Tag Archives: Dutch

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,

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,

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!

Vlado in Batavia

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:
H.J. Timperely letter to Dr. T.V. Soong
H.J. Timperely letter to Dr. T.V. Soong 2

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:

Vlado letter to Ambassador Raghavan