TESTIMONY OF MRS. HELEN LESLIE
The testimony of Mrs. Helen Leslie was taken at 3:20 p.m., on April 1, 1964, in the office of the U.S. attorney, 301 Post Office Building, Bryan and Ervay Streets, Dallas, Tex., by Mr. Albert E. Jenner, Jr., assistant counsel of the President's Commission. Robert T. Davis, assistant attorney general of Texas, was present.
Mr. JENNER. This is Mrs. Helen Leslie of 4209 Hanover Street, Fort Worth, Tex.
Mrs. LESLIE. Not Fort Worth--Dallas, Tex.
Mr. JENNER. Mrs. Leslie, would you stand and hold up your hand, please?
Mrs. LESLIE. Oh, yes.
Mr. JENNER. Do you solemnly swear that in the testimony you are about to give you will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?
Mrs. LESLIE. Yes.
Mr. JENNER. Mrs. Leslie, I am Albert E. Jenner, Jr., and I am a member of the legal staff of the Warren Commission. The Warren Commission was created pursuant to a Senate joint resolution creating the Commission to investigate the assassination of the late President, John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
Mrs. LESLIE. Yes, I know what it is.
Mr. JENNER. And all the circumstances surrounding it. Pursuant to that legislation, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed the commission, of which the Honorable Earl Warren, Chief Justice of the United States, is chairman.
Mrs. LESLIE. Yes.
Mr. JENNER. And that Commission has the assignment I have indicated to you in the legislation. We are seeking on behalf of the Commission to inquire into all pertinent facts and circumstances relating to that assassination, and particularly to people who might or could have had any contact with or knowledge of one Lee Harvey Oswald and his wife, Marina Oswald.
Mrs. LESLIE. Yes, yes.
Mr. JENNER. In the course of some depositions that I have been taking here in Dallas, mention was made by some of the witnesses of you.
Mrs. LESLIE. Yes.
Mr. JENNER. And, possibly you might have some information. I do want to assure you that all the references to you were in a complimentary vein and I have sought to have this privilege of talking with you and taking your deposition, because I think perhaps you might be helpful to us.
Mrs. LESLIE. I will be glad to--as much as I can.
Mr. JENNER. You just sit back and relax and nothing is going to happen to you.
Mrs. LESLIE. I don't think I know very much; actually it is very little.
Mr. JENNER. Well, you appear voluntarily.
Mrs. LESLIE. Yes. Now, you want to know if I met the man and his wife?
Mr. JENNER. Maybe I can take it by easy steps, if you will let me.
Mrs. Leslie, you live in Dallas?
Mrs. LESLIE. I live here in Dallas. I can start for you from where I was born, how I came here?
Mr. JENNER. All right, do that, will you?
Mrs. LESLIE. I am not young girl. I was born in Moscow in 1900. This year on April 30, I will be 64 years old. I came to Dallas only 3 years ago.
Mr. JENNER. 2 years ago?
Mrs. LESLIE. In 1960--it's only 3 years ago. I am a widow, my husband died in 1947, whom I married--I married in 1923, so I am a widow about 17 years. Here in Dallas, actually, I was going from Florida to California, but my step-daughter, which is a daughter of my husband's first wife, asked me if I wanted to stop here in Dallas and maybe we can live together. So, I did and I arrived Dallas and I bought a house, so I settled here and on Hanover Street. It is my own house, in my name, and where I met a few Russians here, but deep regret--there was not a real Russian church, which I miss very much. It is in English language which certainly is not the same as your own language, the church has to be a Russian church on Newton Street.
Mr. JENNER. On what street?
Mrs. LESLIE. On Newton Street.
Mr. JENNER. Is that St. Nicholas?
Mrs. LESLIE. No, St. Seraphim.
Mr. JENNER. The sermon is preached in English, is it not, at St. Seraphim?
Mrs. LESLIE. In English--Father Dimitri is preaching there. By the way, Father Dimitri christened the daughter of this Oswald. His wife came there to christen the daughter June, I heard. Now, I was introduced to a few Russian people here.
Mr. JENNER. When you came here?
Mrs. LESLIE. Yes; my daughter, she was here, and she is a ballerina and she was visiting Dallas a few times and she knew some people here. She is a ballerina--a dancer. She met here many people mostly connected with ballet, artists, so she introduced me to the Voshinins, that's Igor and Natalia Voshinin, and then she introduced me to Mr. and Mrs. Ford.
Mr. JENNER. To Mr. and Mrs. Declan Ford?
Mrs. LESLIE. Declan Ford and then to the Mellers.
