Nobody in the annals of the JFK assassination is who they appear to be at first glance. Marina Oswald Porter has done a good job at portraying herself as the distraught widow of a man charged with one of the dastardliest crimes of the 20th century. An innocent Russia girl meets American defector, falls in love and marries after meeting him 6 weeks earlier and with him and baby in tow, return to America. Of course, she cannot maintain this image alone, and had a great deal of help from writer Priscilla Johnson McMillan, who herself got the first interview in Moscow with Lee Oswald upon his defection. We now know from document releases that she was also a CIA asset. As Donald Jameson, the CIA’s Chief of the Soviet Russia division said in a memo, "I think that Miss Johnson can be encouraged to write pretty much the articles we want." She has in fact spent a career helping the Government’s case of Oswald as the long gunman in books and articles and wrote Marina and Lee with Marina’s input.
Marina’s Ability To Speak English
One apparent falsehood Marina maintained for years is that she did not speak English when she arrived in America with her defector husband. In her Warren Commission testimony she required the need of a translator to answer questions. Years later in Garrison grand jury testimony, when asked who she spoke to when they landed in New York, she said no one as she didn’t speak English. In fact she stated numerous times in her testimony that she didn’t speak English at all in her first years in America. She also said in grand jury testimony that back in 1963 she was taking English lessons from George Bola who just happened to be Jack Ruby’s next-door neighbor. However, her statements of not being able to speak and understand English is at odds with the facts as we now know them.
Here is a list of points that dispel this myth:
- In 1961 while still in Russia, Lee mails Marina a letter written in English.
- Robert Webster, another American defector, said he knew Marina and she spoke good English with a heavy accent.
- Descriptions on the back of photos taken in Russia are in Marina’s handwriting in Russian and English.
- Warren Commission, CE-100. Marina’s stenographic notebook found by the Dallas Police written in English. They also found a second notebook with Marina’s handwriting in English. There are other notebooks with her English writing in the National Archives.
- Business manager James Martin testified that she understood everything said to her in English.
- Robert Oswald in an FBI affidavit said Marina spoke to him in English, without a translator, in regards to a business contract with James Martin. A contract written only in English.
- Marguerite Oswald in Warren Commission testimony mentions numerous conversations with Marina—all in English.
- Marina gets trapped in Garrison grand jury testimony saying she called Reilly Coffee Company looking for Lee. She was asked how should could do that, she replied she knew “a few words.”
Interestingly, Lee Oswald spoke excellent Russian but not much of it in Russia. Befriended by the Ziger family, they report Oswald only spoke in English with their father translating. We know from released transcripts that his apartment was bugged by the KGB and fluent Russian speaking could have brought about an arrest for espionage. The Russians were already suspicious of him upon his arrival. It seems he only spoke Russian to Marina as she said he spoke well enough to have a Baltic accent. But why did he trust her to the exclusion of all others? It may be that she was an operative and needed him as her ticket out of Russia and into the United States. Former KGB defector, Petr Deryabin said that any Russian woman that wanted to marry a foreigner and leave had to agree to work for the KGB. Marina got her permission slip fast—in 7 days. Marriage certificates were issued by the secret police, which were also issued promptly.
Marina And Prostitution
And she seems like such a nice girl. So sweet and innocent in her early pictures, so pained with grief at the ghastly chain of events she become involved with. To find out that she may have been involved with a prostitution ring in Leningrad is quite a shock. Certainly a great departure from what was written by Priscilla McMillan in “Marina and Lee,” the 1974 book describing Marina as a virtuous woman. A women allegedly thanked by Lee for saving herself for him on their wedding night. However, a Mr. Merezhinsky tells a different tale.
Yuri Merezhinsky, interviewed by Norman Mailer for his book Oswald’s Tale, says she was anything but virtuous, claiming she was a prostitute. He knew Marina quite well and says she was in a group of four people—two women and two men—that were plying their trade in a Hotel Leningrad that were eventually booted out of the city. It was an offence strong enough to be sent to a labor camp, which didn’t happen to Marina. What would lead her to this alleged occupation can only be speculated at but the KGB did maintain, “honey traps” for intelligence gathering purposes from various officials, both local and foreign. She would have been known as a “swallow” in the honey trap. Marina was known to associate with diplomats and high government bureaucrats. Her basic clientele would have been foreigners. She would years later admit to being raped by an Afghan ambassador. How would she meet up with this sort of individual? Never the less, Marina suddenly leaves Leningrad and ends up living with her aunt and uncle in Minsk, where he was a member of the secret police, the MVD. Merezhinsky, though not her lover, said she was quite promiscuous with many of his friends without regard to reputation. He said he never told Lee any of this. (Although Lee, understanding Russian would have picked up on the gossip.)
However, Yuri Merezhinsky is not the only witness to Marina’s sexual history. The afore mentioned James Martin, the business manager, was also Marina’s lover and learned a lot about her past. He would relate this account to the HSCA in 1978 that he attempted to tell the Warren Commission about her background he was suddenly interrupted by Earl Warren who ordered the stenographer to tear up the tape. This is destruction of witness testimony in front of the witness and the Commission! Of course this makes one wonder how much other testimony was also concealed from the public in this manner. As usual, the WC had more than they wanted to know. Marina being involved with an Afghan ambassador would raise too many questions about how she got access to such high officials and what she was doing with them and for whom.
Marina obliquely commented about prostitution in an interview for Oswald’s Tale. The interviewer commented about her carrying a “great burden” upon leaving Leningrad. She danced around the issue saying she was never paid any money without defining what she was doing to be paid money for. This is all we’ll know for now. Whether or not she was a prostitute is circumstantial at best except the footprints are all over the trail.
As usual, the Warren Commission conceals from us who Lee Oswald was and apparently who his wife was as well. Her testimony down through the years is fraught with numerous contradictions and apparent falsehoods. She is an enigma like her husband. She says she graduated from pharmacy school though she stated when she was 14 years old. As a young woman she goes on a two-month traveling vacation of which it is unknown how she paid for it or got the state permission to enter so many cities. The CIA wrote a 29-point report suspecting her of being a intelligence agent. She undertakes major life changes and choices with seemingly little emotional distress, discussion, or forethought. Marrying a misfit foreigner after only knowing him for 6 weeks, having a child with him, and then uprooting her life to move to another country where she does not speak the language (obviously false) or know anyone is achieved with as much aplomb as figuring out what to wear for the day.
If she married a foreigner to come over to play spy all plans were shattered with the assassination of John Kennedy. The KGB wanted no part of that. For the Warren Commission she went along with the flow. Now she says her late husband was innocent of any crime. In the Orleans Parish Grand Jury Transcripts, she comes off as a dunderhead, not remembering anything or knowing much of anything. She comes off strangely detached from all of the events around her. One can read, “I don’t know…” without end.
Marina knows plenty but playing dumb works.
Sources: Newman, John, Oswald and the CIA; Armstrong, John, Harvey and Lee; McKnight, Gerald, Breach of Trust; Warren Commission Report; Mailer, Norman, Oswald’s Tale
Marina Oswald Porter Orleans Parish Grand Jury Transcripts: