Tag Archives: Olga Fabry-Palka

Fabry Family Home in Bratislava


Our grandfather Pavel “Tata/Tatusko” Fabry, sharing his love of photography with his son, Vladimir “Vlado” Fabry; circa 1920s.


Baby Vlado held by unidentified person, with “Maminka”, our grandmother Olga Fabry-Palka. Vlado was born on 23 November 1920, in Liptovský svätý mikuláš, Czechoslovakia.


Baby Vlado – those ears!


Vlado having a nap.


Vlado’s only sibling, sister Olga “Olinka”, arrives home; she was born 5 October 1927, in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia. Their mother, Olga Fabry-Palka, on far right, dressed in black; brother Vlado is on the left, wearing knee socks and black buckled shoes. This photo, and the rest that follow, show the home our family built in Bratislava – it was seized by the Communists in the coup d’état of 1948, handed over as a gift to Russia, and has ever since been occupied as their embassy. You can see recent photos of our home by searching for “Russian Embassy Bratislava”.


Olinka and Vlado with a nanny.


Maminka, Vlado and Olinka playing in the garden.


Olinka with Tatusko.


Admiring the long stemmed roses that Maminka planted.


This photo, and the two following, were taken around 1930.


Olinka with a friend, Maminka in background.


Mother and daughter, so happy!


These two photos are undated, but it looks like Vlado got what he wanted for his birthday! I’m so glad that these photos were saved, but some of them have curled from improper storage. The American Library Association(ALA) website has advice here, for those of you wondering how to safely flatten your old photos.


Bambi! This was Vlado and Olinka’s pet deer – Olinka told us the story about their deer, that it jumped the fence and crashed the neighbor’s wedding party, eating all the cake – and then the police were chasing it all over town!


Olinka and friend.


Pavel Fabry very likely colorized these photos with his set of Caran d’Ache pencils, some of which we are still using! Dated July 1927.


Vlado and his sister had pretty much the same haircut for a while, but this is Vlado on the stairs.


Marked on back “rodina Fabry v Bratislava” – Fabry family in Bratislava. I recognize Olga Fabry-Palka and her mother, but I am unable to identify the others at this time. The next few photos, showing guests visiting the house, are unmarked – help with identification is appreciated!


Here is one of Vlado, the hat and beard don’t disguise!


Pavel, Vlado, Olga, and Olinka, and a chocolate cake, in the dining room.


Vlado with unidentified guests, waiting for cake!


The family all together!

There are more photos, but first, here are important documents which tell the story of our family and home in Bratislava:

Drafts of Pavel Fabry’s Curriculum Vitae, 11 September 1952, printed here:

“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.”

And this, from the 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.”


The C.V. of Pavel Fabry from 17 December 1955, which I translated a while back; the letterhead on this first page is from the Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany, Geneva.


This is the C.V. of our grandmother Olga Fabry, which I have not yet translated. The following statement was made on her behalf, from 30 November 1956:
“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.”


The first page of Pavel’s C.V., 1955.

This is my translation of the last three pages of Pavel’s C.V., pages 11-13, with photos included to compare and help improve the translation:
“After the Persecution Today

“As the so-called Russian Liberation Army in Slovakia – consuming (raubend) more than liberating – invaded our city, I was immediately arrested and led into the basement of the NKVD, where I found quite a few others arrested. The public, especially the workers in awareness that I freed from deportation a few days before, chose to stand up and with the deputation of workers demanded the immediate release from liability. But the commander of the NKVD also had the deputation arrested and had me lead them into the cellar. The workers union had accumulated in front of the Villa and vigorously demanded the release from liability, whereupon the commander turned to the High command in Kosice, whereupon we were released – seven and a few, but the rest were to be deported to Siberia. The NKVD commander later said I was arrested on the basis of the request of the Hungarian Communists, because I, as High Commissioner in 1919, acted so harshly (so schroff) against the troops of Bela Kun. And he said that if I was released now, I would not be spared Siberia.
The public had reacted sharply. I immediately became an honorary citizen of the circle and an honorary member of the National Committee, elected unanimously, and I was given the two highest honors.
The spontaneous demonstrations of the public gave me the strength to forcefully intervene against many attacks, and also to help my fellow Germans and give confirmation that they behaved decently during the Hitler era, and to stifle all individual personal attacks of vengeance in the bud. As I have already mentioned, I was able to help the internees that they not go to the Soviet zone, as was planned, but were sent to West Germany and Austria. I was a daily visitor to collection centers and in prisons, to help where help was justified.”


