Tag Archives: Constantin Stavropoulos

Vlado and Mary Liz, 1957: Part 1

Vlado Fabry 1
Vlado – L’apparition

This next series of letters is dedicated to my dear friend in Geneva, Simone, who was close friends with my mother-in-law Olinka. She was surprised when I told her that Vlado had left behind love letters, because she never heard anything about him having girlfriends. She rarely saw Vlado – he was like an apparition – but she has told me how much Olinka adored her brother, and worshiped him like a god. Simone is my favorite person, and I miss her, so these letters are my birthday gift to her.

The only thing that is disappointing here is that Vlado didn’t keep copies of all the letters he wrote to Mary Liz, his romantic interest of 1957 (and beyond?), but I can imagine Mary Liz must have treasured them. Perhaps they have been lost, but I hope they have been inherited by an appreciative family member, like myself.

(For further context of the events of 1957, I recommend reading Vlado and the Suez Canal.)

7 February 1957


When you will receive this, I have no idea, but I wish you could have it in time for St. Valentine’s Day. Because even tho you know it now, I want to tell you again how much I love you. Of course, I want you to realize this every day – but especially on Valentine’s Day.

And Vlado, I don’t expect anything. All I hope for is your happiness and the chance to love you – & please let me. What comes back is not important to me. I am eternally grateful to Him for the mere fact of meeting you. It’s joy to know someone like you.

I say I want to please you because I know that your happiness does not lie in my power alone – I can only add to it, if possible. And you are the only human being whose happiness is of such concern to me.

Mary Liz

Don’t feel as tho you should answer this, please.


My Dear One,

your letter did not quite make Valentine’s Day (which I eventually discovered to be 14/II) but whatever day it did arrive was proclaimed to be Valentine’s Day irrespective of any conventional date it may be feted by other people. Thank you, my darling, – I am not trying to answer the letter because that cannot be done – I am only trying to tell you that I do not recall ever having been so touched and made so mellow – and at the same time a bit ashamed – deep inside as I was when I read through your lines.

It made me very happy and at the same time a bit sad over my inadequacy to give as much in return as you offer to me. But I do love you – and you know it – as much as my queer warped nature permits me to, and I too and full of tender desire to protect you and make you happy and fill your life with excitement and joy. And I do miss you.

I scribbled a quick note to you on my arrival – it may have reached you just about Valentine’s day if it was not delayed on its way, although if I had realized the approach of that occasion I would have surely tried to add a line or two. There is very little that I can write about myself – the working hours here are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Sunday, and that leaves very little time for any private adventures. I miss my weekend exercise, but got into the habit of making a two hour walk, changing into trot and run as soon as I am out of the city, each night, and for lunch I take two hours off for a sunbath and quick dip into the Timsah Lake (it’s still rather cold and I nearly [ran] into a minefield the first time, but it’s getting warmer and I know my way around now). But every two or three days I spend on the road or “on the Canal”, I should say, making inspection trips, straightening out problems, and holding palavers with the salvors or with Egyptian authorities, or else giving a hand to the UNEF staff on legal problems. As soon as I catch up enough with my work to be able to extricate myself for a few days, I plan to visit the front lines in the north and south and have a look at St. Catherine’s Monastery, and maybe spend a couple of days at Luxor and Thebes. But that will have to wait for a while. In the meanwhile there is the fascination of learning a new trade which more than compensates the lack of free time and exercise and the occasional fleas and bedbugs. Although there was a time at the beginning when I felt rather asea (or acanal) trying to weigh the respective merits of doing a parbuckling job by using sheerlegs or by blowing up camels (which, by the way, does not refer to a zoologic digestion process but means pumping air into oversized barrels attached underwater to a wreck).

Love, Vlado

28 February 1957

Dear Vlado,

It was so good to receive your letter – and I must say it came as a real surprise! I’m afraid I took you at your word when you said not to expect much in the way of letters. However, it didn’t arrive till last Tuesday (more than a week since you mailed it).

