“A Tribute from an English Friend”
When I first knew Vlado, he was nine years old. At that time I was living in Bratislava and his mother was glad to keep up her English with me and so Vlado too began English. I soon found he was very gifted and quick to learn; he took a keen interest and it was a pleasure to help him.
His parents were able to give him every advantage, but taught him how to use money wisely and to be independent and self-reliant. I believe this early training in independence more than once saved his life. About the age of ten, I remember him telling me, that he had his own allowance for clothing and kept his own accounts, but he was generous and thoughtful for others. This I believe was greatly due to his mother’s influence. Sometimes during his school holidays he would go from village to village in his own country collecting Folk Songs and at the age of fifteen had written a ballad himself of more than fifty verses.
He was devoted to his parents and sister (who is equally gifted) and had a happy life. He began flying with his father at an early age and had already travelled a good deal. After the tragedy of the War, when they lost every-thing and came though many dangers, his parents finally arrived in Geneva. Then Vlado was their mainstay. On account of his knowledge of languages and his great gifts, he held responsible posts and travelled widely for the United Nations. He took a great interest in any foreign country he visited and with his gift of languages and courtesy, he made friends everywhere. Whenever he came through London, if he had the time, he would phone me to meet him somewhere and tell me the family news. He never forgot his friends.
His passing is felt by all his friends, especially those who have known him for so many years and followed his career with such interest.
(Signed) Elspeth Young
Many of the postcards in the Fabry collection are of typical images from Switzerland, but there are a few that stand out in contrast.
(click images to enlarge)
“Freedom and Independence for Slovakia” was sent from Munich on April 12, 1960, and signed by someone named “Tiso”, but not Jozef Tiso.
The second card, drawn by Dr. Pavel Fabry and written in Slovak, was sent from Aigle, in the Swiss canton of Vaud (a place I am very fond of) on May 1, 1949. I tried to translate this, but was not successful – something about being kicked out of place (a woman appears to be kicking the backside of a man in the drawing, too).
I recognized this image immediately – Lenin’s Tomb and the Kremlin:
The postcard is written in German and dated January 1, 1949, with stamps and cancels from both Denmark and Czechoslovakia – what makes this one even more interesting is that the card is from the Soviet Union, written in Cyrillic.
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I found this – a postcard of the Graf Zeppelin sent from the Graf Zeppelin.
In an entirely different box of papers I found the original ticket for the Zeppelin ride, dated August 17, 1931, with the name “Wladimir Fabry”.
Lucky for him it wasn’t a ticket on the Hindenburg.
1948 was a very difficult year for the Fabry family, which was the time of the Communist coup d’état in Czechoslovakia. Vlado was far away from Bratislava, working in former Dutch Batavia, now Jakarta, for the United Nations Committee of Good Offices on the Indonesian Question, but his concern for his family stayed close. Vlado was devoted to the ideals of the United Nations, and making the world more peaceful, but he was torn by a greater devotion to his family. His position with the UN made many things possible for himself and his family, who were all political refugees, stateless, and fearful of being deported at any time, so it was not so easy for Vlado to ask for a post nearer his family, without sounding like he cared more about his family than his work. From a letter dated October 21, 1948, frustrated in Indonesia, Vlado writes to a member of the UN asking to be assigned to Palestine:
“Well, that would be all very nice as a position in a showdown if I would be alone and could make it without having to worry what would happen to my family if something goes wrong. As things are, I have rather to be concerned about everything, and address myself to you for help. With the indication not to appear in Paris for some time I have to rely on you and Boka, and hope that this year you will have more luck than last. I really can not work too much longer in this atmosphere of uncertainty in which I am now, without letting down either my work or my nerves, and I have to have my family sheltered somewhere, preferably in Europe, and be reasonably near to it for some time – 3 or 4 months – to give them the initial support they need. An assignment to Palestine as your assistant – which in my opinion should be for [Ivan] Kerno extremely simple, as all he has to do is to recall Kingstone and assign me instead – would be for me wonderful – it would keep me near my folks, would give me the opportunity to get a working acquaintance with the people who would decide on my transfer to trusteeship – I just learned that there were two resignations in Wishoff’s section lately – and would give me the immense advantage to work with somebody I like and esteem, and to be near to a friend again. So I pin my hopes on it.”