“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 [In another document it says only 6 months, which I will include here, after this testimony.-T] 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. [I have an audio recording of Olga Fabry, Pavel’s daughter, where she says that her father escaped from the prison hospital dressed as a nun, and made it across the Swiss border by train, hiding inside a beer barrel.-T]
The Swiss authorities immediately received me as a political refugee and assured me of asylum, and issued all the necessary travel documents.”


“To this day I am constantly witness to the most amiable concessions by the Swiss authorities.
In my description of illness, my activity in Switzerland is already cited.
Accustomed to the work of life, and since my health no longer permits regular employment, I have adopted the assistance of refugees. Since Geneva was the center of the most important refugee organizations, I was flooded with requests by the refugees of Western Europe.
I took part on the board of the Refugee Committee in Zurich and Austria, after most refugees came from Slovakia to Austria, and I had to check very carefully if there were any refugees that had been disguised. I was then elected as President of the Refugee Committee, but on the advice of the doctors treating me I had to adjust this activity, because through this work my health did not improve. Nevertheless, I succeeded in helping assist 1200 refugees in the decisive path of new existence.
Otherwise, I remain active in the Church organizations. All this human activity I naturally consider to be honorary work, and for this and for travel I never asked for a centime.
Since I am more than 62 years old, all my attempts to find international employment failed, because regulations prohibit taking on an employee at my age. It was the same case with domestic institutions.
My profession as a lawyer I can exercise nowhere, since at my age nostrification of law diplomas was not permitted. To start a business or involvement I lacked the necessary capital – since I have lost everything after my arrests by the Communists, what had remained from the persecution.
And so I expect at least the compensation for my damages in accordance with the provisions applicable to political refugees.”


Credentials for Pavel Fabry to attend the First Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Amsterdam, as a representative of the Evangelical church in Slovakia, signed by the bishop of the general church, dated 22 March 1948.


This is a photocopy of a photostatic copy, a statement written by the General Secretary and the Assistant General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, Geneva, dated 25 March 1948:
“To whom it may concern: This is to certify that Dr. Pavel FABRY, Czechoslovakian, born 14.1.1891[14 January] at Turčiansky Sv Martin, has been appointed as participant in the First General Assembly of the World Council of Churches, to be held in Amsterdam, Holland, from August 22nd to September 4th 1948.
We shall appreciate any courtesy on the part of Dutch and other consular authorities shown to participants in order to facilitate their coming to Amsterdam.”

From what I am able to translate, these next two documents seem to be asking Pavel to ‘voluntarily’ give up a lot of money or else, dated 1 March and 1 April 1948:

Attacks against Pavel Fabry were made in the communist newspaper PRAVDA, all clippings are from 1948, one is dated by hand 26th of August:




From 4 October 1948, this letter was written to Olinka, who was a student in 1947 at St. George’s School, Clarens, Switzerland:


“[…]We had Czech visitors a few days ago, a Mr. and Mrs. Debnar [sp?] from Bratislava, and we were deeply distressed to hear from him that Mr. Fabry had been taken off to a camp. Very, very much sympathy to you all[…]”

This is a letter from Vlado to Constantin Stavropoulos, written while he was on assignment for the United Nations in Indonesia, dated 10 October 1948. Vlado was asking for help in getting another assignment, so he could be closer to his family who needed him. I am appreciating more and more the emotional strain Vlado was under while writing this. Trygve Lie was the Secretary-General of the United Nations at this time.


“It’s more than a month now, that I received your cable that there is a possibility of an assigment for me in the Palestine commision, and that you will write me more about it – but I didn’t hear about the assignment anything since. The news which here and there trickle through from Paris or Geneva are not too good. They seem to indicate that I am not welcome there, not only as official, but not even as a visitor and that I should wander around or hide myself as a criminal. It looks as if the administration of my department /and from what they say, the administration of the whole organization as well/ would consider me as an outcast, who in addition to his other sins adds a really unforgivable one – that he behaves and expects treatment as if he would not be an outcast /at least that is what I understood from a letter written to my mother, that I should have voluntarily resigned a long time ago/. Excuse my bitterness – but I am simply not able to understand the attitude which is still taken against me – neither from the legal point of view of my rights and obligations under my existing contract, neither from a moral and ethical point of view which an organization representing such high aims to the outside must surely have towards itself. Sometimes I am [wondering], if the best would not be to let it come to a showdown and have it over once and for ever – it really is getting and obsession under which I have to live and to work all the time, specially since the UN employment means not only mine, but also my mothers and sisters /and maybe my fathers/ security and status. But exactly this consideration of my family’s dependence on it make me cautious and give me patience to try to get along without too much push. But, on the other hand, my cautiousness and fear to risk too much put me in the position of a beggar for favour, which is ipso facto a very bad one -/people who don’t care, or at least don’t show that they care, achieve things so much easier/- and which in addition I do not know how to act properly.[…]”

