I posted this Google review at the start of the war, but came back to edit it recently. I am sharing screenshots from my phone, which is signed into my Google account, because I realized I am the only one that can see it, other than everyone at the Russian Embassy in Bratislava – they tried to hide it, but I fixed that!
*Edit 1 Nov. 2022: I am including photos of business cards of Russian diplomats that my mother-in-law met while visiting her home in Bratislava in 1992, which she so kindly saved for me to find! The one card that is in Cyrillic I translated this morning, and guess who it is? Sergey Ivanovich Rakitin!!
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.
For the past 6 days, I have been translating the 1956 testimony of Grandma Fabry from German to English, which was not easy since I am not fluent in German. The urgency of war has pushed me to act quickly. I want everyone in Slovakia to know what our Grandmother went through when the Russian communist leaders stole our family home in Bratislava in the coup of 1948. She resisted with all her might against both Nazis and communist oppressors for years, she did not give in.
Affidavit of Olga Fabry nee Palka from Bratislava, Slovakia, currently political refugee in Geneva, 14 Chemin Thury in Switzerland.
Curriculum Vitae I. Before the Persecution
I come from an old industrial family, I was born in Liptovsky Svaty Mikulas, Slovakia on November 18, 1895, so I am 62 years old. All of my ancestors made a major contribution to the economic development of Slovakia, at that time still within the framework of the Austrian monarchy. My Grandfather, Peter Palka, was one of the founders of financial development in Slovakia, organizing the first savings banks and laying the foundations of the largest pre-war Slovak bank. My father, Viktor Palka, continued this tradition and his life’s work includes the development of the Slovak paper industry. My ancestors played an important role in public and church life, and my father’s bequests for charitable purposes were also noteworthy. I was the only child in this family, and therefore my parents tried to place the greatest value on my upbringing.
After completing secondary school, I was sent to one of the best higher institute for girls of the then Austro-Hungarian monarchy in Vienna, in the Graben, for further academic training, and I completed these studies in Vienna. My parents tradition and this first class education gave me the future direction for my C.V.
In 1919, I met the then High Commissioner of Slovakia, Dr. Pavel Fabry, and got married. There are two children from this marriage. The son, Dr. Jur. Vladimir, currently Legal Advisor to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, and the daughter, Olga, currently a librarian at the United Nations in Geneva.
Following the tradition and education described above, I devoted myself to social activities with deep understanding and zeal. In particular, concern for working girls, who had to work outside of their parent’s home, has become my life goal. The World Organization of the Young Women’s Christian Association, the Y.W.C.A., was my example. With the help and advice of this organization, I co-founded the Slovak Y.W.C.A. First I served on the select committee and later as President. Or course, this was an honorary position without salary and without any income. I kept this position until I was expelled from Bratislava by the Nazi rulers. Under my presidency, several dormitories and catering kitchens were built, where the working girls, regardless of faith or nationality, were given accommodation and board or boarding for a very small fee, which did not even cover the management. Several hundred girls were carefully looked after every day. In addition to this activity, I was a board member of several social institutions. My own financial resources at that time allowed me to support these institutions financially. In fulfilling my family duties and the above mentioned social work, I was hit by the surprise attack on Slovakia by the Hitler regime.
II. During the Persecution
My husband, who in his public activities was one of the most zealous advocates of the democratic creed, was of course a thorn in the side of the dictatorial rulers and, as was well known, he was the first Slovak to be arrested by the Nazi regime and, with some interruptions – due to serious illness and damage to health – was held for almost two years in concentration camps, deportations, confinement under police guard, etc. As a faithful wife, I had to bear these persecutions with double concern. With the changing arrests he was always dragged out of sleep at night, and I had to run around for days – even weeks – just to find out which prison or concentration camp he is in, or where he was deported again.
My mental anguish was indescribable and I was repeatedly subjected to hours long interrogations, often at night. The frequent house searches were always intentionally carried out at night. Until my health reserves were available to me, I endured all this nerve-wracking bullying with courage and self-sacrifice – but these constant debilitating shocks meant that I often suffered nervous breakdowns after inhumane interrogations and examinations, and only the self-sacrificing care of the board of the University clinic, of Prof. Dr. Derer and his colleagues, was able to prevent the worst. After the severe attacks I suffered, I had to stay in bed for days – even weeks – and endure the regime’s repeated harassment. In this state, exhausted by mental suffering, I was then struck by the direct personal persecution of the Nazi rulers.
As I stated in the first part of my C.V., I was President of the Y.W.C.A. Institutions that provided housing and board for the working girls. These houses and kitchens were modernly furnished for both accommodation and catering for a capacity of more than a thousand girls a day, and the Nazi rulers wanted to get hold of them for their Nazi “educational center”. As President, I resisted with all my might – supported by the public and the hundreds of working girls who enjoyed the benefits of our institutions – to make these social houses available to the devastating anti-social activity of Nazis. I was, for this reason, subjected to several harsh investigations in the Ministry of the Interior, and even at the institutions night searches were carried out, to unearth any material against the institution, but without any success. I stayed strong.
The accounts were then blocked under impossible charges, whereupon I, together with my husband, provided the necessary financial resources, and the girls also helped with the collection. Naturally I have the resentment of those in power, not just on my husband, but directly concentrated on me. I was threatened with stricter measures, but true to my commitments I made with the working girls, I did not back down. That is why those in power were just waiting for a suitable opportunity to carry out their threats against me.
The Nazi envoy Killinger in Bratislava instructed the government to immediately “rent” our villa on Haffnerova in Bratislava for his personal use. My husband, who was previously transferred from the concentration camp to the clinic just to be cared for at home, but under constant police surveillance (the policemen were in the hall of the villa day and night), let the government know that he will never, under any conditions, rent our villa to Ambassador Killinger – whose deeds he knew well. The police and the Gestapo broke into the villa that same evening.
First they searched the house for hours and, upon presentation of an expulsion order, formally kicked us out of the villa under inhumane conditions. We were only allowed to take one dress and one pair of underwear with us, and when my daughter, who was 11 years old at the time, was crying and demanding her school books and school work, she was pushed away and shouted down. At midnight, in the pouring rain, we were led to the train station like criminals, and my husband and son were taken away to the confinement location with additional police escort and again guarded with police.
I suffered a severe nervous breakdown and was taken to relatives with my daughter. The villa was sealed, but every night a Gestapo detachment came in to inspect the villa – whereby some items of value always disappeared. When I recovered from the nervous breakdown, I was immediately expelled from the city and confined in a village near Piestany, then on to Martin and again to Mikulas, under constant police surveillance. The public was so outraged by this action, that the envoy Killinger did not immediately “rent” the villa. But those in power had achieved their goal regarding the Y.W.C.A. Under the pretext that I was expelled and cannot exercise the office of President, a provisional management was set up with the aim of liquifying the institution. When the institution was liquified as such, the buildings, kitchens, etc., were simply confiscated as unclaimed property, and assigned to the Nazis reformatory with all the valuable furnishings.
However, the persecution measures against me continued to be physical. I was suddenly ordered back to Bratislava from the place of confinement with the instruction to wait in front of the door of the villa, until I received further instructions. I waited there under the supervision of a Gestapo policeman in the bitter cold from morning to night. Tired from the night’s journey, I could not even stand on my feet in my weakened condition, and when our gardener offered me a chair from the garden shed, he was shouted down by the Gestapo police officers. I was ordered back the next day to the front door of the villa, but received no instruction until evening. This was repeated for some days. In the severe December cold, my feet became frostbitten and I contracted muscle and vein inflammation, so that the doctors stepped in energetically and I had to be transferred into medical care.
Then a Gestapo officer appeared and told me that if I rented the villa immediately, I will be given all the things from the villa, except for the furniture, and I can return to Bratislava. But I had to stand by my husband’s decision. I was threatened with more severe “measures” besides confinement. The outrage against the envoy [Killinger] was so great on the part of the population, that he was transferred to Yugoslavia[Romania – T.B.], because his “Femegerichte”[?] were found out in Bratislava. After his departure I was informed that I can return to Bratislava, however, my husband continued to be confined with our son.
