To give balance to the glowing eulogies of Vlado, I offer two charming letters that he wrote from 1953.
The first is written from New York, 3 March:
I think it’s something like two months since I wrote you a decent full letter, and you would have the undeniable right to be quite angry if I hadn’t warned you about my extremely bad writing habits. Even so, please divide your anger equitably between me and my office, for we are both solidarly and undivisibly[sic] guilty for the long delay in my letter-writing. My Committee met from January 5 to February 22, and it was more of a mad-house than ever. I enjoyed the work very much, and so I did probably more than would have really be required of me, with the end result of spending and average of 70 hours a week in my office. Add to this the time one has to spend on various official parties and other quasi-mandatory occasions, the time for dressing, eating, household chores and – unfortunately – a bit of time that one unavoidably spends sleeping, and there remains just enough left to do the minimum of reading to keep in touch with financial events and other news that one cannot afford to miss. Apart from the lack of time, my mind was too preoccupied and too tired out to write a decent letter anyhow. You are not the only one who had to bear up with me during these last two months – my own parents didn’t hear much from me either, and I had to refuse nearly all private social engagements and pleasures. At one point I got so tired, after having worked until 3 or 4 in the morning for several days in a row, that I bumped with my face right against the steel edge of my car’s roof – and then was so preoccupied that I did not notice that I had hurt myself until the blood covered my left eye and I suddenly realized that something is wrong with my driving. But don’t worry, my beauty – sic! – is not affected – at the emergency ward of a hospital where I stopped I was given a thorough stitching, and they did such a nice job that there is practically no scar left.
The last two weekends I was catching up a bit on my body’s craving for exercise – I had worked all weekends since Christmas and so had not been out on the fresh air except for the 10 or 20 meters from the door to the car – and went skiing. Of course, to go skiing here is not so easy as in Geneva – Stowe, which is the nearest place with good trails and good snow, is 600 km away, so one has to spend most of Friday night and Sunday night driving. There are no wide open slopes either, just trails through woods where one has swing it around like in a slalom. The trails are of course of varying steepness and difficulty, from easy softly sloping ones for beginners to steep twisters, and towards the evening when they get iced up from the hundreds of skiers who hurtle through them. some of these trails can be a real challenge even for experts. Both weekends I had a carful of friends with me, to save on transportation expenses, and last weekend we rented an entire floor of a house, complete with a large living room with a big fireplace, and with kitchen, and the girls cooked our breakfast and dinner so that we did not spend too much money.
To correct the impression that all of my life was only work I must add that I also managed to go to two balls, one Latin American affair given by the Brazilian government and the Pan-American Union, with two orchestras flown in from Rio, and an excellent gay atmosphere, and one extremely fashionable “high class” American ball, which was much more stuffy but very interesting because it was “the” exclusive ball of society. Last week I resumed accepting dinner invitations – which I had to refuse while the Committee was meeting because I would have never found the time to go, and yesterday I gave myself a little bachelor-dinner party for fourteen guests. It was a bit of a problem to fit in everything in my small apartment, and I didn’t start shopping and preparing for the party until five in the afternoon because I was tied up in the office, so that when my first guests came I was still out getting ice and they had to wait for a few minutes before I came back and let them into the apartment. I couldn’t of course give them anything as fancy as your little Chinamen-eggs, but while they were having drinks and in-between keeping up conversation I managed to prepare some hors-d’oeuvres salad with tongue, ham and salmon, and while they were eating that I cooked my lobster-dish, something like a langouste cardinal, which I had learned how to do while visiting some friends near Boston last year, and then we all swarmed over the fondue pot and everybody dunked into it right in the kitchen-cupboard and was delighted at the extravagant delicacy. So you see, it’s much easier to satisfy guests here, you don’t have to go into so much trouble and formality. Around two in the morning I called for volunteers for dishwashing, and in less than half-hour all the hundreds of dishes, glasses and silverware – which I had rented for the occasion – were stacked away and I could compliment my guests out and go to bed.
Well, I think that’s about all the news for now. I am looking forward to a bit more varied life now, want to see some plays and do more skiing – and in reverting to the nice things I will be thinking more of you.
This second letter was written from Geneva, 26 December:
My dear one,
You must excuse my rather disorganized(and probably hardly legible)first letter – I wrote it between appointments in an effort to give you news of me as soon as possible. But this purpose was thwarted when I discovered that in addition to the airfield strike, also postal employees were on strike in France, so that sending the letter from Paris would have simply meant its getting lost in the piles of amassing mail which was being left uncollected. Really, France managed to get itself in a mess again – no president, no air traffic, no mail – and everything so expensive that I didn’t dare to buy anything. The theaters also were rather disappointing – a general air of decadence and negativity pervades the selection of plays, their direction and production, and to some extent also the performances of the players. If I didn’t have business to take care of, I would have probably left disgustedly the first night – as it was, I left disgustedly the third night.
The trains for Geneva were sold out, so I left through Basel and Lausanne, leaving Father behind for another day. In Lausanne, I had a big surprise – my mother walked suddenly through the carriage looking for a place to sit – she was at a wedding there, and neither of us knew that the other will be using the same train.
I had a very nice Christmas Eve, just the four of us, mother prepared a big Slovak Christmas dinner, and it was all very sentimental and mellow, each of us had shining eyes and tears ready at the slightest provocation. We all went together to church, and I even joined then in Confession and Partaking of the Cene, which I had not done for quite a few years. Yesterday I made another concession – visiting relatives and friends – but I managed to be carried away by the spirit enough to enjoy all of it. On Christmas Eve, we had phone calls from all over Europe, – Madrid, Stockholm, Munich, Zurich – friends wishing us Merry Christmas and welcoming me here, – it was all very sweet and comforting to know that there are still friends around who will go into so much trouble to make us feel good. I was also surprised at the number of people who sent us gifts and cards, many of whom I could hardly recall.
There is practically no snow anywhere, and skiing prospects look very gloomy. All the major roads across the Alps are still open – something nobody can ever recall having happened at Christmas. Even if there should be snow now, it would not have enough base to permit mountain-crossings, and so I will have to postpone skiing until at least the second week of January. In the meanwhile, I shall probably leave for the Cote d’Azur next Monday or Tuesday, and stay there for a week or so. I shall let you know what next.
I haven’t thanked you yet properly for your Christmas wishes (or rather, for Mona Lisa’s) – I had not seen the card when I was phoning you from the air-terminal, having eyes only for your picture, and there was no more room on my letter from Paris. How is dear ML, does she behave (and do you)???
I thought of you at Christmas time, and I shall be thinking of you when the New Year arrives (and quite often in-between, before and thereafter). I am wishing to you and to your mother all the very best for the coming year, and as a special little wish for myself I add that of being with you very, very often.