The moment and place of the explosion, it now seems, was chosen by the handful of French, Belgian and other officers who were still in Katanga in defiance of their government’s orders. These mercenaries had made plans for effective military resistance.
One must assume they had drawn a defense line and had, in advance, made a decision, that they would strike if the United Nations troops crossed this line.
One must further assume that the United Nations troops, when they moved against the Post Office and radio station, crossed this line without realizing it and thus tripped the mechanism that touched off the explosion.
Then came Mr. Hammarskjold’s death.
Dr. Sture C. Linner, the head of the United Nations mission, lost a close friend, a man he had worshipped almost as a father. He lost his private secretary and, in Dr. Vladimir Fabri[sic] he lost what he had once called his “one-man brain trust.” Dr. [Fabry], officially the legal councilor[sic], had in fact been the mission’s thinker who analyzed events and suggested decision.”
From Tribune De Lausanne, 17 October 1961, “Mr. Hammarskjold’s Plane Was Allegedly Fired Upon”:
“Information from the Congo from a private source to the United Nations indicates that the investigators on the spot have proof that Hammarskjold’s plane was fired upon, writes L’hebdomadaire “News Week”. Several African countries, they added, intend to ask for full light to be shed on this matter.”
Many thanks to Madame Rime, and to Maurin Picard for this interview and supporting the Hammarskjold investigation, and to David Glaser for promoting this blog and the life of Vlado Fabry – merci beaucoup to all who have contributed to this site!
Interview with Monique Rime Cégel
3 May 2020
– Monique Cégel, 83, was Vladimir Fabry’s secretary in Leopoldville in 1961
– She worked at the Hotel Le Royal between December 1960 and January 1962
– She knew Alice Lalande and Harold Julien very well
– She was working extra hours on 17 September 1961
– She typed Dag Hammarskjöld’s last message to Paul Henri Spaak, requesting Belgium to stop « van Riessenghem »
– She remembers there were serious doubts about UN communications being intercepted
– Vladimir Fabry did most of the research regarding Katanga mercenaries during the summer of 1961
– She remembers Dag Hammarskjöld’s collaborators tried to deter him from flying unescorted
– She does not think Sture Linnér was intended to fly along, as he had to stay in Leopoldville to liaise and work proper transmissions
– She flew to Ndola with Mahmoud Khiary on 19 September 1961 to type the ceasefire agreement with Moise Tshombe
– She saw the crash site right above her plane window prior to landing and was horrified
– She recalls smoldering debris and the « long line » of burnt forest
– She found a very hostile atmosphere in Northern Rhodesia
– She met a very disdainful Lord Alport
– She was not allowed to join Mahmoud Khiary at the hospital to visit Harold Julien
* * *
I was Vladimir Fabry’s secretary, at the Hotel Le Royal, Leopoldville (Congo).
I worked there for the UN mission in Congo from December 1960 to January 1962, as secretary detached from the Atomic Agency (IAEA) in Vienna.
I kept working for the UN in Geneva until 1976, mostly through freelancing contracts. Then my husband and I moved to the city of Bulle.
I met my husband in 1961 in Congo!
He was a representative for major Swiss companies of the time, including Schindler and Vega, and was selling chemical products to the university of Lovanium.
I became a Swiss citizen, after getting married with him.
I was French (and I still am), and was born in Paris.
* Sunday 17 September 1961
At the Hotel Le Royal, we had an office adjacent to the one occupied by Sture Linnér.
On the day Dag Hammarskjöld took off from Leopoldville, that Sunday, I was not supposed to work.
But, as Fabry’s secretary, and since he only worked with me, they sent some military staff in a Jeep to pick me up and bring me back to Le Royal.
They found me sitting at a cafe terrace, since I believe they always kept an eye on us for safety.
I went back to my office and worked all afternoon, until the plane departed.
* Vladimir Fabry
That day, when I arrived at my office, Vladimir Fabry immediately requested to dictate some telegrams. I spent the whole afternoon doing that: typing messages, then bringing them to the « Chiffre » for them to be coded accordingly with the recipient’s identity.
By the time I was finished, they were getting ready to leave for the airport.