Peggy took off on a vacation for three weeks and left me to take her place. It’s fun – writing my own letters and running the show (not completely tho – Mr. S [Stavropoulos] is still here). But it means that I’ve got more on my mind these days and that’s why I didn’t write before this. I can’t honestly say that the work is hard but I just have to use my brain more. Enough of Volunteer Services…

The Ski Club misses you so much. Gary Karmilloff filled in for a while but now he has a London assignment so that the post of Liaison Officer (& V.P) is still vacant. They are planning a weekend in the middle of March to Manchester, Vt. and then I guess the season will be over – too short. Have you had a chance to ski in the Cedars of Lebanon?

Ran into Peter Kempton the other day. You probably know he’s working with Hungarian Relief. Seems like one big happy family! And he is really enjoying the work, I think.

When I read the last part of your letter (about your walk down by the lake) I wished I could fly right to you. But then I remembered what you once said about being close to someone even tho he was far away physically. I feel very near to you Vlado – maybe because you’re in my thoughts constantly.

I love you

Mary Liz

P.S. Let me know if I can send you anything e.g. books or food.

Sunday, 10 March


Thank you for your beautiful letter and for making me so happy. And I am so overcome that it is difficult to put into mere words how I feel. When you come back I’ll really be able to tell you.

Don’t be sad if it seems that you cannot give as much in return because that doesn’t concern me. Believe me when I say that it is not so much what comes back that is my happiness as it is the chance to give my love to you – freely. And your “good” nature makes me love you, so don’t accuse yourself that way again. I love you so much now, I can’t see any flaws.

Last night I saw a play by James Joyce, “The Exiles” (incidentally I went with an Irish girlfriend of mine). The main theme had to do with fidelity although there were all sorts of undercurrents, as usual. But he said so much (my program is covered with lines scribbled with lipstick) and one line really struck me. It was a scene with the central figure explaining to his little son what it is to give something & he said – “When you have something it can be taken away from you but when you are given something, it is yours forever.”

As far as form in letters goes I’m afraid I don’t pay much attention to it (as you can see from my letters). Content is more important to me and not only in letters but in literature too. Characterization & plot means more to me than language or style of writing – although I do appreciate the letter.

You are working hard over there – by this time you must have weeks of compensatory time coming to you. When you mentioned in your letter about taking a trip to St. Catherine’s Monastery I recalled the first & only time I visited one. A girl from school was being “clothed” i.e. she received part of the nun’s regular habit thus marking passage from postulant to novice stage. Anyway – this was in a Carmelite Monastery which meant that this was to be the last time family & friends could see her – thereafter she would live a strict cloistered existence. So we could see her but only through an iron grille. Well one of her friends had brought along her four year old son, who appeared quite bright. However, at one point the nun had to leave the room for something and this little boy turned to his mother & said “Mommy, when is the lion coming back?” You can understand him in a way – it looked just like a cage. But I think he’s a little comedian.

You mention doing a parbuckling job by using sheerlegs or a camel. Why don’t they use a parbuckle? But I get the impression that you are there for more than just the clearance operation. Do you have to have to stay there until the problem of administration of the canal is solved?

More questions – is your secretary from Hdqs.? By the way, I must compliment you on your typing – so neat & hardly any errors. What can’t you do?

Called Karol and asked about your apartment. He said David was having a fine time living there and, if it was Mr. Crandall you were wondering about, everything is all right with him. He asked about you, naturally, and I gave him all the news. And he said he was just as well pleased that you didn’t write to him since he then didn’t have to write back since, he said, he was not one for writing letters.

Saw Dr. Kraus and he wants to see the x-rays before starting the exercises. But I don’t think it is necessary (exercises). I’m wearing high heels and can even run for the bus in the morning. Anyway I do have an appointment with him for next week. My doctor knows him – I don’t think very well – but then I guess most doctors know of him.

