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

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

US Urges Taliban to Stay With Afghan Peace Talks

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs