Tag Archives: Olga Fabry

How Lucy T. Briggs Met Vlado

In previous posts (here and here), I learned that Lucy T. Briggs gave the gift of “Bambi” to Vlado, and that she followed in the footsteps of her father, Career Ambassador Ellis O. Briggs, as a Foreign Service Officer. I wasn’t quite sure how they met, until I found this condolence letter recently, written to Mrs. Fabry, dated September 23, 1961:

Dear Mrs Fabry,
I was deeply shocked and saddened to learn of Vlado’s tragic loss. There are no words to express if fully, but I want you to understand that I am truly sorry, and pray that God is helping you to bear this heaviest of burdens.

I did not know Vlado very well, but I think we were friends. We met, of course, through Olga in Geneva, where I studied in 1950-51. Vlado took me skiing in Vermont the following year, one weekend, and I remember how patient he was with my slowness as a somewhat permanent beginner! Then, he and Olga came to Washington, about two or three years ago, and came to see me in Virginia where I was then living. At that time, Vlado was already moving up rapidly at the United Nations. You must indeed be very proud of him for having achieved so much in a short time, and in spite of difficulties which would have discouraged most men. The account of his accomplishments portrays a life of dedication to high principles and of tireless efforts to put them into practice. The United States is the richer for having claimed him as a citizen, and the poorer for having lost him in the battle which we are all fighting. But his spirit and his example will be with us always.

Forgive me if I have imposed on your sorrow with this long letter, but I wanted you to know my feelings.

With every good wish to you and Olga,
Very Sincerely,
Lucy T. Briggs

P.S. Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you.

Elspeth Young’s Tribute to Vlado

Elspeth Young had the pleasure of teaching English to Vlado Fabry in Bratislava, and here she offers her finest memories of him in tribute:
Elspeth Young Tribute to Vlado

“A Tribute from an English Friend”
When I first knew Vlado, he was nine years old. At that time I was living in Bratislava and his mother was glad to keep up her English with me and so Vlado too began English. I soon found he was very gifted and quick to learn; he took a keen interest and it was a pleasure to help him.
His parents were able to give him every advantage, but taught him how to use money wisely and to be independent and self-reliant. I believe this early training in independence more than once saved his life. About the age of ten, I remember him telling me, that he had his own allowance for clothing and kept his own accounts, but he was generous and thoughtful for others. This I believe was greatly due to his mother’s influence. Sometimes during his school holidays he would go from village to village in his own country collecting Folk Songs and at the age of fifteen had written a ballad himself of more than fifty verses.
He was devoted to his parents and sister (who is equally gifted) and had a happy life. He began flying with his father at an early age and had already travelled a good deal. After the tragedy of the War, when they lost every-thing and came though many dangers, his parents finally arrived in Geneva. Then Vlado was their mainstay. On account of his knowledge of languages and his great gifts, he held responsible posts and travelled widely for the United Nations. He took a great interest in any foreign country he visited and with his gift of languages and courtesy, he made friends everywhere. Whenever he came through London, if he had the time, he would phone me to meet him somewhere and tell me the family news. He never forgot his friends.
His passing is felt by all his friends, especially those who have known him for so many years and followed his career with such interest.
(Signed) Elspeth Young

Here is one of the many letters from Elspeth to the family, sent from London on December 16, 1956:
(click images to enlarge)
Letter from Elspeth YoungLetter from Elspeth Young 2

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

Statement of Samuel Bellus, November 30, 1956

I don’t know who Samuel Bellus is yet, but here is his statement on behalf of Mrs. Olga Fabry – Vlado’s mother:

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.

Translating the Fabry Family

Vlado and Pavel Fabry
When my Slovak mother-in-law passed away, she left behind a trove of family documents dating back before the creation of Czechoslovakia in 1918. This blog is where I piece together the clues of her family – the Fabry family: Vlado, her only brother – member of the United Nations from 1946 until 1961, when he died in a plane crash on a peace mission with U.N. Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold; Pavel, her father – a lawyer, politician, and son of wealthy industrialists, and one of the first to be imprisoned and tortured in the concentration camp llava, in Czechoslovakia; Olga, her mother – daughter of land-owning aristocrats, who watched as her home was seized from her, and eventually turned into the Russian Consulate, in Bratislava, where it remains today still. My mother-in-law, whose name is also Olga, never gave up trying to get back her home – she even put it in the will, she was adamant that it be returned to the family.
Fabry Archive - Selected Photographs (114)
All of them were prolific letter writers. I am in the process of making order of nearly 25 archival boxes, translating the most intriguing documents as I go. Google Translate isn’t perfect, but I am using it to help make sense of the letters in German, French, and Slovak – not much written in English, but I am hoping to learn these languages better in time.
So far in my research, I am learning about Bela Kun, Franz Karmazin, the Comintern, Lenin Boys, Count Mihaly Karolyi, the Hlinka Gaurd, and Jozef Tiso. Czechoslovakia had both Nazis and Communists invading them, just one horror after another.
Fabry Archive - Selected Photographs (45)

Vlado and Sheila

When looking up the name “Vlado Fabry” on the internet, the only thing I find, other than the details of the plane crash with Dag Hammarskjold, where he is called by his proper name, “Vladimir”, is a memoriam to Mary Sheila Dean Marshall(written by her son Chris Marshall) born in Argentina on July 18th, 1929, to British parents Austin and Ada Deane. It is also posted on the Rockville Consortium for Science website, where Sheila was founder and president . Here is the paragraph that made me laugh out loud:

“Sheila considered her time in New York to be some of the happiest days of her life. She roomed with her dearest friend, a gorgeous Czechoslovakian socialite named Desa Pavlu. The two of them must have left a trail of broken hearts throughout Manhattan. Sheila had a proposal of marriage from a young man named Arthur Gilkey . She declined, and shortly thereafter, he perished while ascending K2. Sheila was also courted by a chap named Vladimir “Vlado” Fabry. Vlado died with Dag Hammerskjold[sic] in The Congo[sic]. It seems that Vlado may have been connected with the CIA. Sheila said she could never see herself marrying Vlado because he had a “very round bottom.”

I was only a little annoyed that someone was using the words of one dead person to slag off another dead person, because it was just too funny to read about Vlado’s “very round bottom” on the internet. I would like to point out to Mr. Marshall, though, that his statement that “Vlado may have been connected with the CIA” is, as yet, an opinion; but Mr. Marshall’s father – Sheila’s husband – was a CIA operative from 1952-1967, and that’s a fact. But now that he’s got me wondering, I’ll be checking that out, too.

In a letter, sent from Vlado in New York to his father in Geneva, December 20, 1954, he says about Sheila:

“I decided I must look Sheila over a bit better. She seems to fit not only my bill but also that of maman; gaiety, naturalness, nine years younger than me, etc, — and at the same time poise, intelligence, dependability and brains; she is of mixed culture too, — part Argentinian, part English, part US. So I shall investigate. But nothing more, don’t worry!”

I’m going to try and avoid making untrue statements here. I’ll be writing things down as I make my discoveries, which means I’ll be learning as I go – and there is much to learn. And because I appreciate the discovery of Chris Marshall, and his mother, I want to share the letter of condolence I found that Sheila wrote to my mother-in-law, and to Mrs. Fabry, after Vlado’s death (Mr. Pavel Fabry, Vlado’s father, had died only a year before this tragic event, so I can only imagine the grief of the two women); dated October 26th, 1961, and sent c/o N.I.S.E.R., University College, Ibadan, Nigeria:

My Dear Olga and Mrs Fabry,

Ever since I heard the awful news I have been meaning to write to you, but what with getting Mike’s [Sheila’s husband] three children off to boarding school, packing up the house, leaving London on Oct. 1st and then straightening our stomachs out here, this is the first day that I feel like myself again. Your letter, Olga, arrived yesterday and I was very glad to have it but of course most upset at your obvious and quite natural distress.

All the time I was packing and sewing on name tapes and travelling down I had one thought at the back of my mind:–what can I say to the Fabrys? How can anything help? But there are things to be said and I’m sure that what I have to say will have been said by Vlado’s other friends but they bear repeating this once and even more times.

The first thing is that you of all people should have been spared this tragedy and Vlado was a man that the world and his friends needed. However, I have long ago found out and I’m sure you did before me, that it is useless to question Fate or God’s judgement or what you will call it. Admitting this, we are left only one consolation, that of remembering the pleasure that we derived from sharing part of Vlado’s life. He had great personality and made an impression on many lives. In his short life he managed to accomplish far more that many do in twice the time.

The second thing that immediately comes to mind is his great generosity of spirit. Surely, remembering this, and how sad it would make him to see you so desolate, you must for his sake continue, as much as you can, to show the Fabry spirit. How difficult this will be for you! For Olga it is not so much of a challenge as for Mrs. Fabry. Time helps the young and the young must help the older ones. And I am sure, knowing Olga, that she will have the courage, perhaps not quite yet, to pick up the pieces and build up again the remnants of a very fine family. We all need people like the Fabrys.

The third thing is that none of us who knew Vlado will forget him. He leaves behind him a memory of a warm hearted, generous and very good friend. His zest for life and its challenges was amazing and a source of great inspiration to us. He was a man very much driven by a sense of destiny and how well he fulfilled his role. His capacity was enormous and he never fell short of what was expected of him, although he often expressed disatisfaction at not having been able to do more.
My parents were most distressed at the bad news and have asked me to pass on their deepest sympathy to you both.
The enclosed are letters [I have not located these letters yet.-T] I received from time to time from Vlado. At the last minute I saved them from the consignment that we have sent down here. The photographs you asked for were packed before that but I shall get them out together with others I might have when our belongings arrive in about 3 weeks.

The news photograph [have not located this photo yet.-T] I was able to get by calling up the Daily Express just before I left. They were reluctant to let me have it as it is not only the last one of Vlado but also of Hammerskjold. They said it was for your own personal use. I asked if they had any other in which Vlado might have appeared but they said not.

Thank you for your good wishes – I’ll write about my affairs later.

Lots of love to you both and all prayers for your wellbeing.
From Sheila