I think I’m going to call it a day and go to bed; so tired. — Don’t run into any more minefields, it can be dangerous. —

All my love,

Mary Liz

And now, one last letter from Mary Liz…

7 April 1957

Vlado darling,

It was such a beautiful day today! About 50, not a cloud in the sky, and just a slight breeze blowing, The crocuses are starting to come up in the backyard and already you can hear crickets. Next spring, we must be together–

Was just listening to the news and it said that by Tuesday the Canal would be open to all traffic. I know you’re hearing this from all sides but really you and the other people working on the Canal are to be congratulated (hope that doesn’t sound glib because I mean it). The World Telegram had a article some weeks ago about the General [R. A. Wheeler] and it said at the beginning there was some people who thought the clearance might take close to a year. So you must have a tremendous sense of accomplishment. Yesterday I ran into a girl I worked with at Shell Oil and she said their stock is almost up to what it was but that it had gone down $12 a share in the beginning — and Shell doesn’t even have holdings over there (Royal Dutch does, of course).

Do you still manage to go swimming at lunch time? Karol told me to tell you not to anymore – because of the sharks – “we don’t want Vlado soup”, he said. Sometimes I see him in the hall – and the other day he had a wonderful opportunity to meet Helse. She and I were coming down the stairs from the fifth floor and he was walking toward the elevator. He walked past us first but then stopped to say hello but Helse had kept on walking since she was not coming with me anyway. But maybe he’s lost interest or something.

The Ski Club had its party last Friday nite. At the home of a Mr. Caprario – friend of Dianea’s and not a member. He let us have the complete run of his six-room apt. – very kind and warm-hearted person. You know, even tho I keep meeting such good people you’re the best — of all –. Vlado, I love you so very much and I wish you were coming back soon. At the party I especially missed you and Bill Vaughn only made it worse by saying every time he bumped past me “Tell Vlado to come back – or When is Vlado coming back”.

Mike Shaw was there and was nice enough to take me home. We left sort of early (12:30) because I had to get up at 8:00 the next morning and anyway he hasn’t been feeling well these days. He’s a good kid – a little affected sometimes but a good kid! The party went off pretty well — everyone cooperated wonderfully with the food and we had a film on Norway. The projectionist was telling me about the raw films they’ve received from Egypt and said I could come down and see some of them.

While we’re on the subject of Egypt again — our Travel Counselor is now featuring the Land of the Pharaohs as the ideal place to spend your vacation. I’d like to know who’s kidding who – anyway I don’t believe there’s been much of a response. Still I’m wondering why the thought occurred to her.

Dr. Kraus (saw him a 2nd time to show him the x-rays) sends his best regards and so does Christine and–I send you all my love.

Mary Liz

“A Desperate Personal Demand For Help”

Tara 2013 003
In 1961, even in the midst of the Congo Crisis, Vlado was doing all he could to help his family. Conor Cruise O’Brien’s observations of Vlado, in his book To Katanga and Back – that he did nothing but work and hardly slept – were fairly accurate for the time he knew him, because it seems that he was spending every spare moment attending to the unfinished legal cases of his father, Pavel Fabry, who died December 19, 1960.

From February 2, 1961, here is a letter to United Nations legal counselor Oscar Schachter from Vlado’s Maminka:

Dear Mr. Schachter,

I am sorry to take your valuable time and to disturb you with this letter. It is only the serious situation and the emergency in which I find myself after the death of my beloved husband that urge me to write this letter.

As you may know my husband was working for some years as an international lawyer with the German Government on war reparation. My husband devoted not only his effort, time, money, but finally his life to this cause. Unfortunately it was not permitted to him to finish his affairs as he died so very suddenly in the middle of his unfinished task. Vladko who was always a remarkable son is now sacrifying[sic] all his free time besides his work and his vacations to work until late at night on his father’s affairs. There are many difficulties, many hard problems to be solved, which will need patience, time, travelling and possibilities of good communications.