How cynically they wanted to increase my mental and physical suffering, I have to mention that the Minister of the Interior, when he left me standing for days in front of the villa, gave a radio speech in which he made the most humiliating spot about me personally, saying, among other things:
“If you want to see a little repeat of the wailing of the Jews at the Wailing Wall of Jerusalem, go to the front of the Fabry villa on Haffnerova, there you will see a woman, one of the most stubborn opponents of the National Socialist Order, leaning against the wall of the villa, crying, lamenting.”
Yes, they even directed mobs in front of the villa who laughed at me!
Of course I did not cry, although the cold during the hours brought tears to my eyes. I could not look forward to returning to the villa.
The repeated arrests of my husband, his inhumane persecution, plus my persecution, the constant humiliation, seizure of assets, the political trials against my husband, fines of Millions, etc., and this with all humiliating accompanying circumstances, my nerves and my whole state of health were so badly damaged by the public scorn, that I was ordered by specialists to the sanatorium in the Tatra mountains. After long weeks there was a temporary improvement.
But the cup of torment was not yet fully exhausted, when I heard the news that my husband was sentenced to death for providing assistance to the people to be deported, and for thwarting the deportation of the residents of the district. In the radio broadcasts, our whole family was subjected to the basest abuse, and finally I had to escape from the threat of arrest and danger to my life, on the coldest night of March 1944, to a remote forest village, spending hours wading in snowdrifts between two moving fronts. It is only thanks to the compassionate care of the villagers that I stayed alive. Perhaps the later news that my husband was freed by the resistance movement during the changing battles for the town of Mikulas, and taken to a safe hiding place, gave me back my life back. I had to learn quite apathetically with the same news that the Gestapo, after the death sentence, confiscated all of our mobile assets onto several trucks and were taken away. All valuables deposited in the bank safes and precious jewelry collected from generations. After the front had been moved, I was again transferred to the sanatorium in the Tatras for weeks of care.
III. After the Persecution
Both our home in Mikulas, as well as the villa, were badly damaged by bombardments and plundered by the retreating troops. The reaction of the four hard years had changed my state of health more and more intensively. I went to Switzerland to be with my daughter who was studying in Lausanne at the time, but already in Zurich I had to be taken care of by Prof. Dr. Frey.
After returning[to Bratislava], I had to watch as the Bolshevik tendency is gaining ground in seven-league boots. The fight against the danger was hopeless because of the incomprehensible attitude of the West. The violent coup organized by [Valerian] Zorin succeeded and the Iron Curtain rolled down. I managed to make another trip for the Y.W.C.A. Headquarters meeting in Geneva, where I met my son. The events in Czechoslovakia had persuaded me not to return, all the more so since my health had deteriorated so much that I had to be taken care of by Prof. Dr. Saloz in Geneva. After weeks, the care had to be extended again, for which the Swiss authorities offered me a helping hand.
So then I got the news that my husband was thrown back into prison by the communist rulers. As we were later told, at the request of the then Secretary-General of the Hungarian Communist Party, the notorious [Matyas] Rakosi. It was revenge for my husband’s actions in 1919, when he fought against communism as High Commissioner, when the Bolshevik detachments broke into Slovakia. After 7 difficult months in prison, my husband managed to escape from the communist prison, in January 1949, and to get to Switzerland. Since then we live in Switzerland.
Since I entered Switzerland with only a small suitcase, and my husband fled in only a dress [Pavel Fabry disguised himself in a nun’s dress to escape. T.B], and everything from our home was confiscated, we have remained completely penniless, and relied only on the help of our son.
“After the Communist coup [February 1948] performed by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister [Valerian] Zorin for the Communists, the time is broken up with invoices to settle for my work against Communism as High Commissioner in 1919. And on the instructions of the insulted Mátyás Rákosi I was first of all relieved of all my functions and representatives, and subjected to all possible harassment, interrogations, etc. When I went to the delegation, as elected President of the Financial and Economic Committee of the General Assembly of the World Council of Churches, in Amsterdam, and was asked for my passport, I was arrested on the pretext of excessive imaginary charges. My whole fortune was taken, all accounts were confiscated and my Villa locked with furnishings, clothes, supplies, and everything, since it was the Consul-General of Russia; and on the same evening I was arrested as a “National Gift”, the nation was taken over, and in the night the Russians transferred the land register.”
