Saturday 21 September 2019


This box of Russian flashcards was found at the Beckley address, as Lee would study from his flashcards at least once a week.  This is where Lee lived, except for weekends when he visited Junie and his wife at the Paine house in Irving. I helped Lee sometimes when he used these cards in New Orleans by holding a flashcard up so he could see only the English side. Then , Lee would respond with the word in Russian. Since i knew enough Russian to be of help, his review period went faster. Lee also went to  Tulane University's Medical Library with me, and a few times, we went to Tulane's Music Listening Room, where we could be in a small practice room (they had pianos in most of these rooms, and a private place to play or practice music.). I observed Lee borrow a Russian language training record and asked him why,  as his Russian seemed perfect to me. "Actually, I have an accent because I learned so much Russian in Minsk," he told me. "The Russian in Leningrad, the kind Marina speaks, is more elegant and correct," he said.  "That's what I want to perfect."  John Armstrong and others try to contend that Lee was born into a family that spoke fluent Russian. This simply isn't true.  Lee worked hard on his Russian, and he was fluent in it, but that was due to dedicated, hard work, as i ob served myself.  Others say the original Lee was substituted for a native Russian who looked similar to him. The camera did not 'like' Lee, however, and he could take 'good' and 'bad' photos--and some photos supposedly of Lee that I've seen were from his 'defector' days when Lee said various records were falsified for his protection.  What I can assure you is that Lee was not a "native-born Russian speaker" but, on the contrary, his devotion to his country to be a 'real spy' --which was his goal ever since he watched "I Led Three Lives" and wanted to pretend to be a communist and follow in the footsteps of his true-life TV hero, Herbert Philbrick--is what impelled him to try to perfect his Russian. As pointed out elsewhere, sometimes a hint of Lee's New Orleans 'Cajun' from his mother, Marguerite, would slip out. On TV, under questioning by the press, Lee at one point said, "Nobody axed me that question yet..." and there it was: "axed" instead of 'asked.'  That was an American-born New Orleans native speaking--not a Russian-born substitute!  -jvb

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