Further evidence comes from Washington state, U.S.A., from the Spokane Daily Chronicle 19 September 1961, “Crash Victim Known in City”:

“Vladimir Fabry, killed in the plane crash that claimed the life of Dag Hammarskjold yesterday in Northern Rhodesia, visited Spokane three years ago.

Fabry, U.S. legal adviser to the United Nations in the Congo is a close friend of Teckla M Carlson, N1727 Atlantic, and he and his sister, Olga, also a UN employee, were her house guests in 1958.

A travel agent, Mrs. Carlson first met Fabry in 1949 at Geneva after he had succeeded in having his father released from a concentration camp. The Spokane woman said they have exchanged letters since that time.”

Havla 1989.jpg
By Marc Dragul - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link


Vaclav Havel, 17 November 1989, honoring Jan Opletal and others who died in the Prague protests of 1939. This was the start of the Velvet Revolution, which ended on 29 December 1989 with Vaclav Havel elected as President of Czechoslovakia, the end of 41 years of Communist rule.

Before continuing with the next documents and photos from 1990 to 2002, here is a copy of a letter dated 14 April 1948, from Dr. Ivan Kerno, who was Assistant to the Secretary-General Trygve Lie at the United Nations, and head of the legal department, giving his commendation of Vlado’s work. Dr. Kerno was instrumental in Vlado getting his position at the U.N., and was a good friend to the family.

Dr. Kerno’s son, Ivan, who was also a lawyer, would later help Vlado’s sister Olga in 1990, as they were both seeking restitution, and needed someone to investigate the status of their houses in Prague and Bratislava. This fax from Prague is addressed to Mr. Krno, dated 20 November 1990, from lawyer Dr. Jaroslav Sodomka. Dr. Sodomka writes that the Fabry house was “taken in 1951-52[the dates are handwritten over an area that looks whited-out] and later donated to the USSR (1955)[the date and parentheses are also handwritten over a whited-out area].”



“[…]As for Mrs. Burgett I shall also get the remaining extracts; here the problem is clear, be it under the small restitution law or under the rehabilitation law, the house will not be restituted as it became property of the USSR and the Czechoslovak government – probably the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – will have to provide the compensation.”

In response to this fax, Ivan Kerno writes to Sodomka, 7 December 1990:
“[…]please do not take any action with the authorities in connection with her house. She wants a restitution of her house, namely, to receive possession of the house, and is not interested in receiving a monetary compensation.
I have read in the New York Times this morning that the Czechoslovakian government has announced that it will compensate persons who have been politically persecuted or jailed under the former regime. This is a clear indication that the present government considers the actions of the former Communist government to have been illegal. It is also a definite precedent for the restitution of family homes which were illegally taken by the previous government and handed over to a foreign government.[…]”

This map shows our property in Bratislava, outlined in red:

From 3 January 1991, Sodomka once again writes to confirm that the house was confiscated in 1951, and donated to USSR in 1955:

“[…]As for your client Fabry, I think that it would be appropriate to address the demand for the restitution directly to the Chairman of the Slovak Government as it was the Slovak Government which has donated the house in 1955 to the USSR Government. This matter also is not touched by the small Restitution Law, the confiscation took place already in 1951 but I think that it would be appropriate to start to speak already now with the Slovak Government.[…]”

Olga Fabry returned to Czechoslovakia with her husband in June 1992, for the first time since her exile, to see the house. This next letter is dated 27 April 1992, and is addressed to Consul General Mr. Vladimir Michajlovic Polakov, Russian Consulate General, Bratislava:

“Dear Sir,
I would like to request an appointment with you on June 17th or 18th 1992 whichever would be convenient.
I plan to be in Bratislava at that time and would like to discuss with you matters pertaining to the villa that my parents built, where I was born and grew up and which now houses your Consulate.
I would greatly appreciate it if you would be kind enough to let me know in writing when I can see you. Thank you.
Sincerely,
Olga Burgett nee Fabry”

This is an undated letter from the Russian embassy in Bratislava(our house), the postal cancellation is hard to decipher but appears to be from June 5 1992, and there is a written note to “HOLD Away or on Vacation”. This may have arrived while Olga and her husband were already in Czechoslovakia – finding this waiting back home in New York, I can only imagine how she must have felt! This contradicts what Lawyer Sodomka told her, but it confirms Pavel’s testimony: the house was taken in 1948.