My mother-in-law Olinka spent her whole life fighting to get the family home back from the Russians, but I will not be following in her footsteps – I want peace and to be happy! It is the sincere wish of myself and my family, that the Fabry home be donated to the city of Bratislava, as a gift to the people of Slovakia; to be of good use and service for the community, and that the garden be enjoyed by all people, as a memorial to our beloved ancestors.
The time has come for Russia to find a new home in Bratislava for their Consulate, obtained by legal means and not by brute force.
Grandpa Pavel Fabry made a lot of powerful enemies when he was a Governor in Czechoslovakia, he was not afraid to stand up to stark raving mad lunatics in power, and to make himself the target of Nazis and Communists. He also made many friends because he was a man of integrity, he loved and fought for his country, and he cared about the health and well-being of all Czechoslovakians. In his memory, I send my heartfelt appreciation to Washington state Governor Jay Inslee, for his strong and compassionate leadership – thank you!
There is a story connected to Pavel’s escape from the prison hospital in January 1949 I have not written about here, but it comes from his daughter Olinka Fabry; which was recorded by Olinka’s son, Victor(my husband), December 2008, several months before she passed away.
Many years before 1949, she does not recall what year exactly, her father Pavel was out driving in his car, when he saw a young girl lying hurt on the side of the road. He did not know who she was or what was wrong with her, but he picked her up and drove her to his own doctor. He told the doctor to give her anything she needed and he would pay for it. By some twist of fate, the father of this girl was the jailer in charge of the keys of the prison hospital, and he did not forget Pavel and his kindness – he helped him escape, in the words of Olinka, in a “uniform of a nun with an enormous hat”.
To refresh the memory, short excerpts from Pavel Fabry’s Curriculum Vitae, 11 September 1952:
During World-War-I, Mr. Fabry served as officer in an artillery division as well as in the service of the Army’s Judge Advocate-General. He became the first Secretary of the Provisional National Council established to prepare the liberation of Slovakia and the orderly transfer of its administration to the Czechoslovak Government. After the foundation of the Czechoslovak Republic, he was appointed Prefect (chief Government official) for the Eastern part of Slovakia.
When the Communist armies of the Hungarian Government of Bela Kun attacked Slovakia in 1919, Mr. Fabry was named High Commissioner Plenipotentiary for the defense of Eastern Slovakia. In this function he was entrusted with the co-ordination of the civil administration with the military actions of the Czechoslovak Army and of the Allied Military Command of General Mittelhauser. His determined and successful effort to prevent Eastern Slovakia to fall under the domination of Communist Armies – the victorious results of which contributed to the fall of the Communist regime in Hungary – drew on Mr. Fabry the wrath of the Communist leaders; they declared him the “mortal enemy of the people”, led violent press campaigns against him and attacked him overtly and covertly continually and at every opportunity.
Among civic functions, Mr. Fabry devoted his services particularly to Church, acting as Inspector (lay-head) of his local parish and as member of the Executive Committee of the Lutheran Church of Czechoslovakia. His appointment as delegate to the World Council of Churches’ meeting in Amsterdam in 1948 prompted his arrest by the Communist Government.