All these are problems which I cannot face alone, and the only person to solve them and to continue the unfinished work of my husband is my son. If we had to take a lawyer, we would have to do it in many countries of Europe and my husband has indebted himself already too much to afford so many lawyers. It is therefore only my son who is the only person to help me out in this.

My health has been weakened by the sudden loss of my husband. When I learned about the transfer of my son to Congo, it was another shock for my heart illness. I am unfortunately unable to cope alone with the situation I have mentioned as much as I don’t like to ask something, I am driven to it by this emergency. It is furthermore a situation which presents itself during our life, such as accident, illness, death and its consequences, etc. I would like to ask you to help me, Mr. Schachter. You have always been very nice to us all, a real good and understable[sic] friend and I would like to ask you not to let me down now, when I most need it.

I wonder whether it would be possible to arrange a transfer for my son to Europe – Geneva or elsewhere – so that he could easier communicate and work to finish my husband’s most urgent cases. I have never asked you anything before and I would never have, but as you can see it is a very serious situation and I am in an emergency.

It is very difficult for me to write this letter and I am doing so on my own, without my son’s knowledge. Would you please consider it as such, a desperate personal demand for help.

Many thanks for everything you will do for me to help me out. Kindest regards to Molly and to you.

As ever yours,
Olga Fabry Palka

Vlado’s mother also wrote Constantin Stavropoulos for help. Here is a personal telegram she sent to him, dated February 11, 1961:

Maminka Stavropoulos telegram
(click scan to enlarge)

“He Was A Man Who Made Friends Easily…”

Vlado and Olinka
Vlado and his sister Olinka

After taking a little break to study and travel, I decided to return to share more about Vlado. I’ll be posting more letters and translations here soon, and I hope you’ll enjoy them with me.
Here are two statements made at the service of Vladimir Fabry, at the Evangelical Lutheran Church, in Place du Bourg-de-Four, Geneva, on Thursday 28 September 1961.
The first is given by Mr. Constantin Stavropoulos, Under-Secretary General for Legal Affairs of the United Nations:

We are gathered here to pay our last respects to a man who devoted his life to the pursuit of freedom, peace and justice. He gave unsparingly of his great intellectual and physical powers to these ideals, undeterred by dangers, hardship or even death itself.

Vladimir Fabry’s early manhood was spent in fighting for the liberation of his country and for its re-construction after the Second World War. With peace again established, he turned to the United Nations.

In 1946, at the age of 25, Vladimir joined the Secretariat of the United Nations, having already gained a Doctorate in Law and Political Science from the Slovak University, and having completed graduate studies in Economics at the University of Bratislava. He was to have a devoted, useful and successful career. His adaptability, sound judgement and capacity for hard work soon established how invaluable he was on missions requiring such qualities. His assignments were many, and of ever increasing responsibility. In 1948 and 1949 he served as Legal Affairs Officer with the Security Council’s Committee of Good Offices in the Indonesian Question. Thereafter he saw service with the United Nations Plebiscite in Togoland under United Kingdom Administration and with the Suez Canal Clearance Operations. His service as Legal and Political Adviser to the United Nations Emergency Force in the Middle East was, early this year, cut short by his being sent to Leopoldville as Legal Adviser to the United Nations Operation in the Congo. Throughout all these missions he won universal commendation, respect and affection. The measure of regard in which the Secretary-General himself held Vladimir may be seen from the fact that he chose him as a companion on the important mission to Ndola that ended in the tragedy which has occasioned universal grief.