Mr. JENNER. The Mellers, M-e-l-l-e-r [spelling]?
Mrs. LESLIE. Yes; and then George Bouhe, and I think there are some Russians in Fort Worth--those Fort Worth Russians--the Clarks.
Mr. JENNER. Max Clark--Mr. and Mrs. Max Clark?
Mrs. LESLIE. Those are all the Russians which I knew here. Now, I don't remember which year it was, it seemed to me it was in 1961, when George Bouhe called me on telephone and told me there was one couple, a young couple came from Soviet Union and if I am interested to hear something about there, you know, the conditions in Soviet Union, he invites me to his house to meet them. He invited them and a few Russian people all interested in the conditions in the Soviet Union, which I left in 1924, and never corresponded with my own mother since that, and my own sisters. I don't know what happened to them, but I lost completely all trace of my own blood family. I never wrote them, because I was advised not to contact them, so I went to this George Bouhe's apartment.
Mr. JENNER. Now, Mrs. Leslie, the Oswalds returned from Russia on the 12th of June 1962.
Mrs. LESLIE. 1962--so, it was in 1962. As I said, I am not sure which year it was--it was so long ago. Since that I have never seen him--I just have seen them once.
Mr. JENNER. This was a meeting at George Bouhe's house?
Mrs. LESLIE. At George Bouhe's house where he lives--I could be wrong.
Mr. JENNER. Was it during the daytime or the evening?
Mrs. LESLIE. No, sir; it was in the daytime, you know, but I don't know exactly--I can't mention what hour it was, but it was in some entertainment, you know, some wine and a few things, and there was this couple with their baby, which was Oswald and his wife.
Mr. JENNER. Who was there in addition to yourself and Mr. Bouhe?
Mrs. LESLIE. Mrs. Meller. From there we went to Mrs. Meller's house for dinner, so I presume it was something--3 o'clock or 4 o'clock that we were over at Mr. Bouhe's place, and then we went to Mrs. Meller's place for dinner.
Mr. JENNER. And who was present on that occasion?
Mrs. LESLIE. There was a few people which I didn't know actually, I tell you--when I was introduced to Oswald--I didn't catch his name, his last name. They called them Lee and Marina, you know, and he didn't impress me very much.
Mr. JENNER. Tell us about that.
Mrs. LESLIE. Yes--he didn't impress me, you know, but the only thing--the only one thing impressed me--he was talking quite fluently Russian language. He was making some mistakes, grammar mistakes, in very good Russian language, because I was born there and raised there, but he was talking fluently. Everything he was talking in Russian language, but sometimes he was--he didn't use grammar things or something, he wasn't quite good in grammar. I think he was doing some mistakes, not in pronunciation but in grammar.
Mr. JENNER. What about Marina?
Mrs. LESLIE. Marina impressed me as not so like people was saying--they have an education or something, she was quite wise and she was a pharmacist. I think as I understood after, she was a pharmacist, I think I understood after from some Russian; she took course of pharmacy and was working in Leningrad as a pharmacist, you know, so I will tell you--this Mr. Bouhe, he is a very kind man. He always liked to help everybody he can. So, he was born also in--Petrograd, before the Russian revolution it was, and she was born there, and when he heard she's from his hometown, that's why he took such an interest in this couple. He wanted to help them. Now, she impressed me as a wise person, for her age, you know, and she was talking very good Russian language, which I rarely ever heard even on television, you know, sometimes when there was some talk of Ambassadors. It was a different language they use now--so many new words which I do not recall in our language. She was talking nice Russian language and that's all I remember.
Mr. JENNER. Did she speak good grammatically?
Mrs. LESLIE. Yes, she probably finished school, you know, there is a different systems of school and a special course of pharmacy because she knew all terms, the Latin terms--something that not many people know, because she was educated in this field. Then, we went to dinner and she had the trouble there with her baby, you know, changing diapers and so on like always, but this first baby it was. It wasn't the. second baby then. Then, I never met them--sometimes I was getting calls--how was this Russian couple getting along, and they tried to find for them new work for him--he was not satisfied with what he was doing. I think too little and always not enough money and Bouhe was trying to help them financially.
Mr. JENNER. Bouhe solicited money from you and others?
Mrs. LESLIE. No, I didn't give. He was just helping because he is a quite wealthy man. He is alone and he doesn't have any limitation or anything. He always takes interest in some poor people. He sends money and he is supporting some old people. I do not know exactly which they are and so on.
Mr. JENNER. This interest of Mr. Bouhe, and this course of conduct that you have related was, as far as you are concerned, there was nothing extraordinary about it, it was something you normally would expect of a man like George Bouhe?
