Tag Archives: Czechoslovakia

Letters from Sumitro

From 1949 to 1951, Vlado was working for the United Nations in Indonesia, during the time of independence from the Dutch. Due to the complications of being a political exile from Czechoslovakia, Vlado had only a temporary passport – until October 1952, when he finally received his UN Laissez-Passer. Here is one alternative ID, a ‘Tourist Introduction Card’ from the Government of India:
India Tourist Card
India Tourist Card II
Sumitro Djojohadikusumo (not to be confused with General Sumitro)was the only Indonesian with a doctorate in economics after independence in 1949, and had been Deputy Head of the Indonesian delegation to the UN Security Council, so he and Vlado were colleagues. While going through the 1951 box of papers again, I found two letters – one for Vlado’s sister and one for his mother, with Indonesian letterhead, handwritten and signed by Sumitro. It shouldn’t surprise me that Sumitro came to be friends with Vlado and his family, and that their example of kindness moved him to open his heart to others, but I had no idea how fond he was of Vlado’s sister!
Sumitro letter Olinka

Stockholm, June 15, 1951

Merea Guerida,

Enfant-terrible? Non, – enfant cherie with eyes as lovely as ever to remember and a voice as sweet as ever can be: sweet, soft and gentle –

You asked me (“a penny?”), when I wrote those words in my brochure what I referred to: a general truth, people in Indonesia or personal reflections? I think it was a combination of all three. You see, I have long learned to see situations of Indonesia always as an integral part of a general trend, the strive for betterment, the urge of mankind for improvement and progress, although many times specimens of mankind itself seem to turn the clock back more or less deliberately. Nonetheless, all of us individually have our responsibility as to the fate of others —

Sumitro letter Olinka II

Then, general truth has particular significance only if one can attach to it, personal reflections. I told you that evening (la ultima noche) alongside the lake looking towards Geneva, against the background of mountains and twinkling stars, the lesson I learned from you and your parents. I do not exaggerate – your brother I think can tell you how much under control, reserved and reticent I usually am when meeting people – but how strikingly touched I was, when I met with such generous welcome and kindheartedness from all of you. And I compared my own attitude in the recent past, shying away from gatherings and from people (- though many of them were out for quick profits and complaints, maybe you remember I told you.) My time in Geneve taught me that only through kindness and understanding can you make people understand. Needless to say that my time in Geneva is inextricably connected with the shining, lovely personality of Olga Irene. (remember again, I do not exaggerate, wherever you are concerned.) Now, Carisima[sp?], till next time, for I hope you will continue writing me from time to time, for never shall I forget….

Ever Yours,
Sumitro

Here is the letter he wrote to Mrs. Fabry, with an apology regarding Vlado’s sister:
Sumitro letter Mrs Fabry

Dear Mrs Fabry,

Having arrived in Stockholm yesterday I hasten to send you and the other members of your family, my greetings and best wishes. By this time Dr Vladimir, your son must already be with you and I do hope that all of you will have a lovely time together. I think back of my sojourn in Geneva with more than a great deal of pleasure and gratitude towards you all.

Sumitro letter Mrs Fabry II

Also, I would like to take this opportunity to extend to you my profound apologies for the fact that Olga came home so late that Monday-evening. I have no justifiable excuse really and should have been wiser at my age — With kindest personal regards and all my best wishes for you, Dr Pavel Fabry, Vladimir and Olga,

Sincerely yours,
Sumitro

I wonder if Sumitro got a scolding at the door from Maminka? He didn’t sound very sorry about coming home late in his letter to Olga!

Help with Slovak Translation

“Sometimes the key arrives long before the lock. Sometimes a story falls in your lap.”

–Rebecca Solnit “The Faraway Nearby”

Olinka at Christmas

Though it is clear that I love the Fabry family very much, what might be difficult to believe is that I was not accepted by my mother-in-law, Olinka, and that I only met her once before she died. As much as I wanted to know her, there just wasn’t enough time, and I was very sad about that. So, you can understand how these papers have been a gift to me, to be able to get to know who Olinka was, to understand why she was difficult and the hell she had been through – I think of her with compassion and forgiveness.