Before leaving, Vladimir Fabry was so thrilled.
Happy as a kid who was just offered a new toy.
Albeit a very reserved character, he was practically jumping on his feet.
He came into my office and said excitingly:
« Monique, I am leaving with the Secretary-General! I am trusting you with my car keys! »
He had to be very happy, for he would never have done such a thing otherwise.
His car was an official UN vehicle.
He told me I could use all the time during his absence.
God knows Leopoldville is a very large town, with great distances between the various locations.
I used the car until, of course, I handed it back to the UN, since Fabry never returned.
I remember seeing their cars leaving Le Royal in convoy.
I went through these events with an innocent mind as I could only partially grasp what was going.
I would mostly type messages dictated by Fabry, messages that were generally meant for New York.
The last message I typed from them was dictated by M. Hammarskjöld himself. The recipient was Paul-Henri Spaak.
(nota: the Belgian Foreign Minister)
But I cannot remember its content (nota: requesting Belgian assistance to put an end to the criminal deeds of a mercenary pilot named « van Riessenghem »).
I was so intimidated that I must have skipped two or three words he dictated.
I had never met Hammarskjöld and I was so young then (nota : she was 24).
I saw Dag Hammarskjöld every day between 13 and 17 September 1961, since he occupied Sture Linnér’s office.
* Can you recall Hammarskjöld’s state of mind?
I remember he was not very agreeable. He seemed really sad, not at all in a communicative mood. « You do this, this has to be done ». We were in the midst of a serious crisis with Katanga, obviously.
* Were there long sleepless nights at Le Royal?
I did not spend those ones with them, but I had a similar experience during the previous months. When you are assigned to someone high ranking, you did not count your days and your nights. With all the crises we went through, there were many sleepless nights at Le Royal.
* Harold Julien
I knew Harold Julien very well, as he was the Chief Security Officer in Leopoldville. Being M. Fabry’s secretary, I was granted the use of a car.
This in turn created some serious trouble, because we were taken hostage with a Swiss colleague of mine by Mobutu’s troops for 24 hours. The time was around end January or early February 1961.
They had spotted my car, I believe, due to the UN flags on it, and surrounded our house with two small armoured cars. There were rumors that the UN was bent on disarming the Congolese National Army. And we had been poorly inspired to move in a house across the street from Mobutu’s barracks along the river – a magnificent location, it was indeed.
Then the witchhunt began against all UN staff.
This is the only time in my life I was really scared.
I called the French embassy asking for their help, as I was a French citizen. Their answer was very … kind: « you work for the UN, hence you are no longer considered as a French citizen for us. There is nothing we can do for you ».
Since my colleague was Swiss, she called the Swiss embassy and they immediately answered. « Yes of course, we will come and rescue you ».
They arranged for a motorized convoy of Swiss people, with friends and colleagues of my future husband, led by the Red Cross delegate M. Olivet, who was killed another day.
(nota: Georges Olivet, 34, was killed in an ambulance on 12 December 1961, amidst heavy fighting in Elisabethville, Katanga)
They parlayed with Mobutu’s soldiers, who pretty quickly removed their blockade and let us go free.
* Saturday 16 September, Lord Lansdowne meets Dag Hammarskjöld. Did you get word of a stormy exchange?
No, I do not remember that gentleman.
I did not hear anything, although I was there that day and was working in the nearby room. If there had been loud voices, a shouting match,
I would have heard something.
But it does not mean it did not take place, as my memory could be failing me.
There were indeed many high ranking visitors in Sture Linnér’s office, and I did not always necessarily get a look at them.
* Did Dag Hammarskjöld’s collaborators try to deter him from flying unescorted?
That is true, since I remember I heard about it.
They did try to deter him.
There were rumors that they were « waiting » for him in Katanga. There were Tshombe’s two Fougas.
(nota: in September 1961, the UN still believed two remaining Fouga were operational, as there was actually only one left, « 93 », the other one bing grounded awaiting spare parts)
When we heard about the crash, we immediately thought: « Tshombe’s Fougas did it ».
Personnally, I just could not imagine such a thing: who would want to shoot down the UN Secretary General?
I really thought this was just an accident, at least until after I left Congo early 1962.