Mrs. LESLIE. Yes, and I will tell you now, even now I do not meet with Mr. Bouhe and there is a completely different reason why. He is a temperate man, a little bit--he can tell you--insult you sometimes without thinking, and I am a little bit older than he is, a few years, so it was a case which probably will interest you because it was one of the finest things which happens. When I was a child and close with my mother, I saw a photograph of my mother which was taken by some artist that was collecting Russian costumes of art, you know, peasant's costumes and her brother was in an academy, he was a painter, and this painter came from London and he wanted to help to make a book about Russia as an artist. So, he wanted to take photographs of the girls in these costumes and my mother was pretty, very pretty when she was young. She was 17 then--she was very pretty then, but that was long ago, that was 70 years ago, so they took her photograph in the costume and when
I was 5 years old, I sold this photograph to a man, nothing else, you know, just a photographer and I forgot about it, and already being in America, I was living in Boston with my husband. I visited one of my friends and she was collecting Russian things, embroideries and books and she showed me some books and it was art books and I was looking at those costumes and then I see a portrait of my mother. It was, you know, very big thing for me because being already 13 years out of Russia and I find a portrait of my mother in America and it was a very rare case. I was asking this lady to give me the name of this book so I could find it, and she put this book so well on the shelf and after a few years finally, she sends me the name of this book, and when I met Mr. Bouhe, I told him I would like to buy a book, which is a very old edition, maybe 60 years ago, which now probably they wouldn't make it any more. He said, "That's what I like to do. I like to do everything. I don't have too much to do," and you know, he has nothing much to do and he says that he will find it. Finally, he found these two books, one for $60 and one for $20. So, I said, "I don't care about the book. I care only about my mother, the picture of my mother. I will pay for it $20." And, at 7 o'clock in the morning he calls me and he says, "I have this book--or rather it has arrived. Which one is portrait of your mother?" There were about 20 portraits of different girls in costumes and how can I tell him which one is my mother and I said, "You bring me book and I will show you. I cannot tell you." And he said, "Oh, how can you not tell about your mother, how she looks and so forth?" I said, "I cannot tell you. Come and I will show you, and why do you call me at 7 o'clock in the morning. I have to rush to my job and I have no time to talk now." So, he hung up. Then, in the evening I found the book in the threshold of the house. So, indeed, after my job I called him on the telephone and I told him, I wanted to thank him for it and ask him, "Why didn't you come in the evening so I can show you where is my mother?" And he told me, "I don't want to know you any more. You were so rude to me, you didn't want to tell me which one is your mother so I don't want to know you any more and I am not interested in it." I said, "That's your privilege. I cannot force myself on you, if you don't want to know me." So, that was a break, you know, so since that--it was about more than 1 year I have lost track of it. After this I was not at his house. So, I meet him socially sometimes at Mrs. Ford's house and shake hands with him, but I not invite him. He says he doesn't want me to know him--he doesn't want to know me, so I do not invite him to my house, he does not invite me to his house; and that's the situation, and I didn't meet him since--since this case, but I have nothing against him, but I was expecting from him some apology. I am an older woman and, after all, he is a man and I am a lady and when he told me he doesn't want to know me, so that's his, you know, duty to excuse me. I was a little bit rough, or something, and that's the end, but he didn't, so I'm stubborn too, so that was the end with Mr. Bouhe, and I never met him one time, and when I meet him, I say, "Hello, how are you," and that's all.
Mr. JENNER. How did these people, Lee Oswald and Marina Oswald act toward each other on the occasion when you saw them?
Mrs. LESLIE. I will tell you something--I don't know if Bouhe told you or others too. When she was out at a place--she had a black eye and she has her tooth out, one tooth was out, so a second, man it was raised a question how she had this black eye and so on, and she said, "Oh, I hit the kitchen door. The baby was crying and I didn't want to make a light, the door was open and I hit it--the kitchen door." And then, later, I heard from Mrs. Meller that he beat her, he was beating her, that he was always beating her and everybody was sympathetic with her. Frankly now, it is understandable. She was Russian, you know, it is some kind of a feeling of a Russian toward a Russian and they were mad at him and how he could beat his wife this is not proper--to beat his wife.
Mr. JENNER. Well, now, we don't approve of that in America.
