Tag Archives: Olga Fabry-Palka

“A Desperate Personal Demand For Help”

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

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

Dear Mr. Schachter,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As ever yours,
Olga Fabry Palka

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

Maminka Stavropoulos telegram
(click scan to enlarge)

Vlado’s Final Rest in Geneva

Just recently, I purchased the book WHO KILLED HAMMARSKJOLD?: THE UN, THE COLD WAR AND WHITE SUPREMACY IN AFRICA, written by Susan Williams, a senior research fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London, and reading it has left me disturbed. It was a shock to open the book to the back page and see, for the very first time, the drawing of the wreckage plan of the Albertina. There was Vlado’s body, indicated by a circled “B 7”, not far from Dag Hammarskjold (“B 8”) and Sgt. Harold Julien (“B 16” – the only survivor of the crash, who died six days later). This book is an incredible help for my research, and I want to thank Williams for writing it. I hope the U.N. does not ignore the evidence she has presented in her book – Dag Hammarskjold’s death was not an accident, and there should be a new inquiry. Like so many good men that dared to live out their philosophy on this planet, he had to pay for it with his life.
From the family photo archive, here is Vlado’s body being delivered to Geneva on the Pan Am DC8 that carried the body of Hammarskjold and the other 14 victims, the first stop of many around the world. The UN flag that drapes his coffin was later given to Madame Fabry-Palka and her daughter Olga, and is now in our home. (click images to enlarge)
Body of Vladimir Fabry Returned to Geneva1

In this photo, Madame Fabry-Palka is consoled by a UN staff member as Olga Fabry (Vlado’s only sibling) stands nearby. I wish I knew who the other people in the photograph were – especially the man with the reflective glasses and the baton at the foot of the stairs.
Body of Vladimir Fabry Returned to Geneva2

Vlado is buried in the Cimetière du Petit-Saconnex in Geneva, next to his father – they died within 9 months of each other. Madame Olga Fabry-Palka died in 1974, and is buried there with them, also. Whenever I am in Geneva, I pay my respects to this good family, and thank them for their example of courage.
Fabry Grave Petit-Saconnex