My husband Victor is the nephew of Vlado Fabry, the only child of Vlado’s sister Olinka. When Olinka passed away in 2009, we discovered a trove of papers and photos stuffed in old suitcases in the house in New York; we packed them up and brought them to Washington state, and since then I have made it my mission to share the family story with the world. The photo above shows one of these suitcases, which was originally owned by Ivan S. Kerno – Slovak lawyer and family friend, who was Assistant to Secretary-General Trygve Lie and was head of the United Nations Legal Department. We have many letters from Ivan Kerno, but here is one from Garden City, Long Island, New York, from 1946, the year Vlado joined the Legal Department of the United Nations; addressed to Vlado’s father, Pavel Fabry, in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, to our family home that is still illegally occupied by the Russian Federation, since the coup d’etat of 1948.
I was hesitant to share this here, because of the editorial choice of the word “suicide” to describe the death of Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold, but it is important because this was saved in a collection of other international papers by Olinka and Olga Fabry. The political cartoon, showing Moïse Tshombe collecting his money from the Union Minière du Haut-Katanga mines with the murders of Patrice Lumumba and Hammarskjold, is gruesome but on point. From our personal coin collection, not from the Fabry archive, I have also included scans of two coins from Katanga from 1961.
Here are two letters in Slovak from Vlado in New York, written in July and August of 1946, shortly after his arrival in the States. At this time, the United Nations Headquarters were located in Lake Success, NY, in the Sperry Gyroscope Company factory. The first letter, written to his sister Olinka in Lausanne, Switzerland, is on onion skin paper and is not getting any younger; it is hard to decipher because Vlado wrote on both sides of the paper, but, for those determined to know what he was up to and wrote, it is not impossible to translate! Ďakujem for the help!
In June 1946, Vlado Fabry left his position as Personal Secretary to the Minister of the Interior in Prague, to join the Secretariat of the United Nations in New York. He packed his bags, said farewell to his friends and family, and said good bye forever to Czechoslovakia. The following photos are from Prague, showing Vlado at an undated political gathering, and his departure in June at the airport on a Swissair flight to Zurich.
Poem for Vlado
Looking through the family papers today, I found a poem by Olinka Fabry, written in tribute of her brother Vlado. I share it here with love to the both of them.
You died, as you lived –
not fearless, nor reckless,
but wisely bargaining
the single coin of life
for the one thing it is worth,
to bargain for
not for the siren song of gold
nor for the temptation of flesh
nor for the praise of men –
but to help life bloom and sing
and save it from withering away
For while we procrastinated
while we withdrew and barricaded ourselves in our insides
you stepped out –
with a pick and the rope, climbed to the top
into the streaming sunshine of bullets
and called to the man, behind the bush
to come out and talk over his grievance….
Now that it’s consummated,
we see it well, this hard won lesson:
not for the thrill
nor to subdue the mountain
but to steel the gaze
at the edge of the abyss
so when time comes
for the free man
he shall not flinch,
he shall not be found wanting.
Enter now in the hall of fame
of our small mountainfolk,
join the heroes standing around
the famous cliff – straight as candles –
you who wrote their courage in the sky
for all the world to see.
Of you I sing on this foreign shore
gentle as white wool of our lambs
hard as the granite of our cliffs.
You shall not walk again the mountain path
but your name shall be whispered
when the forest sings
From the family archive, here is the program from the United Nations memorial service for Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold, and the 15 others who died with him, on 17 September 1961, while on a peace mission to Ndola. As the anniversary nears, I send kind thoughts to all who have been touched by this event. Included in the memorial program, held on 28 September 1961, is an address by the late Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold “on the occasion of the United Nations Day Concert, 24 October 1960” – it is one of Hammarskjold’s shorter speeches, but full of his warmth and optimism for humanity, so I have transcribed it here.
To further appreciate Hammarskjold’s sentiment towards music, to feel a little of what he felt when he listened to Beethoven, I have included the Christmas Day 1989 Berlin performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, conducted by Leonard Bernstein, in celebration of the fall of the Berlin Wall – it is perfection, one of the most beautiful and moving concerts of all time.
IN MEMORIAM, 17 SEPTEMBER 1961
Nils Goran Wilhelmsson
Harold M. Julien
Karl Erik Rosen
Serge L. Barrau
28 SEPTEMBER 1961
“ADDRESS GIVEN BY THE SECRETARY-GENERAL ON THE OCCASION OF THE UNITED NATIONS DAY CONCERT, 24 OCTOBER, 1960”
It is the tradition that the Organization marks United Nations Day with a concert including the final movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Today we shall, for the first time in this hall, listen to the symphony in its entirety.
It is difficult to say anything, knowing that the words spoken will be followed by this enormous confession of faith in the victorious human spirit and in human brotherhood, a confession valid for all times and with a depth and wealth of expression never surpassed.
When the Ninth Symphony opens we enter a drama full of harsh conflict and dark threats. But the composer leads us on, and in the beginning of the last movement we hear again the various themes repeated, now as a bridge toward a final synthesis. A moment of silence and a new theme is introduced, the theme of reconciliation and joy in reconciliation. A human voice is raised in rejection of all that has preceded and we enter the dreamt kingdom of peace. New voices join the first and mix in a jubilant assertion of life and all that it gives us when we meet it, joined in faith and human solidarity.
On his road from conflict and emotion to reconciliation in this final hymn of praise, Beethoven has given us a confession and a credo which we, who work within and for this Organization, may well make our own. We take part in the continuous fight between conflicting interests and ideologies which so far has marked the history of mankind, but we may never lose our faith that the first movements one day will be followed by the fourth movement. In that faith we strive to bring order and purity into chaos and anarchy. Inspired by that faith we try to impose the laws of the human mind and of the integrity of the human will on the dramatic evolution in which we are all engaged and in which we all carry our responsibility.
The road of Beethoven in his Ninth Symphony is also the road followed by the authors of the Preamble and of the Charter. It begins with the recognition of the threat under which we all live, speaking as it does of the need to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war which has brought untold sorrow to mankind. It moves on to a reaffirmation of faith in the dignity and worth of the human person, and it ends with the promise to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours and to unite our strength to maintain peace.
This year, the fifteenth in the life of the Organization, is putting it to new tests. Experience has shown how far we are from the end which inspired the Charter. We are indeed still in the first movements. But no matter how deep the shadows may be, how sharp the conflicts, how tense the mistrust reflected in this hall and in this house, we are not permitted to forget that we have too much in common, too great a sharing of interests and too much that we might lose together, for ourselves and for succeeding generations, ever to weaken in our efforts to surmount the difficulties and not to turn the simple human values, which are our common heritage, into the firm foundation on which we may unite our strength and live together in peace.