Mrs. LESLIE. No. All I say now is what other people like Mellers and like
Fords told me that once he beat her so hard and threw her out in the street, so she took her baby as a result in just a little blanket--she didn't know where to go and she came to Mellers and she said, "I don't know where to go," that she wasn't talking good English and he wanted to talk Russian at home, so she didn't know what to do and the Mellers are very nice people, so they took her in their house and she stayed there a few days until they found a place for her. I don't remember, but they said "Oh, the awful things," and they took her--I think, you know, that she was staying with them. I didn't know she was staying with Fords. I didn't know when, because I lost trace of her and so that's all I know about Oswalds. Actually, I didn't see her until when she was on television.
Mr. JENNER. Now, I want to ask you about a certain George De Mohrenschildt.
Mrs. LIEBELER. I do not know him very much, he is a friend of my daughter's and he is in Haiti.
Mr. JENNER. Yes; I know that.
Mrs. LESLIE. And he was patronizing Oswalds.
Mr. JENNER. What kind of fellow was George De Mohrenschildt?
Mrs. LESLIE. You know, my daughter is ballerina and so even I have pictures somewhere with her. He was taking her out, you know, courting her. She is a very beautiful girl, my daughter--Nattialie Krassooska of the stage, and she is a very, very attractive girl and a very prima ballerina many, many years and he was courting her. They were going together, swimming together, and I don't know where--that's why she invited me to come here. She said, "I have here some friends," but when I came, he already married this Jeanne.
Mr. JENNER. Jeanne?
Mrs. LESLIE. She's Russian--I don't know her maiden name, Jeanne or Jane or something in Russian, but I could not tell what her maiden name is and he was married four times and she was married, I don't know, a few times, and then they took this trip, a walking trip in South America or somewhere, you know, they walked.
Mr. JENNER. From the Mexican border down to Panama?
Mrs. LESLIE. I don't know exactly, so they was walking and what were the arrangements he made--with some Life Magazine, or something, but he is a geologist anyway. She took this job in Haiti also make geologist, and when I came here he already was married, but it happens like so, once he lost his little boy from another wife and he was very much grieving about this boy, so my daughter, being his friend, she sympathizes with him and wrote him a little letter. She wrote him a letter of sympathy because he lost his little boy and then his wife, Jeanne, called my daughter and said that they was not meeting since he was married and she said she would like to meet her and since then, occasionally, we was meeting them at Fords and other houses and then once at Christmas time she invited them to come to our house, so they were once at our house. Now, I didn't know them before and I will tell you something--that what many people were afraid of, his wife is atheist. She doesn't believe in God.
Mr. JENNER. This is Mrs. De Mohrenschildt?
Mrs. LESLIE. Yes--his wife, and he wasn't, when he was going with my daughter, which is very religious, he was going to church, even singing in chorus of church. After he married this Jeanne he became atheist too, you know, so I don't know--maybe he always is under the influence of somebody, but it is hard to tell, but I cannot judge them. I don't know how to judge the characters that they are, but everybody says, "Well, he is under influence of this Jeanne." That's all they say about him.
Mr. JENNER. Is there anything extraordinary about him in his dress and his attitude?
Mrs. LESLIE. You know, after this trip, they are very--they don't like to dress. You can invite them for Christmas and he will come in slacks, dirty, and in sweaters, you know, his appearance always shocked me a little bit. You know, when you invite people for dinner, you expect them to be more or less decent dressed, and she, too, and they was saying when they were making this trip to Mexico or South America, or I don't know, they was walking in bikinis and practically naked and there was dogs and a mule, and you know, so I don't know
what kind of people--whose influence was this and was he the same before or not, I cannot tell. I never was interested in that, in this family, you know, close, so that's all I know about De Mohrenschildts. Actually, now, it's already a long time, and my daughter doesn't either. The De Mohrenschildts are more or less friends with--and I don't know who knows them best, but I think--whether the Mellers do or not--I don't know who is friends, but I heard that he took interest in these Oswalds and Oswalds was in his house many times, but what they was talking about, if he knew about his point of view or if he knew he is a Communist, you know, many people was thinking that probably she didn't broke with the Soviet Union when she left, why he left, you know, why they let him out, you know, but nobody knows, you know, it is so hard to leave from there his wife and child, why they let them out.
Mr. DAVIS. Did this occur to you?
Mrs. LESLIE. It has occurred to everybody--how--he was so poor and Bouhe was helping him and he has no decent job and at the same time he took a trip to Mexico and he took a trip to New Orleans--he was taking these trips--who supplied him with money--nobody knows. You know, that's a thought everybody was thinking--how he went there and how--it's strange things, but nobody can answer these questions.
Mr. JENNER. But the interest of Mr. Bouhe and the Fords and the Mellers and the De Mohrenschildts and others was an interest growing out of good heartedness?