Besides being a great cook(see photo above), one of the qualities I admire most about her was her skill at many languages – she was as gifted as her brother Vlado.

Here are a few pieces of ephemera from Olinka’s career:
Olinka ephemera

It would have been easy for her to translate this document from the Prison de Saint Antione in Geneva(which is now the Palais de Justice), dated 1949, but it is not so easy for me. Who was in the prison? And why? Was it her father, Pavel? I am posting this here in hopes that Slovak readers will want to contribute a translation, if only to ease my curiosity. Please help!
(click image to enlarge)
Prison de Saint Antione

Like Father, Like Son

Curve of Longing For Family
One thing I really admire about Pavel Fabry, is how affectionate he was in the letters he wrote to his family. Here is a little sketch of Pavel’s, with him in a hospital bed, a graph behind him that says in Slovak “Curve of Longing For Family”. The doctors are saying they have no cure for this “curve”, and Professor Fabry says he thinks a “Javaensis-Genevensis” tincture is what he needs. This was likely drawn during the late 40’s – early 50’s – when Vlado was working for Independence in Indonesia, Olinka and Maminka were refugees in Switzerland, and Pavel was in a hospital recovering from torture in a concentration camp, in the now former Czechoslovakia. Pavel’s sense of humor here shows he was living life on his terms, that he followed his convictions, and that he was willing to endure suffering for a just cause – a true romantic.

Fall in Love and Lose Weight
Then there are times when I am a little annoyed with him, like with this undated letter, sent to Vlado around the time he was working on the Suez Canal Clearance project in 1957, most likely before the project was finished. Pavel is telling him that he has to lose weight in two weeks, before their family vacation together (which would end with Vlado coming down with Hepatitis, and the weight loss that came with his illness). Then he says with all the tempting food of the Norwegians, Swedes, Canadians and Indians in the desert, that he would have to ride a horse at full gallop all day just to keep fit. He gives Vlado the advice to fall in love to lose weight, but not too happily, so he doesn’t fall apart at the end of it. Really, as if Vlado didn’t have enough to worry about, he has his father telling him he is too fat and needs to go on a diet! He is right though, that falling in love is great for weight loss, but he must have thought Vlado had some kind of superpowers to find a girl to fall in love with on the spot!

If Vlado was a romantic, it was because Pavel set quite an example for him. Romance was never far from Pavel’s mind, as can be seen in this little boudoir sketch (click to enlarge):
Pavel boudoir sketch
What is she whispering in his ear, I wonder?

Sometimes, thoughts of love and food were in competition, like in his surreal sketch of a fish woman:
Pavel La Peche

Keeping to the subject of romance, in another post, we read the love letters of Vlado and Mary Liz, with the last letter written in September 1957. There are no more love letters written by Vlado after that, but I found a portion of a Mr. America magazine, from January 1958, with a cover banner that reads “USE YOUR SEX URGE FOR BUILDING A HANDSOME BODY”:
Mr. America Jan. '58

Who knows if Vlado was trying to control his “urge”, or what, but romance may have been distracting him from larger goals in his life. I think Pavel was not much different than Maminka, in that he wanted Vlado to find a nice girl to marry – but I also think he took vicarious pleasure in hearing about Vlado’s carefree romantic life as a bachelor.

Vlado left some heart-sick women in his wake, as is shown in this last letter from 1959, written by a woman who wasn’t over Vlado at all, and whose impending marriage brought to mind funerals and drowning. This letter is more a distress call than anything else, which makes it a very funny read!

March 4, 1959

Dear Vlado,

Now it looks as if I may be in NY at last, but for the most unexpected of reasons – on a honeymoon! Probably, April 12-25.