Vladimir Fabry was also throughout his life an enthusiastic sportsman, expert skier, horseman and mountaineer. Here, as in his professional career, he was always ready to extend a hand to those less talented and skilled as himself. It is my sad duty today to convey, on behalf of the United Nations, to his family, and in particular his mother and his sister, the most sincere and heartfelt sympathy. I want them to know that I, and all the others who worked with him and counted him as a friend, join in their grief. I want to extend to them the thanks of the United Nations, and of all who believe in it, for the devoted and talented service which Vladimir gave to the Organization. I want to repeat, too, what I have already conveyed to Mrs. Fabry – namely my hope that she may gain some consolation from the thought that her son’s life was a happy and useful one in the service of some of mankind’s highest ideals. His devotion and integrity as an international civil servant will long be remembered by all of us, and he will find his memorial in the history of those who fought for justice and humanity.

The second statement is given by Mr. Gurdon W. Wattles, a fellow Legal Adviser at the United Nations:

I wish to express to you all the profound sorrow felt at the death of Vladimir Fabry by his friends in New York, both inside and outside the United Nations. Vlado lived in New York from 1946 onward, whenever his duties did not take him elsewhere. He became a New Yorker not only by reason of the many bonds of friendship which he had there, both inside and outside the United Nations, and inside and outside the legal profession. He was a man who made friends easily, and who kept the friends he had made.

The first impression one had on meeting Vlado was one of human warmth, charm, and lively intelligence. He was interested in people in all their variety, and they in turn were drawn to him by his qualities of imaginative sympathy and sensitive considerateness. But as one got to know him better, one realized that here was a man who had not only great charm and great intelligence, but a remarkable strength of character.

It is evident that the wholeness and strength of his personality were largely the result of an unusally happy life with his family from his earliest childhood. From his conversation it could be realized how deep was the love that linked him to his mother, his father and his sister, and what security he derived from closeness of his family relationships. Thus any friend of Vlado’s must esteem the family he loved so well, and who by loving him so well, and so wisely, contributed so much to the formation of a distinguished man. His friends, themselves feeling the loss of a man of great value, are also in a position to realize in some measure, and to sympathize with the especially poignant sense of loss which his family must feel.
The principle qualities in Vlado which made his friends esteem and honor him were his sense of duty, his courage, and his integrity. He whole-heartedly devoted his career to the United Nations, and his sense of duty made him seek out the posts of the greatest difficulty and danger. He was not content to sit in his office in New York, dealing with matters in relative tranquility and comfort; he sought out the forward posts of the United Nations, the advanced echelons where difficult and crucial decisions have to be made sometimes in a matter of minutes, with little opportunity for the calm reflection which a lawyer often needs. He had the ability to serve in these most difficult positions, and, having the ability, he felt an obligation to undertake them.

Whether he was in the field or in New York, Vlado’s sense of duty led him to devote his energies unstintingly to the task in hand. He was never satisfied with an easy or stop-gap solution; he got to the bottom of things, and his thoroughness and breadth of view have left a legacy of solid work and an example to all who follow in his footsteps.

Vlado’s quiet and un-self-conscious courage was that of mountaineering, a sport which he sometimes practiced in his leisure. He was simply unperturbed by dangers and difficulties, and worked his way calmly and methodically from one safe point to the next. He had in this life greater changes of circumstances and greater challenges than come to almost any of us, but he met them with a graceful gallantry which in making them seem smaller made him seem a bigger man. He triumphed over adversity by turning it into opportunity, and found a broader field of usefulness when his original one was denied to him. His courage left an example which must be particularly precious to his family in their present sorrow.

Finally, I should like to mention his invincible integrity, which no stress of circumstance or pressure of the passions of others could subdue. He judged events for himself, according to his own rigorous standards, and acted on his conclusions, without fear or favor. He showed in a pre-eminent degree the integrity, with its concomitants of independence and impartiality, which is the first requirement for his chosen career.

Vlado’s life is now a part of history, and his spirit is with God. For us remains the duty – and the privilege – of carrying on our lives in a world which is the better for his having lived, and where his example can strengthen us who knew him to bear the burdens laid on us.