Mrs. LESLIE. I hope so--I think so--I hope so. Mostly, you know, I cannot tell about De Mohrenschildts. She's Russian and he is Russian. I don't know--he's from Estonia or something, you know, De Mohrenschildt.
Mr. JENNER. On the Baltic Sea?
Mrs. LESLIE. Yes; but she is Russian. Now, you know, it is natural that Russians wants to meet Russians to talk their own language, and not to forget it, so they met them somewhere and invited them to their place, and if they helped them, I don't know, but they met, which I know--they was meeting them--somebody told that the FBI was looking for De Mohrenschildt here, and I think they found he was in Haiti, and I think in 6 months he will come back and it will all be over, after this is over. Probably he will come back into the United States. Now, I cannot tell any more. Yes--I wanted to tell this--so, when this naturally occurred, I was watching television because President Kennedy was coming to Dallas and, the man, you know, he was nice, and there was Mrs. Kennedy, the First Lady, and then there was a bullet and a shot and he was shot and later they show a picture of Oswald. They presume that it was Oswald who is killer, you know, and I look at this Oswald, and then they showed Marina with the child and I did not recognize her; you know, I have not seen them in a couple of years and I didn't know his last name, the name Lee and Marina didn't meant to me everything, and then they said "Russian born," but didn't occur to me that I met them, and then I went to church on Newton Street and then there was a friend of mine, Igor Voshinin and Natalia Voshinin and she said, "Did you hear who killed President Kennedy?" I said, "I don't remember his name. They named it on television but I don't remember his name." They said, "It's Oswald, you know him." I said, "I know him?" And they said, "But yes; you met him." I said, "Well," and then I said, "Oh, yes; I met him." And then I stopped to look at the pictures more closely and I recognized him then, but at first even I didn't recognize him, because when you are not expecting--I didn't know his last name and such a common face he has, and such a--you couldn't remember his face very closely--it is just one person you can recognize him, and that's how it happened that I knew him and his wife. Oh, I feel so bad; I shaked his hand--I didn't remember if I did or not. I shaked his hand, and I said, "Oh, I shaked hands with the killer of the President," and I felt dirty and I touched something I didn't want to touch, you know, but actually I'm very sorry about Marina, his wife. I am sorry.
Mr. JENNER. Have you seen her since the occasion you met her?
Mrs. LESLIE. No, no; I think she is now helped by Mr. and Mrs. Ford. It was
correct that they was helping her because she received so much from the donations and money, and somebody took advantage of it and they was providing her money and she could not get for herself anything and they was investing it or something--I don't know the situation, but she is now--they asked her--as Russian--to watch over her. I don't know what she does--I never meet with her; I never invited Marina Oswald to my house and I do not intend to. I just don't want to--I don't know, but, you know, I have such a feeling that it is better to--I don't know, maybe I am wrong and have to be more Christian.
Mr. JENNER. Well, Mrs. Leslie, we appreciate very much your coming in, I know, at an inconvenience to you.
Mrs. LESLIE. But if I can help with something I want to.
Mr. JENNER. You were helpful to us and we appreciate it very much.
Mrs. LESLIE. Thank you very much.
Mr. JENNER. Miss Oliver will write this up and if you wish to read it, you have that liberty and that right to do so, and if you would prefer to do that, we will make your transcript available to you to read.
Mrs. LESLIE. Yes; you will mail it to me?
Mr. JENNER. If you call in here to Mr. Barefoot Sanders, the U.S. attorney's office, he will have it.
Mrs. LESLIE. I have to write his name.
Mr. JENNER. And he will know when your transcript is ready.
Mrs. LESLIE. He will call me on the telephone?
Mr. JENNER. You had better call him because there are so many witnesses. Call him sometime next week and then you may come in and read it and sign it.
Mrs. LESLIE. Yes; I will be glad to because everything I told, I told it under oath and it is completely true and I didn't try to hide anything.
Mr. DAVIS. That's the name and the phone number.
Mrs. LESLIE. Sir, I will call him and ask him--what I have to ask--is my deposition ready?
Mr. JENNER. If the writeup of your deposition is ready for you to read?
Mrs. LESLIE. To read--all right; thank you.
Mr. JENNER. You give him your name and he will tell you.
Mr. DAVIS. Let me give you another name to call since Mr. Sanders may be hard to get. You might call Martha Joe Stroud, who is an assistant attorney here and she is actually in charge of those, and she might be the one you could reach and she would be at this same number.
Mrs. LESLIE. All right; I will do it.
Mr. DAVIS. I would say about Tuesday or Wednesday of next week. Thank you so much, Mrs. Leslie.
Mrs. LESLIE. Thank you.