Although Mr. Fabry never stood for political office nor for any political party function, he was well known for his democratic and liberal convictions, and for the defense of these principles whenever his activities gave him the opportunity to do so. He earned himself a reputation in this respect which brought him the enmity of the adversaries of democracy from both the right and the left. He became one of the first Slovaks to be sent to a concentration camp following the establishment of a Pro-German fascist regime in 1939. His release could later be arranged and he was able to take active part in the underground resistance movement against the occupant; for this activity the German secret police (Gestapo) ordered his pursuit and execution in 1945, but he was able to escape the death sentence. In spite of his resistance record (or perhaps because of it), Mr. Fabry was among those arrested by the Russian Army, on the instigation of the Communist Party which could not forget his anti-Communist activities dating back all the way to 1919. Due to pressure of public opinion Mr. Fabry’s imprisonment at that time was very short; but when Communist seized power in Czechoslovakia in 1948, they did not miss the opportunity to settle accounts with him. He was removed from all his offices, his property was confiscated, he was imprisoned and subjected to a third degree cross-examination taking six months. No confessions of an admission which could have served as a basis for the formulation of an accusation could, however, be elicited from Mr. Fabry, and he managed to escape from the prison hospital where he was recovering from injuries inflicted during the examination. He succeeded to reach Switzerland in January 1949, where he has continued in his economic activities as member of the Board of Directors, and later President, of an enterprise for the development of new technologies in the field of bottling and food conservation. He was also active in assisting refugees and was appointed as member of the Czechoslovak National Council-in-exile.
From Pavel Fabry’s CV from 1955, translated from German:
“My parlous state of health has not allowed me to carry my work further. The law firm I have has only a limited representation of associates, and these are only my best performing workers.
After the Communist coup performed by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister [Valerian] Zorin for the Communists, the time is broken up with invoices to settle for my work against Communism as High Commissioner in 1919. And on the instructions of the insulted Mátyás Rákosi I was first of all relieved of all my functions and representatives, and subjected to all possible harassment, interrogations, etc. When I went to the delegation, as elected President of the Financial and Economic Committee of the General Assembly of the World Council of Churches, in Amsterdam, and was asked for my passport, I was arrested on the pretext of excessive imaginary charges. My whole fortune was taken, all accounts were confiscated and my Villa locked with furnishings, clothes, supplies, and everything, since it was the Consul-General of Russia; and on the same evening I was arrested as a “National Gift”, the nation was taken over, and in the night the Russians transferred the land register.
And so, my health still shattered by the persecution these Nazi monsters caused, they transferred me to the locked section of the hospital to make interrogations there. After seven months detention the workers and employees of some companies succeeded to liberate me in the night on January 21-22, 1949, and led me to a kamion near the border. I had foreseen that the police would know about my escape during the night, and that’s why I escaped (uberschreitete ?) to the Hungarian border with Austria, and again by the Austrian border, since I was immediately searched with many dogs.
I managed with the help of my friends to leave the Soviet zone disguised, and made it to Switzerland where I anticipated my wife and daughter.
The Swiss authorities immediately received me as a political refugee and assured me of asylum, and issued all the necessary travel documents.”
When I think about the lives of my relatives, and spend time holding their personal belongings in my hands, there is a feeling of love so real that expands my heart, that reminds me I am connected to everyone and everything. It is like they are speaking in my ear, encouraging me to learn from their lives, to have a positive attitude in times of trouble, to greet the world with love and not with fear. Love is an energy that is open to the new and the unknown, that wants to know and to understand and heal what is broken, that believes in the best in others, and to love courageously is the greatest goal.
I have attempted in the past to translate the following document in German from Pavel Fabry, but it deserves a better translation, and I am posting it here for those fluent in German to help me.
The mention of Valerian Zorin in this testimony is the one thing that has always stood out for me. Valerian Zorin was the Soviet ambassador to Czechoslovakia from 1945-47, and in 1948 he helped organize the Coup d’état in Czechoslovkia; he was Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union from 1947-1955 and 1956-1965, and also the permanent Soviet representative for the United Nations Security Council from 1952-53 and from 1956-1965. Valerian was not a friend to Pavel and Vlado or any Fabry, and because of his high rank he likely gave the order for the seizure of our home in Bratislava in 1948, making it their Russian embassy; and for ordering the arrest, detention, and torture of Pavel Fabry, on false charges, while he was on his way to Amsterdam to a meeting with the World Council of Churches. I am not sure how it felt for Vlado to work at the UN with Valerian – someone who hurt his family and friends – but good and evil has always existed, in high and low places, we have to work with our enemies and stay focused only on what is in our power to change.