Thursday, 22 November marks the 55th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The legendary American president was killed by Lee Harvey Oswald who lived in Minsk for some time and left the city just before the shooting.
Following the traces of the man who killed JFK.
Mystery and infamy surround Lee Harvey Oswald’s life in Belarus’ capital. What did an American Marxist and former U.S. Marine do here? Why did he decide to come back to the US?
These are just some of the questions that keep bothering many people. Let’s have a look at his life in Minsk with the help of George Pavlopoulos, the traveling writer from Greece.
Ever since I learned that Lee Harvey Oswald spent some years in Belarus, I was tempted to find out more about his whereabouts in the country. From a historical point of view, it seemed fascinating that an American citizen, in the midst of the Cold War, was living in the former USSR. Let alone the fact that this man was also a US Marine. And, of course, the assassin of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
Lee Harvey Oswald in Minsk
The arrival of Lee Harvey Oswald in Minsk took place in the first months of 1960.
Back then, Minsk was a sleepy city and a place that none cared to visit. There were only a few foreigners living there and Oswald was the only American. The authorities, of course, wanted to keep an eye on his whereabouts and they supplied him with a furnished apartment.
The flat was located in one of the most prestigious areas of Minsk, the Vulica Kamunistyčnaja. The direct translation is Communist Street. Oswald was given a job at Horizon Electronics Factory, producing TVs and radios. According to the sources, Oswald was living a quiet life in Minsk.
He worked, spent time at home, and visited a few friends. On the other hand, the KGB never stopped to suspect him as a spy and his apartment was bugged.
They have even made a tiny hole on the wall in order to observe him closely. In March 1961 he met his future wife, Marina Prusakova and they married six weeks later. Prusakova was born in Severodvinsk in 1941 and she stayed there until she was 16.
In 1957 she moved to Minsk to stay with her uncle, a colonel in the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs and she met Oswald at a dance. As the time went by, Oswald started feeling stuck in Minsk. The Soviet paradise that he was imagining was nowhere to be found.
He was keeping a diary, where he wrote the following: “The work is drab, the money I get has nowhere to be spent. No nightclubs or bowling alleys, no places of recreation except the trade union dances. I have had enough.”
In 1962 Lee Harvey Oswald requested a permit of repatriation from the USSR authorities. It was, of course, supplied to him without any questions. Both Oswald and Prusakova returned to Texas, together with their one-year-old daughter.
Communist Street is indeed a beautiful street. Oswald’s apartment is in No. 4 of the street and there are plenty of residential buildings nowadays there, too. The location is truly prime: a quiet street overlooking the Janki Kupaly Park. Moving forward to the left, you can see the nicest park in the city, Gorky Park.
Oswald’s apartment is still in place but there is no signage commemorating his days in Minsk. The apartment itself is rented. The day I stand in front of the building there are a couple of local guides offering tours to visitors. The attendance is obviously low, but there seems to be some interest at least.
I don’t join any of the tours and I keep circling around the building, trying to find somebody to talk to. There are a few people walking in and out of the apartment block but none of them is willing to talk. They are either fed up with visitors or they don’t speak any English at all.
I then take a long walk in the park in front of the building. The river Svislach is totally quiet. There are several benches in the park and the locals eat their lunches in silence. Despite being in the very middle of the city, I can’t hear any traffic noise. I try to imagine Lee Harvey Oswald in Minsk, walking around this park after work.
There is a lot of confusion and disagreement about JFK’s assassination. Some say that Oswald acted alone while others claim that he was just a pawn used in a big conspiracy. The truth is, of course, hard to be found and sometimes the historical events don’t offer clear answers, just different perspectives.
To learn what else George managed to find out about Kennedy’s assassin and how he risked a KGB interrogation for a photo, visit his Letters to Barbara blog.