I’ve been so interested to notice in how many ways marriage is like death! First, probably the only reason so barbarous a rite as a wedding has lasted so long in our streamlined society is probably the same reason the funeral has – i.e. sociologists say that all the transactions involved in planning a funeral take the bereaved’s mind out of the depths & the same goes for the bride, bereaved of her freedom!

Marrying is also like drowning in that you suddenly relive your past – at least your past loves & all my former boyfriends have come parading their images across my minds eye – & I must say, Vlado, that as I go through my card file, choosing addresses to send announcements to, each card brings up a little doubt, but the most difficult card to process was yours! Isn’t that funny, because I had dated other boys a lot more than you & I was just as inflamed over them.

It’s just that when I think of me settling down to air force protocol (he’s in for 10 more years!) I think of your verve; & when I think of those forever churning conversation on the base about TDY’s, PFR’s, ER reports etc., I dream of the day you, Otto & I went to the woods and captured those flagstones in such a unique way!

When I ask my 3 F’s (friends, family, fiance) what they would think of my sort of going to NY to get my trousseau & choose my silver pattern & all, they retort “and get that Czech at the U.N. out of your system? You’d never come back.” I shall always wonder if I couldn’t have made you come crawling & writhing out of your shell (if there’d been time) like a tortoise does when the Indians tie him above the fire so he will squirm into the soup pot! But my fiance says I’d better marry him without travelling to NY, because regrets are better than despair….

This stationary is a memento from our bi-family conclave to plan the bash (it will be April 11 at the ——City Community Christian Church – I dare you to come & stand up when the preacher asks “If there be anyone who denies that they should be married…”). His family is from Texarkana, long time friends of my folks, but we conclaved on neutral ground – in Fayetteville!

I do hope some sort of wife won’t open this letter, although I’m sure she would be understanding; otherwise she couldn’t have married you! But just in case I wish there was something I could say which would make me sure you’d know who sent the letter, so I wouldn’t have to sign my name, but I have a strong suspicion that you’ve taken many a girl hiking in the rain, driven her to help her pack on Bank Street – & even many admirers have sent you wooden pigs & sustenance pills when you were in Africa! So I’ll just have to say,

so long,

———–

Letter From Pavel To Vlado, 28 May 1946

Here is a very special letter, written by Pavel Fabry to his son Vlado, when he learned that Vlado was leaving for the U.S. to join the United Nations Secretariat, in 1946. My sincere gratitude to the friends who translated this for me.

Zurich 28/V/946

Our Dear Vladinko,

It was one of the most beautiful moments of my life when I read your [one word cannot be deciphered] telegram. I don’t know if it was so constructed that even I could understand it – but I think it was God’s blessing that made it possible for me to understand it word for word.

I know that one of Maminka’s eyes was tearing with pleasure and the other with the worries of a mother (but I know she will carry even this sacrifice for you thankfully) – when I conveyed the telegram to her over the phone.

And throughout my trip in the heights of the airplane I was thinking of you – for in a few weeks you too will be flying…and not into the unknown.

The entire world is opening up for you in the real sense of the word. I have been in my room for only a few minutes and already am grabbing a pen, so that at least this way you can feel how warmly I hug you and bless your future journey.

Perhaps it is The Almighty’s way of rewarding you for having been such a good son to us, that so far you have followed the course of life that made us proud and that he wants to reward us for all the parental love and worries which we have always and at every step shown toward you, just as to our other child, Olicka!

Vladinko dearest! Cherish this gift – it being merely one link in the chain of your life, which was wrought by a lot of hard work.

And I beg you – while you are still at home, donate as much time as possible to your dearest Mother (who donated the biggest part of her life to you). She first of all deserves it in full measure.

Hopefully God will help to make it possible for her to visit you in your new lovely position – even with Olicka!

I pray that The Almighty bless your journey and keep you in good health and strength – for the honor and glory of your nation – and for our parental happiness.