If I had known … I was so scared in the air. I could never have boarded a plane.
But since I had no clue of what happened, I departed very easily when told to, without any further stress.
* Was Sture Linnér supposed to join the mission and fly along with Dag Hammarskjöld, as he later commented?
I was not at Ndjili airport but I would be surprised if he was intending to fly with them. It was logical for him to stay in Leo and liaise. That would be surprising if true.
Alice Lalande, she had to be part of the travelling party, since she was in charge of sensitive equipments, these Enigma machines. Besides, the Secretary-General needed an assistant like her. In her daily job, Alice was handing over paperwork to all the secretaries. She was a perfectly bilingual Canadian.
* Did Dag Hammarskjöld know that UN communications were intercepted?
I do not know, but it was a serious question for everyone in Leopoldville.
I had worked for weeks with Vladimir Fabry on the issue of the « frightfuls », these mercenaries.
I made dozens of photocopies from these documents that had been somehow collected and that had to do with these mercenaries. Vladimir Fabry worked a great deal on this issue. We did an extensive research on these documents. I am sorry that I did not have enough political awareness, to show an interest in the content of these documents.
* Monday 18 September 1961
Personnally, I did not get word of the crash when I arrived at the office on the next day. The other secretaries were doing a funny face, which was a bit intriguing. I made it late to the office due my long working hours on Sunday. I thought there was a dreadful atmosphere, but nobody told me anything. They did not dare tell me what had happened, probably because I was working so closely with M. Fabry. I only found out the same evening when I came home and my future husband told me: « did you hear what happened to Hammarskjöld ? »
* The crash site
When Mahmoud Khiary took off for Ndola, I came along.
(nota: on Tuesday 19 September 1961, in order to negotiate a ceasefire with Moïse Tshombé, as it was theoretically the case for Dag Hammarskjöld two days earlier)
I boarded the plane with him. If I had known the crash was foul play, I would never have come along with Khiary. This was so sudden, that I did not have the time to bring any equipment, not even a typing machine, as Alice Lalande had done.
We departed for Ndola. Prior to landing, while flying low over the forest, we managed to see the crash site from up close
(nota: the whole area was forested back then)
This memory will stay with me forever.
We spotted the wreckage, these scattered debris of an aircraft, what was left of it. This long line of burnt forest. It was terrible. I am still emotional about it, as I speak. I happened to realize the people I knew so well were only charred remains by now.
Alice Lalande, to begin with, who was basically my boss.
The security officers, such as Harold Julien.
I remember Alice’s dress with the flowery design. It sent cold shivers down my spine when I realized the plane had crashed and burnt that way. I though My God, she must have burnt so quickly. It was terrifying.
* Ndola, 19 September 1961
When we arrived in Ndola, there was this man, Lord Alport, welcoming us – so to say – at the airport. He was very cold. An extremely disagreeable character, very full of himself and every inch a British aristocrat. Still he invited our delegation for lunch in his home. I was just a secretary sitting at the end of the table with the security officers, but I found him disdainful towards us .
(nota : Khiary was not particularly welcome, since Tshombe had notified Linnér he agreed to negotiate a ceasefire with anyone but Khiary, whom he deemed responsible for launching Operation Morthor on 13 September 1961 – which is at least partially true)
Our mission was not very welcome.
Then we headed for the actual ceasefire negotiations with Moïse Tshombe, but I did not directly take part in the negotiations. The British mission there lent me a typing machine, whose keyboards had none of the French accents, which made my task very dfficult. I did however type all the ceasefire documents.
We stayed two or three days in Ndola.
Mahmoud Khiary and the delegation visited Harold Julien in the hospital. I was not allowed to join them.
1961 was a terrible year in my life. Annus horribilis, as the Queen Mother would say.
There was my being taken hostage, then Hammarskjöld’s crash, then the murder of 13 Italian air crew.
(nota: massacred by the crowd who mistook them with Belgian paratroopers in Kindu on 11 or 12 November 1961)
One of them was 25 and a very good friend of mine.
He had been at my wedding two weeks before, on 28 October 1961, along with Sture Linnér’s wife, whom I called Madame Linnér, of course, and also Jacques Poujoulat.
This day of September 1961, this Sunday the 17th. In my old age, I still cannot fathom what unfolded that day. It is still with me. It will stay with me until my last breath.
From the family of UN officer Peter J. Hazou, I am proud to share their contribution of photos and memories from 1961, and a letter from the former Leopoldville, now Kinshasa, that was written on this day, 55 years ago.
Dag Hammarskjold, center, in white suit, his bodyguard William Ranallo at far left, and Peter J. Hazou at right in dark suit with lapel pin.
From reverse of UN photo: “SECRETARY-GENERAL LEAVES FOR CONFERENCE WITH CONGO PREMIER. UN 72653 -United Nations, Leopoldville, September, 1961. Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold leaves UN Headquarters in Leopoldville on his way to meet Congolese Premier, Cyrille Adoula. The Secretary-General was consulting with Premier Adoula on the Katanga dispute.”
Friday, September 15, 1961
Dear Abboud and family,
We are still here in Congo and still enjoying ourselves. Peter has decided to stay a while longer as it is to our advantage financially, and so we will remain here in Congo until the end of November, 1961. At that time we are planning to take a three week cruise from Point Noir in French Congo and go up West Africa, stopping at a different port each day and ending up in Casablanca and then going to Marseille, where we will take a plane home. It will be a very interesting trip. It will get us home in cold Winter weather, though. We would stay longer but we have our house empty at home and that is a responsibility. We have registered Linda at Sacre Coeure school where they speak only French. She doesn’t know any yet but will learn quickly. In two months she won’t speak it perfectly but it will be better than nothing.
Sunday we all went on another boat ride up the Congo River. We stopped at a few islands and on one was a small African village. The children were interested in seeing how the people live. It was on the French Congo side. It is fun to go on these sandy islands. People swim from there but we don’t because the Congo River is brown and has strong currents which would pull one downstream quickly. Someone saw a crocodile once but we never did.
I take the children to the pool often because they love it. Linda swims a bit now, and Petey uses the tube. Tennis is available but I haven’t been able to get Peter to play much. He is still gaining weight but this week he intends to go on a diet. Linda has gotten very tall, and Petey is maturing nicely. I am happy that you are all well. We received your letter and it was good to get all your news. It is good Marcos is still globe-trotting, and I am glad it has been a good tourist season. I hope the weather remains pleasant for you. Over here it is still pleasantly cool, and we have rainy days now and then. The heavy rains will be coming soon and also the warm weather. Yesterday I taught our house boy to cook stuffed cabbage and Peter loved it. Also, I cook spaghetti occasionally because the family loves it. Sunday nights we sit at the outdoor gelateria and have Italian ice cream. Sometimes we go to the football matches (the Nigerians are good players) and sometimes we go to the movies, and so the time goes. There are still many cocktail parties, and the enclosed picture was taken at an Indian Officers’ one under a huge tent.
Wednesday [13 September 1961], Dag [Hammarskjold] came in and Peter was the protocol officer for the government at the airport. He greeted Adoula, Gizenga, Mobutu and Momboko[?-TB] when they arrived and then he made all the arrangements. When the S-G’s plane arrived he went up to meet him with Linner and Gen.[McKeown]. The Congolese and Nigerian bands played and it was a very nice welcome.
Tonight we will attend a big reception given by the Sec. General. This is a very crucial week here in the Congo. There is heavy fighting in Katanga, and at the huge UN army base. Last night the planes of UN personnel arrived from there as they were evacuated for safety. Don’t worry about us, though, as we are quite safe in Leopoldville as the fighting is far away. Peter is taking care of settling the refugees comfortably. If there is any big job Peter is asked to do it because they know it will get done properly. Because of this, Peter is working hard and practically running the big UN operation here but feels he doesn’t get the appreciation he deserves from headquarters, who do not realize he is working so hard because some of the other men are not capable of handling their jobs and so it falls on Peter. But it is a satisfaction to handle jobs well. He set up the whole Lovanium operation, which was tremendous and cost a million dollars. He used to have a private radio connection with it when it was locked in session, although he was one of the few people who had complete access to it. Too bad he didn’t take pictures there. We all hope the Katanga situation resolves itself quickly without civil war breaking out.
Well, Linda will start school Monday and we are glad about it. Tomorrow we will take a trip across the river to Brazzaville and look the town over. It is much smaller than Leopoldville. The past few days were warm and the hot season is starting to come in. It isn’t uncomfortable yet, though. I guess it is getting cooler in Bethlehem and the tourists are fewer. It is amazing to think that we will be having another great trip next Summer and will be with you again. I guess we can never complain about the United Nations! The children send kisses to each one of you and they are constantly drawing pictures which they say are for you. They are too bulky to send, though. Take good care of yourselves and keep in good spirits and health.
[At end of letter, Peter Hazou writes in pen:]
I am sorry I have not been able to write more often since I have not been able to find the time. Thank you for your letters which arrive here via New York much quicker than in the past. As soon as we return to New York (about 17 December 1961) I shall resume a more regular correspondence. I am tired but healthy and I am sure the boat trip from the Congo to Marseille will do me a lot of good. My love to Mother, Victoria, Jamil and Mary and of course to yourself. I shall take a few days off and will write you a more detailed letter. The S-G will return to New York after tomorrow. The news from Katanga this evening is quite bad. I hope things improve. Love, Peter
Boat rides on the Congo River, Peter Hazou and family, 1961
Peter Hazou, Congo, 1961
First page of Lovanium Operation report from Hazou, who did tremendous work to organize all the details for the Lovanium conference to happen, dated 23 August 1961, with photo and ONUC Lovanium pass. Hazou worked for the United Nations for over three decades, from 1947 until 1978.
Peter and Winnie Hazou at left, with Sergeant Harold Julien second from right. This is likely the photo of the Indian Officer’s cocktail party mentioned in the letter, it is undated. The son of Winnie Hazou recalls: “She told me that she told Harry [Julien] at the reception how very lucky he was to be going on the mission to Katanga with the S-G”.
Hazou with unidentified person, possibly at same Indian Officer’s Party.
Invitation to the reception for Dag Hammarskjold, at La Deviniere, 15 September 1961
At reception for Hammarskjold, on the terrace at La Deviniere, Peter and Winnie with unidentified person.
La Deviniere terrace, Peter and Winnie Hazou, Joseph Kasa-Vubu, and S. Habib Ahmed
Here is the reverse of the last photo, which is dated in arabic 16 September 1961. Though she writes in the letter to Abboud that the reception for Hammarskjold was on the 15th, Winnie Hazou told her family later on that the reception was the night before the flight, the 16th, which also contradicts the date on the invitation, but the days leading up to the flight were intense with fighting, so it’s very possible that the date was moved at the last minute.
Prime Minister Cyrille Adoula, far left, with Peter Hazou on right, at Ndjili airport, Leopoldville, to transfer the 16 fallen to the Pan-Am plane.
Leopoldville, Pan-Am transport of fallen
The son of Peter and Winnie was only four years old at the time of the crash, but he remembers how he heard the news about Hammarskjold. He was at a luncheon for wives of diplomats with his mother, when the news came that Hammarskjold’s plane was announced missing, and the luncheon ended abruptly. He knew that something was wrong when his father came home in the middle of the day, which was very unusual for him. And then he saw his parents crying together. When the bodies of the fallen arrived in Leopoldville, he was on the observation deck at Ndjili airport with his family, and still recalls the intense sadness and solemnity of the people around him.
It took many people to run the United Nations Operation in the Congo, and I am glad to pay tribute to the memory of a colleague of Vlado, who no doubt grieved his death as well.
A special thanks to Anna Bergman (Justice for Dag Hammarskjold on Facebook), who has been helping me identify the people in the photos of Vlado at work, which has been a challenge. Though many are still untitled, it’s made me realize just how much information I haven’t included, so I have added what I have to this collection of photos today. Click on images to enlarge.
Beginning with his mission to Indonesia (1948-1951), here is the bearded Vlado, grinning as he waits his turn for inoculations.
Here is the reverse of the photo, with a Slovak note written in Vlado’s script.
Vlado’s identification card for the 1949 Round Table Conference on Indonesia.