Vlado would remain in Jakarta until May 1951, as Assistant Secretary and adviser to Principal Secretary of United Nations Commission for Indonesia, but he wasn’t entirely “stuck” there – he managed to get away to Europe (most likely, to see his family) around the end of October/beginning of November 1948, with plans to visit Hong Kong and South China on his way there. Here is a letter from H.J. Timperely, sent from the Hotel des Indes and dated October 29, 1948, to His Excellency Dr. T.V. Soong in China, introducing Dr. Vladimir Fabry, and giving Timperely’s insights on the situation in Indonesia:
On March 14, 1950, referencing mutual friend and colleague Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Vlado wrote to His Excellency Mr. Raghavan, Ambassador to the Republic of India in Prague, asking if he would be interested in buying a set of crystal tableware to cover his sister’s school tuition:
I don’t know who Samuel Bellus is yet, but here is his statement on behalf of Mrs. Olga Fabry – Vlado’s mother:
I, Samuel Bellus, of 339 East 58th Street, New York 22, New York, hereby state and depose as follows:
That this statement is being prepared by me at the request of Mrs. Olga Viera Fabry, nee Palka, who formerly resided in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, but since 1948 has become a political refugee and at present resides at 14, Chemin Thury, Geneva, Switzerland;
That I have known personally the said Mrs. Olga Viera Fabry and other members of her family and have maintained a close association with them since the year 1938, and that I had opportunity to observe directly, or obtain first hand information on, the events hereinafter referred to, relating to the persecution which Mrs. Olga Viera Fabry and the members of her family had to suffer at the hands of exponents of the Nazi regime;
That in connection with repeated arrests of her husband, the said Mrs. Fabry has been during the years 1939 – 1944 on several occasions subject to interrogations, examinations and searches, which were carried out in a brutal and inhumane manner by members of the police and of the “Sicherheitsdienst” with the object of terrorizing and humiliating her;
That on a certain night on or about November 1940 Mrs. Fabry, together with other members of her family, was forcibly expelled and deported under police escort from her residence at 4 Haffner Street, Bratislava, where she was forced to leave behind all her personal belongings except one small suitcase with clothing;
That on or about January 1941 Mrs. Fabry was ordered to proceed to Bratislava and to wait in front of the entrance to her residence for further instructions, which latter order was repeated for several days in succession with the object of exposing Mrs. Fabry to the discomforts of standing long hours without protection from the intense cold weather and subjecting her to the shame of making a public show of her distress; and that during that time humiliating and derisive comments were made about her situation in public broadcasts;
That the constant fear, nervous tension and worry and the recurring shocks caused by the arrests and deportations to unknown destinations of her husband by exponents of the Nazi regime had seriously affected the health and well-being of Mrs. Fabry during the years 1939 – 1944, so that on several such occasions of increased strain she had to be placed under medical care to prevent a complete nervous breakdown; and
That the facts stated herein are true to the best of my knowledge and belief.
Since I’m not finished translating a document in German, I will give you a document written in English, from the Monday, September 25, 1961 Congressional Record: “Extension of Remarks of Hon. William W. Scranton of Pennsylvania in the House of Representatives”
Mr. SCRANTON. Mr. Speaker, in the tragic air crash in which the world lost the life of Dag Hammarskjold, we also suffered the loss of the life of Dr. Vladimir Fabry, the legal adviser to the United Nations operations in the Congo.
In the following statement by John C. Sciranka, a prominent American Slovak journalist, many of Dr. Fabry’s and his esteemed father’s attributes and good deeds are described. Dr. Fabry’s death is a great loss not only for all Slovaks, but for the whole free world.
Mr Sciranka’s statement follows:
Governor Fabry (Dr. Fabry’s father) was born in Turciansky sv. Martin, known as the cultural center of Slovakia. The Communists dropped the prefix svaty (saint) and call the city only Martin.
The late assistant to Secretary General Hammarskjold, Dr. Vladimir Fabry, inherited his legal talents from his father who studied law in the law school at Banska Stavnica, Budapest, and Berlin. The old Governor before the creation of Czechoslovakia fought for the rights of the Slovak nation during the Austro-Hungarian regime and was imprisoned on several occasions. His first experience as an agitator for Slovak independence proved costly during his student days when he was arrested for advocating freedom for his nation. Later the military officials arrested him on August 7, 1914, for advocating a higher institute of education for the Slovakian youth in Moravia. This act kept him away from the front and held him back as clerk of the Bratislava court.