“Dear Mrs. Burgett,
With reference to your letter dated 27.04.1992 we inform you that at your request you have the opportunity to survey the villa while your stay in Bratislava. But we attract your attention to the fact that all the matters, pertaining to the right of property for the villa you should discuss with C.S.F.R. Foreign Office. Since 1948 the villa is the property of the Russian Federation and houses now Gen. cosulate[sic] of Russia.
Yours faithfully
Secretary of the Gen. consulate of Russia in Bratislava
S. Rakitin”

These photos were taken in June 1992, during Olga’s visit. The roses Maminka planted were still growing strong.





These two are undated, unmarked.

Lastly, the most recent photos I have, dated 25 July 2002, and the roses were still blooming.




When you search for images of the “Russian Embassy Bratislava”, you see the roses have all been removed now, and there is a new tiered fountain, but if you can ignore the flag of Russia and the gilded emblem of the federation hanging off the balustrade, it still looks like our house!

And now, because love is the reason I tell this story for my family, I leave you with my favorite photos of Pavel and Olga Fabry, who did so much good out of love!













56 Years Ago Today

In memory of the 16 who died in Ndola, here is some of the collection from my mother-in-law, Olga Fabry, who carefully saved all the documents and mementos I share here. Vlado was only 40 years old when he died, a man who was very much loved by his family and friends, and my thoughts are with all the relatives around the world who remember their family on this day. The struggle against racism and white supremacy continues for us, let us not forget their example of courage to resist, and to fight for justice.

Program from the first wreath laying ceremony at UN Headquarters, one year after the crash, 17 September 1962:



Invitation from Acting Secretary-General, U Thant, to Madame Fabry:

Letter and commemorative UN stamps from U Thant to Olga Fabry:


Signatures from UN staff were collected from all over the world to fill this two-volume set of books in memory of Vladimir Fabry:

Signatures from UN Headquarters in New York include Ralph Bunche, and his wife Ruth:


Signatures from Geneva Headquarters and a message from John A. Olver:

Telegrams from friends in every country:

Among them, a message of sympathy from the King of Sweden relayed through Ralph Bunche:

And a cable from Jozef Lettrich:

UN cables express the loss of a dear friend and highly valued colleague:


Newspaper clippings from 1961 and 1962, the first one with a photo of Olga Fabry and her mother at the funeral in Geneva, Switzerland:







The investigation will coming up for review in the General Assembly, and for those who think we should give up and be quiet about it already after all these years, Dag Hammarskjold said it best: “Never, “for the sake of peace and quiet,” deny your own experience or convictions.”

Les Vacances de Monsieur Fabry

Couldn’t wait to share the treasure I found this summer, film footage of Vlado with his family in Switzerland. It may not be the best home movie ever made, but it gives me a lot of happiness to see these charming people all come to life, and to see Vlado skiing.

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!

Response to Maminka’s Request

Journee des Nations Unies

In a previous post, “A Desperate Personal Demand For Help”, I posted correspondence written by Vlado’s mother to UN legal counselors Oscar Schachter and Constantin Stavropoulos, where she asks them to reconsider Vlado’s assignment to the Congo. Her need for Vlado was understandable – the stress of losing her husband suddenly, inheriting the legal cases he was unable to finish, and her own poor health, seemed too much to bear alone. What is also understandable, was Vlado’s need for adventure, and to be useful to the United Nations, and to the world. Even the death of his beloved father could not slow down his work, he was devoted to the peaceful goals of the Organization.

Here is the response to Madame Fabry’s letter from Constantin “Costi” Stavropoulos:

Stavropoulos letter to Madam Fabry 13 Feb 1961

THE LEGAL COUNSEL
UNITED NATIONS, NEW YORK

13 February 1961

Dear Madame,

I have received your letter of 2 February, and Mr. Schachter has communicated to me the letter you sent to him. We discussed all the questions that have been raised, and here are the results.