With kisses for you from your Tatusko

Pavel letter to Vlado 1946 1
Pavel letter to Vlado 1946 2
Pavel letter to Vlado 1946 3
Pavel letter to Vlado 1946 4
Pavel letter to Vlado 1946 5

And here are three more documents pertaining to Vlado’s appointment with the United Nations: A confirmation letter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Prague; an application for a non-immigrant visa from the American Embassy in Prague; and last, the letter of appointment from the United Nations, signed by Trygve Lie.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs UN confirmation 1946

American Foreign Service visa application 1946

Vlado UN letter of appointment

“Biographical Sketches of the Secretariat Personnel Who Died in Air Crash”

Here is a 19 September 1961 article from the New York Times, paying tribute to Heinrich A. Weischhoff, Vladimir Fabry, William J. Ranallo, and Alice Lalande – but no mention of the ten other passengers who perished. The full article is transcribed below.
NYT Obituaries 1961

United Nations, N.Y., Sept. 18–Following are biographical sketches of United Nations Secretariat personnel killed with Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold in last night’s plane crash:

Dr. Vladimir Fabry
Dr. Vladimir Fabry, 40-year-old legal adviser with the United Nations Operation in the Congo, was an underground resistance fighter in his native Czechoslovakia during the Nazi occupation.

He joined the United Nations Secretariat in 1946 after helping organize the first post-war Czechoslovak Government. He became a United States citizen two years ago, a little more than a decade after the Communist seizure of power in Czechoslovakia.

Dr. Fabry was born in Liptovsky Svaty Mikulas. He received a doctor’s degree in law and political science from the Slovak University in Bratislava in 1942. He was admitted to the bar the following year.

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 developing proposal.

He participated in the organization of the International Atomic Energy Agency. After serving with the staff that conducted the United Nations Togoland plebiscite in 1956 he was detailed to the Suez Canal clearance operation, winning a commendation for his service.

Dr. Heinrich A. Wieschhoff

Heinrich Albert Wieschhoff, director and deputy to the Under Secretary, Department of Political and Security Council Affairs, had won distinction as an anthropologist in his native Germany and in the United States before he joined the United Nations Secretariat in 1946. He was 55.

Born in Hagen, Mr. Wieschhoff was educated at the University of Vienna and Frankfurt. He received a doctor of philosophy degree in African anthropology in 1933 at Frankfurt, where he served as an instructor in the university’s African Institute from 1928 to 1934. He moved to the United States and taught anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania from 1936 until 1941.

During World War II Dr. Wieschhoff served as a consultant on African matters in the Office of Strategic Services. He joined the United Nations staff as a consultant to the Trusteeship Division. In 1951 he was secretary of the General Assembly’s Ad Hoc Committee on South-West Africa.

A frequent visitor to Africa since 1928, Dr. Wieschhoff accompanied Secretary General Hammarskjold on four trips to the Congo in the last fourteen months. Mr. Hammarskjold sent him on a special mission to Brussels last year to confer with Belgian officials. Dr. Wieschhoff wrote a number of scholarly books on African cultures and colonial policies and was a contributor to the Encyclopedia Britannica.

He was married to the former Virginia Graves of Caddo, Okla., in 1938. The couple had three children.

William J. Ranallo

William J. Ranallo, 39, went to work for the United Nations fifteen years ago as a chauffeur in the transportation pool and worked his way up to a unique position as driver, bodyguard, “man Friday” and friend of the Secretary General.

The relationship between Mr. Ranallo and Mr. Hammarskjold was such that at a Thanksgiving dinner at the Ranallo’s a few years ago the Secretary General went out to the kitchen, rolled up his sleeves and helped with the dishes.

Mr. Ranallo was born in Pittsburgh. He was graduated from Evander Childs High School here in 1941 and worked for a year as a technical employee at the Sperry Gyroscope factory in Brooklyn. He then served four years as a private in the United States Army.

Former Secretary General Trygve Lie picked Mr. Ranallo from the chauffeur pool to be his personal driver in 1951. The Secretariat staff, with whom the chauffeur was a popular figure, was delighted when Mr. Hammarskjold retained his services and increased his responsibilities.

Among the many places to which Mr. Ranallo accompanied Mr. Hammarskjold were Peiping, the cities of the Middle East, Laos and Africa. This journey to Africa with the Secretary General was his third in two years.

Last year Mr. Ranallo married the former Eleanor Gaal. The couple had three sons, one by Mr. Ranallo’s former marriage and two by his wife’s former marriage.

Alice Lalande

Miss Alice Lalande was a French-Canadian whose career as a bilingual secretary took her to remote trouble spots of the world as a member of the United Nations Secretariat staff.

Before her assignment to the Congo a year ago she had spent two years in Gaza as a secretary with the United Nations Emergency Force in the Middle East. In the Congo she was secretary to Dr. Sture C. Linner, officer in charge of United Nations operations in the Congo.

Miss Lalande was born Feb. 6, 1913, in Joliette, Quebec. She was graduated from a secretarial school in Montreal and was employed by the University of Montreal before she joined the United Nations in 1946.

After two years as a French-English stenographer in the languages division of the United Nations Department of Conferences and General Services she became bilingual secretary in the office of the department’s Assistant Secretary General.

In January, 1951, Miss Lalande went to Jerusalem for a three-year secretarial assignment with the United Nations Conciliation Commission. In 1957 she became an administrative assistant with the Preparatory Commission of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Tatusko

Here are just a few photos of Vlado’s “Tatusko”, Pavel Fabry, and some more of his charming illustrations. He didn’t seem to lose his enjoyment for living, or his sense of humor, even after all he had been through in Czechoslovakia. I have re-posted the C.V. of Pavel at the end of this, for those of you unfamiliar with this heroic human. I recommend you click on the drawings to enlarge – they are hilarious.

Pavel and Tiger Cub

Pavel Fabry Praha 1925

Pavel Fabry 2

Pavel Fabry

Pavel Fabry (2)

Pavel Fabry 2 (2)

Pavel Easter egg letter

Pavel Fabry drawing 2

Pavel Fabry drawing 3

Pavel Fabry drawing 5

Pavel Fabry drawing 4

Pavel Svetozar FABRY, LLD, was born on January 14th, 1891 of an old family of industrialists and businessmen. After graduating in business administration, he studied law, attaining the degree of Doctor of Law; passed the bar examinations; and successfully completed the examinations required to qualify for judgeship.

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.

After the consolidation of the administrative and political situation of Slovakia, Mr. Fabry left the Government service and returned to his private practice as barrister. He specialized in corporation law and his assistance was instrumental in the founding and expansion of a number of industrial enterprises. He became Chairman or one of the Directors of Trade Associations of several industrial sectors, particularly those concerned with the production of sugar, alcohol, malt and beer. He was elected Chairman of the Economic Committee of the Federation of Industries, and played the leading role in several other organizations. He also was accredited as Counsel to the International Arbitration Tribunal in Paris.

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.

Young Vlado in Photos

The Fabrys came from such a different world than mine, and maybe that is why I can so appreciate the big complicated story of their life, and why I want to devote myself to study and translating to make sense of it. When I get frustrated about not having enough time to research, I take comfort in reading about other biographers, like Antony Thomas, who took over a decade to write his brilliant book “Rhodes: The Race for Africa” – but I will talk more about that book later.

Here is a collection of young Vlado photos that leave a great impression of his grand life in Czechoslovakia. The photos are undated, but they are circa 20’s and 30’s, since Vlado was born in 1920. (Click on images to enlarge)

Young Vlado Bratislava

Fabry portrait

Vlado Olinka in carriage

Vlado w sister Olinka

Vlado and pony

Vlado Bratislava erector set

Vlado and Tatulo w bear

Vlado w dear friends

Vlado plays cards

Vlado pours champagne

Serious Vlado