The Alleged Assassin’s Apartment

LHO01

Minsk, Belarus – June 2014

It is said that Lee Harvey Oswald slashed one of his wrists when the Soviet Union rejected his request for citizenship. He was hospitalized in Moscow and then sent to Minsk to work as a lathe operator in an electronics factory. His apartment has become a tourist attraction. Well, as much of a tourist attraction as something can be in a city virtually devoid of tourists.

I set out in search of this unlikely monument. It is Sunday morning. The tree-lined streets behind the Opera House are deserted. The cafe where I had dinner last night is open, however, so I pop in for a quick espresso. Afterwards, I turn right down Kommunisticheskaya Street. My pace is languid. Regal apartment buildings rise on either side, their facades impeccably maintained. The thing that has surprised me most about Minsk is how pleasant it is. Everything is as it should be, and that’s the way its residents appear to like it. Order, not restraint. The atmosphere this morning is infused with an eerie calm. Curtains waft out of open windows, but no faces are to be seen. No voices, human or animal, reach my ears. It is the echoless silence of a tomb. The aftermath of a peaceful extinction.

It doesn’t take me long to find the building. Reports differ on the actual apartment. One popular guidebook states that it’s the lower left; other sources say that it’s an upper apartment, third or fourth floor, left or right side, with a balcony. I stand across the street. The lower apartment seems to be a travel agency. Security cameras keep watch in both directions. I lift my eyes to the upper floors. No matter which apartment it was, he sure had a nice place to live. For a simple factory worker and a dubious foreigner, that is. He wasn’t given a choice. People were assigned apartments in those days.

I could let myself ponder this further, but I don’t. I know very little about the JFK assassination and the various alternative theories. The event happened so long ago, years before I was born, and I’m not young. Too much information, misinformation, and disinformation has festered in the wound of our collective memory. It’s too late. But I don’t mock those who continue to search.

LHO02

According to a Gallup poll taken in 2013, the majority of Americans, sixty-one percent, believe that a conspiracy surrounds JFK’s assassination. More surprising to me, this percentage is the lowest found in the fifty years since it happened. Really? Are they polling a different demographic? Is it because some of the people who were alive then have passed on? What about the feature films and all of those YouTube documentaries? Are people becoming more afraid of being labeled as crazy for questioning the official story?

I move on down the street, cross the river, and drift down Praspekt Nezalezhnasci. Other humans appear. Young and old. The streets are free of the usual Sunday morning debris: rubbish, vomit, etcetera. Minsk is reputed to have good nightlife. If it exists, the partiers obviously compose themselves before venturing out to the street.

It is said that Lee Harvey Oswald grew bored with Minsk. He wrote in his diary: I am starting to reconsider my desire about staying. 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.

It is said that he left “decadent” America of his own free will to be a “worker” in the Soviet Union.

What the hell did you expect, dude?

The KGB building looms ahead. Every guidebook and website that I’ve consulted has warned against taking photos. When I asked the staff at the guesthouse, they laughed and then assured me that it was fine to take photos of the outside, but never of the inside. As if I’d dare to enter.

From the shadows, I raise my camera and take a shot.

LHO03

46 thoughts on “The Alleged Assassin’s Apartment

  1. Thanks for taking me on your morning walk. A million years ago I ‘led’ a tour (thank god for Intourist guides) of the USSR when it was that – visited Moscow, Yalta, Kiev and Leningrad (when it was that). Loved this glimpse of now.

  2. That’s very strange to have “him” on a tourist guide. Afte rall is about killing, right? Thus if I think of all of Stalin’s statues…your story makes sense.

    • He was never convicted of the killing. He was murdered before he could have a fair trial. Which is why I added “alleged” to the post’s title. Anyway, people are drawn to grim places. It’s not something I would normally seek out as a tourist, but it was odd enough to be interesting.

  3. Your writing is a lovely inspiration to me ….I am a beginner blogger and just learning how to navigate it all and still I remain a bit confused ….may I use some of your word tags ( I don’t have any ) ? ( place , memoir , writing ) …do I need to tag after each posting or can they just remain the same always ? I love traveling with you ! Thankyou

    • Hi Meg – Neither I, nor anyone, own the rights to tags, so please do use them. They will help you get a lot of new readers, because they show up in the WP topics and people who follow those topics will see your new posts. And yes, you must tag each post when you publish it. You will have a list of the tags you have used, but you must assign tags to each post. WordPress is a little difficult to understand at first, so I recommend browsing their help section for beginner bloggers, which is very helpful. Best of luck to you and WELCOME. 🙂

  4. A very neat closing line. Just to show my age credentials, I remember exactly what I was doing the moment the news broke in the UK – my homework on the kitchen table when Dad walked in looking unusually sombre. The BBC stopped broadcasting out of respect – imagine that happening today.