At the moment, it is absolutely essential that Vlado go to the Congo, even if it is only for three or four months. We had to recall the replacement person due to illness, and at the moment there is only Vlado who, among others, has the advantage of having the necessary experience of UNEF and also speaks French. Conversely, I can assure you that we will do everything possible so that he does not stay more than a few months.

However, I wish to point out that when Vlado leaves the Congo, he will be obliged, after a vacation, back in New York because we have no legal position in Geneva, and it would be impossible to create one, at least for the time being. Besides, even if there was a position, we consider that there would be incompatibility between his duties with the United Nations and the work that your husband could not finish. Vlado, for his part, has already raised this issue. I hope that, in collaboration with him, we can find a solution for him to deal with his father’s business.

Oscar and I have the friendliest of feelings for Vlado and also a lot of appreciation for his work. We want very much to do whatever we can to help in this situation, but the difficulties appear insurmountable. We deeply regret not being able to respond to your request at this time.

Please accept, dear Madame, the expression of our respectful regards.

Constantin Stavropoulos

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

Vlado and Mary Liz, 1957: Part 3

What a year 1957 was for Vlado – from late January until the end of May, he worked night and day on the Suez Canal Clearance Operation, and then he was stricken with Hepatitis; which he had contracted in Egypt, and it took months to recover from that. In all this, there was the consolation of letters from Mary Liz, who remained optimistic in spite of the challenges that kept them apart. Her letters end in September, sometime before Vlado returned to New York, at the end of his convalescence in Switzerland.

It was also a challenging year health-wise for Vlado’s sister, who had suffered a brain concussion – and for their father, who had serious heart troubles. Fortunately, for the ailing Fabry members there was Maminka, who nursed and cared for them all. It was a rare thing for all four of them to be together for an extended period of time, and I imagine she must been happy to give them all her attention.

7 July 1957

Congratulations!!!

and thank you for letting me know how you are. It’s such a relief to picture you sitting up and starting to enjoy life again. Yet every time I remember what you’ve been through I literally shudder. But you sure are made of stern stuff Vlado, that steak & 4 eggs for breakfast routine of yours must have helped too.

I hope you’re convalescing well. It seems as though with this illness the convalescent period can be trying since you feel like you’re “raring to go” whereas you’re actually not completely healed. And especially with Vlado who is so enthusiastic.

Karol read me parts of your letter to him – his came before mine & he knew how anxious I was – and you’re already thinking of the U.N. I know you have to but “take it slow”.

Now about my Trans-Atlantic phone call. I realized that you would be upset when you heard about it. But as I mentioned in my subsequent letter to your sister, I was sure they would not tell you until there wasn’t any chance of it aggravating your condition. As it happened, I had just heard from Karol that you were sick with some liver ailment but he didn’t know how serious it was. And when I tried to find out from Miss Cerna whether you were in the hospital and what your condition was, (it’s either good, fair or critical over here) all she said was that you were sick for a couple of weeks, that you would be for a while yet, and didn’t say whether you were in the hospital. So I hope you understand why I couldn’t tolerate it & had to call. It is fortunate that your sister speaks English – otherwise I’d have been completely frustrated (incidentally I’ve been promoted to French IV, but I was in no mood to try speaking that). It must have been difficult for her since she didn’t know who in the world I was. Actually, I knew I probably wouldn’t speak with you, if only due to the lateness of the hour. I just wanted to know how sick you were.

It’s wonderful though, to be able to speak with someone on the the other side of an ocean. Sometimes I think we can do anything if we try hard enough. I mean the scientists can.

But since you seem to be getting along alright I can wait until September to speak with you. I’m dying to see you again (have I said that before?) but realize that, after the attack you had, you need two months at least to rest up. Anyway, you’re in good hands so there’s no need to worry.

Love,

Mary Liz

P.S. My father keeps asking me how you’re coming along.

P.P.S. My letters end abruptly but that’s me. I’m trying to improve on it.

Geneve, 9.VII.1957.

Dear General,

Please forgive me for the delay in answering your letters, but it was only this morning that I got the permission to get up a bit,- and besides, even if I had been allowed to write earlier, I would have hardly been able to. For three weeks my fever never dropped under 104 – it was apparently all my fault, my body fighting against the illness instead of letting itself go – and even now I am still quite shaky. But I was really glad that I managed to finish the report before the virus started its dirty work – the first symptoms showed up on my last day in Holland – and I must have had a presentiment of the things to come that made me so eager to do the job before embarking on a vacation. Luckily the incubation period for the infection is 6-12 weeks, and that gave me ample time to clear the decks.

