.
 
"Whatever they write about him now - that he was a psychopath, a hot-tempered or threatening person - absolutely none of that is true. I knew him as an absolutely different person, a family person.  I liked him. I don't agree with anything that has been written about him," said Inessa Yakhliel, a close friend of the couple.
 
Documents written by Oswald and discovered after the assassination give the impression he had contradictory views regarding the United States and the Soviet Union. Sometimes he praised one country or the other, while at other times condemning them.
 
Yakhliel remembers hearing Oswald, who used the name Alek, speak highly of President Kennedy.
 
"One day he was at our house and the television was showing a meeting between Khrushchev and Kennedy. You may remember that meeting; I don't remember what year it was exactly. And he spoke about Kennedy very sympathetically. He said he was the only sensible president. Those were his words," said Yakhliel.
 
The commission led by U.S. Chief Justice Earl Warren concluded Oswald acted alone in killing the president, but Shushkevich, Markava, and Yakhliel can't accept that conclusion. They believe there must have been some form of conspiracy.
 
"It is my absolute conviction that they found a passive, calm, compliant boy, and used him as the guilty one. And then they washed their hands of it. As for the conclusions of the Warren Commission, I don’t believe them one bit. I have studied them and I don’t think it was the work of my student," said Shushkevich.
 
"I didn't believe he could have done it. It seemed to me that he was framed, using the whole situation with the Soviet Union. I didn't think he could have done it. Or he would have been completely insane to do it,” added Markava.
 
"None of us, none of his friends here, believed it. Some knew him a lot less that I did - actually, they knew Marina more than Alek. But I came to know him well. I don't believe it," Yakhliel said.
 
Lee Harvey Oswald appeared to be a different man in different places with different people. He showed the world many faces.
 
Nonetheless, the face the world saw in Dallas will be forever associated with the death of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

You May Like

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid