What Happened To Lee Harvey Oswald's Wife?

In one of the most shocking crimes in the 20th century, and in perhaps all of U.S. history, an assassin shot and killed the 35th President of the United States, John F. Kennedy. Days afterward, Lee Harvey Oswald was himself shot and killed by Jack Ruby, as History reports, setting into motion decades of conspiracy theories that maybe there was more to the narrative than meets the eye.

Lost in the shuffle was Oswald's widow, Marina Oswald. As the University of Michigan Heritage Project notes, she was only 22 years old, with two young children, when she was widowed. Further still, being attached to a world-shattering crime, however obliquely, is not the life everyone wants to live, and certainly not a widow with two young mouths to feed.

Marina did her best to disappear into obscurity once the dust had settled on her husband's crimes and subsequent murder. As of May 2022, she was still living, according to All That's Interesting.

She Was Born In Russia and Married Oswald There

Marina Prusakova was born in 1941, in the Russian city of Molotovsk, according to Spartacus Educational. Her family eventually wound up in Minsk, at the time a part of the Soviet Union, but now part of the fully-independent Belarus. It was in Minsk that, in 1959, she met an American, Lee Harvey Oswald, who had defected to the USSR — at the height of the Cold War, when tensions between the U.S. and the Soviets were running high. The couple wed within a few weeks, and eventually had a daughter. However, not long after their marriage, Oswald became disillusioned with life in the USSR, and the family returned to the U.S., living in Dallas, and New Orleans.

It was during these months after moving back to the U.S. that Marina, now known as Marina Oswald, learned of her husband's violent proclivities. In 1963, according to Marina, her husband tried to assassinate General Edwin Walker, a far-right politician, while the family was living in New Orleans; the Warren Commission would later confirm that Oswald attempted to assassinate the general. Marina asked her husband why he would attempt to murder someone: "I mean how dare you to go and claim somebody's life," she reportedly said.

Marina Oswald and her husband Were Possibly Estranged

By September 1963, Marina was pregnant with her second child and she moved the family back to Dallas, where they roomed in a boarding house, according to Spartacus Educational. At the time, Oswald was traveling here and there in his attempts to advance his political goals, although whether that led to estrangement or if the couple just lived in separate domiciles for the sake of convenience, isn't clear. By October, Oswald had found his own room and, with the help of Marina's landlady, had found work at the Texas School Book Depository.

On November 22, 1963, Oswald shot and killed Kennedy from a room in the very building where he worked. Two days later, according to the University of Michigan Heritage Project, Oswald was himself assassinated. "Now she's a widow, too," said newspaper headlines across the country. She wasn't just a widow, however. She was a widow with two preschool children and limited English. And, the feds wanted to talk.

She Testified Against Her Husband To The Warren Commission

Despite being attached to one of the most shocking crimes of its time, it seems that the people of America took pity on Marina. According to the University of Michigan Heritage Center, the plight of the widow, with two preschoolers to feed, tugged at the heartstrings, and soon enough she'd received donations of food, clothing, and cash totaling $70,000 –  the equivalent of over $600,000 in 2022 dollars — as well as an offer to come to Michigan to learn English and live with a family there.

First, however, the Warren Commission wanted to talk to her, and the feds, on learning that she was a Soviet, made it clear that she'd be on the first plane back to Minsk if she didn't tell them everything she knew, according to All That's Interesting. She apparently didn't know much, but her testimony was enough to convince the commission that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.

After her testimony, she did, in fact, go to Michigan, although not everyone in the Wolverine State was happy to have her there. "Please get her away from Michigan. In my book she belongs where her husband is. Where is your respect for President Kennedy?," wrote one angry resident.

She Later Changed Her Tune About Oswald

Though her testimony was enough to convince the Warren Commission that her deceased husband had acted alone, later in her life Marina expressed her doubts about her husband's guilt. In 1977, she told reporters at a press conference about her book "Marina and Lee" that she believed her husband was guilty. She said, "I can never forget or forgive what he did, to me and to my children, to the president and his family, to the whole world," according to The Washington Post.

However, a decade later, she told Ladies Home Journal that she believed the Warren Commission pressured her — at the time a widow with two children and facing deportation to the Soviet Union — to implicate her husband. "Their questioning left me only one way to go: guilty. I made Lee guilty," she said at the time. And again, in 1996, she claimed that she was part of the system that had railroaded her deceased husband, whom she claimed was a patsy,  according to The Independent. "I am now convinced that he was an FBI informant and believe that he did not kill President Kennedy," she said.

Marina Oswald Porter

By 1964, Marina Oswald Porter had put the Warren Commission behind her and was willing to take up Michigan's offer to learn English while receiving help from a local church, according to the University of Michigan Heritage Project. Though pressured to change her name, she declined, saying she wanted to "face reality, not dodge it," according to a church newsletter. After completing her English program, she left Michigan for good.

In 1965, according to All That's Interesting, Marina married a carpenter named Kenneth Porter. She took on the name Marina Oswald Porter, and the family moved to Richardson, Texas.

Over the years, though, Marina began to shy away from making public statements about her deceased husband. In 2003 a reporter for The Independent drove to her home to talk to her, only to be told that she wasn't interested in talking. According to a 2013 New York Post report, she and her family were good neighbors who kept to themselves. "She and Ken are good people, the best neighbors you could ever have," said a neighbor, Fred McCurley.