I am very grateful for your letters which cheered me up a lot, and I want to thank you sincerely for your kind words as well as for the thoughtfulness and effort of writing to me so often. I admit frankly that up to now I am still in a stage where I cannot bring myself to think with too much interest of any future work projects, but I am sure that I shall return to them with eagerness as soon as I recover. I will have a hard time to live up to the flattering words that you used about me in your letter to Mr. Stavropoulos.

Central Europe has the most marvelous summer-weather it had since decades – up to now I was in no position to appreciate it one way or another, but as I am recuperating interest in my surroundings I begin to realize what perfect mountain-climbing conditions I would have had if I had not let myself so stupidly be involved into an illness. For this season I will of course have to forget about mountain climbing and restrict myself – at best – to tame little walks along comfortable paths in some health resort.

My sister has unfortunately still not quite recovered from her accident, she still suffers occasional loss of balance and of memory, and so her wedding plans were again postponed until later. I am a bit sorry for mother with her two patients – she wouldn’t hear about my going to a hospital and insisted on nursing me all along – but she seems to take it well and claims that at least she was able to have a real long visit of mine this way. She remembers you and talks of you very often, you seem to have made quite a lightning contest and left a deep impression during the few minutes she was able to enjoy your company. My father also asks to convey his regards.

Thank you again for everything, and “au revoir”. Please give my best to Mr. Connors.

Respectfully yours

Vlado

Geneve, 10. VII. 1957.

Dear Oscar,

The doctor allowed me since yesterday to get up for a couple of hours each afternoon, and I am taking the opportunity to write to you and to thank you for your interest and for the very kind words you wrote to me and to Olga. I am feeling much better now, my temperatures are near normal (although for three weeks they never dropped under 104) and I am starting to feel interested in my surroundings again. But I still feel very shaky and tired, and spend most of the time asleep – after all, the kind and quantities of food that I am allowed to take in could hardly provide enough energy for a sparrow to keep alive. I don’t think I have even been so limp and listless before – I have literally to force myself to get out of bed, although normally I can’t stand it to be bedridden. But I hope that this sorry state of affairs will improve now that I am over the hump.

The weather during the past three weeks was about the best that Europe had in many a decade – hot but dry, with unblemished blue skies and radiant sunshine. Not that it made any difference to me at the time, but now that I am beginning to take more interest in life I feel a little pang of regret thinking of the perfect climbing conditions that I could have enjoyed if I did not let myself get stupidly involved into my illness. Well, it doesn’t look that I would be fit during the rest of this year to do any more than a few tame walks along the promenade of some health resort, so it seem to matter how the rest of the summer will shape up. I am glad though that I managed to finish my work on the UNSCO report before I got knocked out of circulation – I must have had some sort of a presentiment about it which made me rush the job. At this point I should also apologize for any trouble that I may have caused to you and Costi by my letter to Gen. Wheeler complaining about Sullivan’s position. I was already feeling unwell at the time and rather sorry for myself, and Sullivan had been a very sore chapter in the life of UNSCO, so I just blew up. Thanks for the reassuring words.

My doctor still refuses to commit himself in any way as to the time it will take until I am fit to travel back to New York and to resume my duties. I shall let you know about it as soon as I am told myself.

I hope you manage to enjoy some nice holiday with Molly and your daughters this year, and that you will have a pleasant summer. Please give my best regards to them.

With my best wishes,

sincerely yours,

Vlado

Geneve, 20. VII. 1957.

My Dear One,

thanks for your two letters (30.VI and 7.VII) and for all your love and thoughtfulness that showed and shone through them – it made me feel like packing up and flying to you right away. But on second thought I rejected the idea again – I don’t think I could bear it to have you around in the grumpy, messy and lazy state of mind in which I am now, it wouldn’t be fair in any case. I do look a bit less Oriental now (except for my eyes) but otherways[sic] I still seem to be in a sort of physical and mental doldrums. No wonder, with the amount and kind of food that I am allowed to eat even a kolibri-bird would have troubles keeping alive[Vlado means the family Colibri of Hummingbirds.-TB] (seems providential that I had gotten so fat in Egypt and could burn away the stored-up mass like a camel its hump), but even the few crumbs that I swallow seem to have troubles getting through my stomach and knock me out for a couple of hours after each meal. I would have never believed it if anybody had told me that there will be a time when I shall voluntarily (sic!) betake myself to bed and actually enjoy staying there. I don’t remember ever having been so limp and listless before, just as shaky and ready to drop as an aspen leaf in October. Somehow it doesn’t even bother me just to float along – at first I fought the doctor trying to get him to let me get up and out, but by the time he allowed me to do so I lost interest and the energy to make use of my new freedom, and now I have literally to force myself out of bed. It took me four days before I gathered enough determination to write this letter. Not much to be congratulated upon!