  5. As someone who can say what she was doing when she heard of the assassination of JFK I am feeling old. I had no idea that Lee Harvey Oswald tried to go to Russia. Glad you were able to take the photo.
    You are not supposed to take pnotos of US Embassies either I think. I have one of the chain wire fence around the embassy in Brataslava.

    • I didn’t know that about the US embassies, but I’m not surprised. I walk by the embassy in Bratislava sometimes, but I’ve only noticed the high white walls around it, not a chain wire fence. I’ll have to look closer next time.

  6. It does look very orderly and pleasant. Do you think we will one day be Edward Snowden tourists? I expect so. Not that Oswald and Snowden are accused of the same crimes, of course.

  7. You had me looking over my shoulder! 🙂 How did you end up in Minsk? Just ‘passing through’?
    I got snarled at for taking photos in Monet’s house in Giverny but it was a very different issue 🙂

    • Hi Jo – I went to Minsk to satisfy my curiosity and found it to be a lot more pleasant than the media lead us to believe. Are you not supposed to take photos of the inside of Monet’s house? I always wonder why some places restrict photos and others don’t.

      • The walls are covered with his prized Japanese prints and I suppose in this age of clever theft someone could abuse this? Not really sure 😦 😦 The Louvre allow photos, Musee d’Orsay not- go figure?

  8. I appreciated you taking me on this eloquently guided walk. I was a small child at the time of the assassination but certainly the events provide intrigue.

  9. My Dear Julie, Good writing; Kudos. I particularly liked: ‘The echoless silence of a tomb. The aftermath of a peaceful extinction,’ and more. Very expressive.

    As for: ‘Are people becoming more afraid of being labeled as crazy for questioning the official story?’ …No. People are Just afraid. It is sad that even so called ‘Democracies’ have created this fear in the Citizenry.

    Night life is Recreation? People ‘have’ to spend off what they earn? Haha. In India they do it too. Even the labourer who earns just enough to support his family, first of all splurges it on drinks, then the whole family want cinemas and food from the shops. No wonder the West is expensive, and India poor.

    Yes, they do maintain the facades of the buildings well in russia. Who knows how it is inside? And who needs manual surveillance, when the world has progressed? Am sure any accosting can and will be done at any time they want, knocking on Your door!

    Nice to have this tour with You. Regards.

    • Thank you so much for your visit and your insight, Dear Swami. You totally “got” what I was trying to say and I completely agree with your comments. Warmest wishes – Julie

  10. Very interesting your post about Lee Harvey Oswald, JFK and Minsk. I didn’t know that Oswald had been in that city and I suppose that we will never really know the truth about that most famous assassination. I’ve just come back from the Baltic countries and especially Vilnius and have therefore been quite near you and Minsk. We have been told that rich Belarussians come to Lithuania to buy furniture at the IKEA built especially for them!!
    Unfortunately, I don’t know anything about tagging on blogs!

    • I also didn’t know he was in Minsk, but when I was looking up things to do there, his apartment was always mentioned. So I looked up a little info about it before I visited. There are really so many bizarre things about that whole situation.

      That’s funny about Belarussians shopping at IKEA in Lithuania at their own special store.

  11. What an interesting and strange story, Julie…I didn’t know anything about it him…I’ve never been in Minsk, but seems really a quiet and peacefull city.

  12. I think he wanted the a quite and peaceful place and it drove him nuts….lol
    like the tone of your writing fits the photos perfectly…and the place

  13. A great story, Vagabonde! Interesting spot to visit. I was 8 when JFK was assassinated. Living in Africa. I remember because our parents had gone to a party and came back early. Once the news broke…
    Have a great week-end

  14. If you want to read a definitive reason and dare I say truth about the JFK assassination I would recommend an American coup author John Hughes-wilson who is an ex spook (secret service) for UK. An outstanding read and clearly on the money. As for the pics I love the last shot what were they taken with? I love the colours.

    • Hi there, thanks for the book recommendation and the compliments on the photos. I took them with a Sony NEX-5N and then lightly edited them with Snapseed or CameraBag.

Comments are closed.