Oswald, Marina (1941—)

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Oswald, Marina (1941—)

Russian-born wife of presidential assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. Name variations: Marina Alexandrovna Medvedeva; (erroneously) Marina Pruskova; Marina Oswald Porter. Born Marina Nikolayevna Prusakova on July 17, 1941, in Molotovsk, Russia; daughter of Klavdia Prusakova (a laboratory worker); received diploma from the Pharmacy Institute, 1959; married Lee Harvey Oswald, on April 30, 1961 (died November 24, 1963); married Kenneth Porter, in 1965 (divorced 1974); children: (first marriage) June Lee Oswald (b. February 1962); Audrey Marina Rachel Oswald (b. October 1963); (second marriage) Mark Porter (b. 1966).

Marina Nikolayevna Prusakova, who would later become the wife of Lee Harvey Oswald, was born to an unmarried laboratory worker in Molotovsk, USSR, in 1941. In earliest childhood, she was raised largely by her grandmother, who hated Stalin and showered Marina with love. She later lived with her mother, stepfather and younger siblings in a village in Moldovia (where she witnessed the dispossession of local kulaks) and then in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), where the family shared a small room with her stepfather's unkind mother. Even while young, Marina had an uneasy sense that she was "different" from other people and unwanted, feelings that only increased after she learned of her illegitimacy. She never discovered the full name of her real father or the circumstances surrounding her conception, although she heard vague whispers that he had been branded an enemy of the people and punished accordingly. Marina's stepfather became increasingly cold to her as she grew older, and she deeply resented her mother's unwillingness to stand up for her, or even to kiss her while he was present. They were almost completely estranged by the time her mother died of cancer when Marina was 15. Her stepfather then began hinting, and finally demanding, that she should find somewhere else to live. After graduating from the Pharmacy Institute in Leningrad in 1959, she moved in with relatives in Minsk.

At a dance in March 1961, Marina met Lee Harvey Oswald, who had been sent to Minsk to live as a "stateless person" after arriving in Moscow in October 1959. He had left America planning to become a citizen of the USSR, but Soviet authorities, unsure of his real motivations and believing him to have mental problems, had no intention of granting him citizenship. As the only American in Minsk, however, he was an object of much curiosity and fascination. Marina, who had many boyfriends at the time, began dating him. While initially she was not sure whether she even particularly liked him, he soon proposed, and they were married on April 30, 1961, less than two months after they had met. Lee had become disillusioned with the Soviet Union, and was already planning on returning to the United States at the time of the marriage, although he had not told Marina this. They left for America in June 1962 and settled in Texas, where Marina, who spoke no English, hoped to live a cosmopolitan lifestyle. Within a year of their arrival, Lee had bought two rifles.

Marina and Lee had a daughter, June, in February 1962, but their marriage was tense. Lee was moody and secretive, wildly ambitious despite having no particular achievements to build on, and frequently beat Marina and forced her to have sex with him. He was an erratic worker at each of the number of low-level jobs he briefly held. Early in 1963, he concocted a plan to assassinate Edwin A. Walker, a prominent member of the John Birch Society, and came home late one night to tell Marina "I shot Walker." As it turned out, he had missed. He was not caught, and Marina kept her silence. Later, when she found him, as she believed, leaving the house with a gun on a spur-of-the-moment mission to shoot Richard Nixon, she locked him in the bathroom. After that, they moved to New Orleans, and then later to Dallas, where Lee got a job at the Texas School Book Depository.

Like most of the nation, Marina and Lee avidly followed all news of President John F. Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline Kennedy , and they had cried when the Kennedys' baby son Patrick died in August 1963. Marina was pregnant at the time, and in October, while living with a friend, she gave birth to her second daughter, Audrey. Relations with Lee were strained. Less than five weeks later, on November 22, she watched on television as the Kennedys arrived in Dallas. That day Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated the president and murdered J.D. Tippit, a police officer, while unsuccessfully trying to escape. According to Priscilla Johnson McMillan , when officers searched the Oswalds' garage soon after and discovered that Lee's rifle was missing, Marina knew her husband was responsible for the killings. She saw him briefly in custody the next morning, and the following day, while he was being transferred from the city jail, Lee was shot and killed by nightclub owner Jack Ruby.

Marina and her children were under Secret Service protection for a time, and she was interviewed for months by the Secret Service, the FBI and the Warren Commission. Financial assistance and marriage proposals from strangers poured in, magazines wanted interviews and photographs, and hustlers tried to interest her in schemes (such as her touring the country with her husband's body) to profit from her notoriety. In 1965, after some of the spotlight had dimmed, she remarried and moved to a ranch. In later years, she worked in a department store, and became a U.S. citizen in 1990. Initially convinced that Lee had acted alone, Marina gradually came to believe some variety of the many conspiracy theories that continue to swirl around Kennedy's assassination, and to proclaim that her husband had been an innocent patsy in a political plot and subsequent cover-up.


At Random. Summer 1995, pp. 12–19.

Ladies' Home Journal. May 1993. McMillan, Priscilla Johnson. Marina and Lee. NY: Harper & Row, 1977.

Newsweek. August 11, 1975, September 26, 1977.

Time. October 24, 1977.

Daniel E. Brannen , Jr., freelance writer, York, Pennsylvania