Apart from giving you my latest medical bulletin, there is hardly anything else that I could write. My mental activities are limited to reading news magazines and extra-lightweight literature a la Forester, Chesterton, and Hemingway, with occasional Huxley or Anouilh thrown in, not to speak of Francoise Sagan and a ghastly Nevil Shute. I certainly don’t let the international situation worry me, far from it; although they[sic] are a few things to worry me nearer-by – my sister is still in a very bad shape from her accident and my father had three attacks during last month – and all this has of course further ramifications that will have to be thought out and decided upon soon, for my sis regarding her planned marriage and for father whether to let him continue working, but all this is still too complicated for me to bother right now. My apartment situation in NY is in a mess too, I may have to call on your help for storing awhile the things I have there if I decide to give it up – it would be a three-cornered project with Karol supplying the key and packing, Harry my car for driving and you the expert and dependable management and, if you can, a bit of an attic or closet space. I shall send you an emergency signal with instructions if it comes so far – although, on second thought, I remember now that you are off to Cape Cod, so it shall have to be somebody else. Anyhow, I don’t think it will really be necessary. By the way, how long are you going to be on the Cape – better let me know your address so I can drop you a line there in case I come back before you.

You can see my muddled and wobbly mental state from the way this letter reads – but between the lines I hope you can see the real message which is lots of love.

Vlado

P.S. Father sends his best, and decided to brighten up the envelope a bit to make up for the poor letter. Thanks to your Dad for his interest.

Here is just one example of Pavel’s cheery envelopes:
Pavel Fabry envelope drawing

29 July 1957

Well I finally got off to the Cape – arrived here at Chatham 8:00 Saturday morning after an all-night train trip. This has convinced me I should learn to drive – but definitely. It really wasn’t so bad – had a fascinating conversation on electroencephalography with a doctor we met. While I was at the hospital I saw it practiced on a Puerto Rican woman – but she was so scared of everything that the result wasn’t too enlightening -. Still it does prove a lot.

Chatham is a quiet little town and we’ve seen all there is to see so far. Yesterday we bicycled around and today we had some fun with a motor boat. However the water was sort of rough and we had quite a time leaving a certain island that we had stopped at. Especially since there were lots of rocks that you could be dashed against.

On Wednesday we plan to go to Provincetown.

It was was so good to get your letter. It came just before I left and quite unexpectedly since I know you’re feeling so lousy. Still I had wished I’d hear from you.

What I meant by “Congratulations” was that I was so glad your fever had gone down and that the worst was over. Even tho maybe it’s not so apt an expression, I couldn’t think of anything better at the moment. But it’s quite natural that you should feel so weak and it’s just as well that you float along sometimes.

I’m so sorry to hear about your sister & your father – Karol had told me about Olga’s accident when he told me about you; but at that time he thought she was getting along all right. And she sounds so sweet in her letters. -It never rains but it pours I guess.

Your father’s envelope was just the cutest thing. Hope he’s feeling better and tell him thanks for his greeting.

However, no letter of yours needs brightening. And if you knew what it means to me just to read that you do care, you wouldn’t think so either.

As far as your apartment – even tho I won’t be back till sometime August 17th, you could get in touch with H.S. (my father, that is) since the space is there for any of your things. He’d be only too happy to do something.

Really don’t know where I’ll be for a couple of weeks – probably be moving around. But from 10 August to 17th I’ll be in the Berkshires – address is: Chanterwood, Lee, Massachusetts. It’s supposed to be mid-way between Tanglewood and Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. Only don’t tell me your coming back till you’re actually getting on the plane (a post card would do). And please don’t feel you have to write otherwise, because I understand.

All my love,

Mary Liz

Commerorative Medal letter

7 August 1957

TO: Mr. V. Fabry

FROM: A.G. Katzin, Deputy Under-Secretary

SUBJECT: Commemorative Medallion
United Nations Suez Canal Clearance Operation

A medallion commemorative of the Suez Canal Clearance Operation has been struck by the Smit-Svitzer consortium for their own distribution among personnel, salvage officers and crews associated with them in the operation.