He was well equipped to aid the founders of the first Republic of Czechoslovakia, which was created on American soil under the guidance and aid of the late President Woodrow Wilson. After the creation of the new republic he was made Governor (zupan) of the County of Saris, from which came the first Slovak pioneers to this city and county. Here he was confronted with the notorious Communist Bela Kun, who made desperate efforts to get control of Czechoslovakia. This successful career of elder Governor Fabry was followed by elevation as federal commissioner of the city of Kosice in eastern Slovakia.
But soon he resigned this post and opened a law office in Bratislava, with a branch office in Paris and Switzerland. The Governor’s experience at the international court gave a good start to his son Vladimir, who followed in the footsteps of his father. During World War II the elder Fabry was imprisoned by the Nazi regime and young Vladimir was an underground resistance fighter.
Dr. Vladimir Fabry, 40-year-old legal adviser to Secretary Dag Hammarskjold with the United Nations operation in Congo, who perished in the air tragedy, was born in Liptovsky Svaty Mikulas Slovakia. He received his doctor’s degree in law and political science from the Slovak University in Bratislava in 1942 and was admitted to the bar the following year. He was called to the United Nations Secretariat in 1946 by his famous countryman and statesman, Dr. Ivan Kerno, who died last winter in New York City after a successful career as international lawyer and diplomat and who served with the United Nations since its inception. Dr. Vladimir Fabry helped to organize postwar Czechoslovakia. His family left the country after the Communist putsch in February 1948. His sister Olga is also in the service of the United Nations in New York City [as a Librarian.-T]. His father, the former Governor, died during a visit to Berlin before his 70th birthday, which the family was planning to celebrate on January 14, 1961, in Geneva.
Before going to the Congo in February, Dr. Fabry had been for a year and a half the legal and political adviser with the United Nations Emergency Force in the Middle East. In 1948, he was appointed legal officer with the Security Council’s Good Offices Committee on the Indonesian question. He later helped prepare legal studies for a Jordan Valley development proposal. He also participated in the organization of the International Atomic Energy Agency. After serving with the staff that conducted the United Nations Togaland plebiscite in 1956, he was detailed to the Suez Canal clearance operation, winning a commendation for his service.
Dr. Vladimir Fabry became a U.S. citizen 2 years ago. He was proud of his Slovak heritage, considering the fact that his father served his clerkship with such famous Slovak statesmen as Paul Mudron, Andrew Halasa, Jan Vanovic, and Jan Rumann, who played important roles in modern Slovak history.
American Slovaks mourn his tragic death and they find consolation only in the fact that he worked with, and died for the preservation of world peace and democracy with such great a leader as the late Dag Hammarskjold.
When my Slovak mother-in-law passed away, she left behind a trove of family documents dating back before the creation of Czechoslovakia in 1918. This blog is where I piece together the clues of her family – the Fabry family: Vlado, her only brother – member of the United Nations from 1946 until 1961, when he died in a plane crash on a peace mission with U.N. Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold; Pavel, her father – a lawyer, politician, and son of wealthy industrialists, and one of the first to be imprisoned and tortured in the concentration camp llava, in Czechoslovakia; Olga, her mother – daughter of land-owning aristocrats, who watched as her home was seized from her, and eventually turned into the Russian Consulate, in Bratislava, where it remains today still. My mother-in-law, whose name is also Olga, never gave up trying to get back her home – she even put it in the will, she was adamant that it be returned to the family.
All of them were prolific letter writers. I am in the process of making order of nearly 25 archival boxes, translating the most intriguing documents as I go. Google Translate isn’t perfect, but I am using it to help make sense of the letters in German, French, and Slovak – not much written in English, but I am hoping to learn these languages better in time.
So far in my research, I am learning about Bela Kun, Franz Karmazin, the Comintern, Lenin Boys, Count Mihaly Karolyi, the Hlinka Gaurd, and Jozef Tiso. Czechoslovakia had both Nazis and Communists invading them, just one horror after another.