They have requested that one of the medallions should be presented to you on their behalf and it is suggested that you might like to acknowledge this gesture direct to Mr. Murk Lels, Chairman and Managing Director, L. Smit & Co.’s International Sleepdienst, Westplein 5, Rotterdam, Netherlands.

This medallion is one of thirty-two which the salvage consortium have distributed as a token to certain members of General Wheeler’s staff who participated in the field operation and to representative members of echelons of the Secretariat and others who assisted generally in the operation.

Suez Canal Commemorative Medal obverse

Suez Canal Commemorative Medal reverse

Geneve, 23.VIII.1957.

My Dear One,

I hoped to be with you by now – but it still isn’t quite that far yet. I am going to be released from sick-leave status by the end of the month, though, unless some new trouble shows by then. Seems I really managed to make a mess of myself. Then they want me to take a convalescing cure for two or three weeks – which I wouldn’t mind too much as I shall be allowed to go on walks and to spend the time in the mountains (or rather, unfortunately, under them). I’m still weak, listless and irritable, but I’m sure that will pass when I’m able to live more normally. I can eat a bit more now – an absolute starvation diet by my usual standards but quite an improvement – although I still get cramps whenever I exceed the slightest bit the norm in amount or kind, and nothing will do but the most carefully supervised home cooking. And that is supposed to last for another three months – how cheerful!

My future dietary problems caused me also to change my mind about my apartment. I don’t know whether you heard, but my landlord had some troubles with the house owners (who want to make a cooperative and force old tenants out) about subletting the place, and as a result my sub-sub-tenant, David Sisson, had to move out in May a few weeks earlier than his agreed date (which was to coincide with my planned return). The situation was apparently smoothed out, but the threat that the sub-tenant may have to leave the apartment at short notice persisted, and so I wrote to my landlord that I did not consider further bound by my lease as of May. There was some correspondence in which he asked me to remove my belongings and I claimed difficulties. But after learning that I shall have to rely on home cooking because my diet will still be too restricted to allow me relying on restaurants I decided that I may be best off keeping the place (where I can go home for lunch) even if it will be only for a short time. Two days ago I wrote to Mr. Crandall that if he did not yet find another tenant, I am willing to keep the apartment. At the same time I wrote to him that if he has rented the apartment and still insists on moving my stuff out, he should get in touch with you. I hope it won’t be necessary but if it comes to the worst, would you be kind enough to see to it that my things are properly packed and put away – maybe Harry LeBien could help you taking the stuff away, and of course if you can keep it for a while in some attic it would save the need to crate the loose items that do not fit into the two empty suitcases I have there. There are two packed suitcases, a rucksack and a lot of loose stuff in the two closets (bedroom and hall) that I used; if I remember well, I left there also some small bags, some packed and some empty. You will, I hope, recognize my radio, embroideries and dishes and glassware – if not, a commission consisting of you, Karol, David Sisson and Mr. Crandall should be able to decide on the ownership of each item found in the bedroom, living room and kitchen. My books were on the lower shelf on the right of the bed. The biggest problem will be the kitchenware which I left out so that David can use it, but where some items belong also to Mr. C.. I hope you don’t mind this nuisance but it is a great comfort to me to know that somebody will take good care of my interests if it comes to it, and I know I can rely on you!!!

Au revoir soon – and all my love –

Vlado

8 September 1957

I sure was disappointed when I read that it would be later still. But it’s much wiser and, of course, only fair since you didn’t have any vacation. You must be having a wonderful time; wish I was there.

Thanks for the pictures. You certainly have made good progress. Being able to sit up for your meals really means a lot, doesn’t it. What really hit me in the other picture (besides your horizontal position) though was the look on your face and the way your hand lay so limply. Don’t ever do that again! – get sick, I mean.

And the beard is interesting. I guess it was hard to shave in bed. But wasn’t it uncomfortable during those hot days?

I look kinda different too – got my hair cut. But since I haven’t a decent picture you’ll have to use your imagination. Hope you like it too, because I do – lots.

So far I’ve heard nothing from Mr. Crandall. I’m glad you recognize my dependability. My mother told me it would come in handy. I just like doing things for people like you, though. So don’t worry about it being a possible nuisance.

Hope to see you real soon, darling. I love you –

Mary Liz