The only notes on this photo is “Fabry” and a photo copyright that says “Indonesia”.
The next set of photos are from his time in British Togoland (January-August 1956), as U.N. Observer – he was there to help when the people voted to join the Gold Coast. This is a titled U.N. photo from the personal collection, which says:
“PLEBISCITE FOR BRITISH TOGOLAND, British Togoland, April 1956.
Headed by the United Nations Plebiscite Commissioner, a team of U.N. observers is in British Togoland in preparation for the plebiscite to be held on May 9, in the Trust Territory.
Here, at work with hurricane lamps on the terrace of their quarters in Jasikan, Buem-Krachi district, are U.N. observers Vladimir FABRY [incorrectly identified as on the left.TB] and Jan Van WYCK, both of whom are U.N. staff members.”
Another titled U.N. photo, which says:
“PLEBISCITE FOR BRITISH TOGOLAND, British Togoland, April 1956.
Headed by the United Nations Plebiscite Commissioner, a team of U.N. observers is in British Togoland in preparation for the plebiscite to be held on May 9, in the Trust Territory. Here, led by an interpreter, U.N. observer Vladimir FABRY is crossing the Wawa river on his way from Papase to Manida with registration assistant N.S.K. JAWUZOH.”
Titled U.N. photo, which says:
“PLEBISCITE IN BRITISH TOGOLAND, HO, British Togoland, May 1956.
The plebiscite held in British Togoland on 9 May resulted in a vote of 93,365 in favor of uniting the U.N. Trust Territory with the neighboring Gold Coast. 67,442 voters, including majorities in two southern districts, supported the alternative continuation under U.N. trusteeship pending final determination of the territory’s status.
Observer [incorrectly labled W. Fabry.TB] and U.K. Registrations Officer R. WEST-SKINN walking thru [sic] bush and cocoa plantations on their way to village of Dumevi (Akan district).”
Vlado wrote a note on the back of this in Slovak, which says: “The terrace in Jasikan, with Van Wyck and Bokhari.” Bokhari is at left, Vlado is forward right, with a cigarette in his hand – he smoked about two packs a day, but I’m not judging, I love the horrid things, too – but not quite as much as he did.
Patras Bokhari was a very important person in the UN, who was also a fantastic speech writer. Here is a link to his first press conference as Under-Secretary of the United Nations – he calls himself “the poor man’s Hammarskjold”, but he tells a great story about their January 1955 trip to Peking to convince Chou En-lai to release American fliers held prisoner; who had been shot down and were being held for investigation for “violation of Chinese territorial air”. When those airmen were eventually released, it was because of the devoted diplomacy of Hammarskjold, no thanks to meddlers like John Foster Dulles – Hammarskjold said of him “the special characteristics of Mr. Dulles have made it extremely difficult for me to maintain even in the most modest way the contact which I need with Washington on the Peking issue.”
This is a titled U.N. photo, which says:
“PLEBISCITE FOR BRITISH TOGOLAND, British Togoland, April 1956.
Headed by the United Nations Plebiscite Commissioner, a team of U.N. observers is in British Togoland in preparation for the plebiscite to be held on May 9, in the Trust Territory.
This picture shows U.N. observer Vladimir FABRY making his way through a kapok forest neat Dumevi, in the Akan district.”
One last titled U.N. photo, which says:
“PLEBISCITE FOR BRITISH TOGOLAND, April 1956.
In preparation for the plebiscite to be held in this Trust Territory on May 9, registers of voters have been on display for a period to permit claims and objections. In the town of Ahamansu in the Jessikan district the British registration officer, Mr. R. WEST-SKINN, hears a man who allegedly could not establish residence in the township. Mr. West-Skinn’s assistant, Mr. LARTEY, stands behind him, and at the left is United Nations observer Vladimir FABRY.”
This photo is titled “Volta” – obviously, the Volta river.
Titled in Slovak “…Togoland…15/2 ”.
Untitled, found in the British Togoland collection. Those are his “quarters” behind him.
When you have no running water, and only a limited supply of it every day, you take advantage of a good rain shower – what a happy guy! Titled “Jasikan”.
Untitled, a U.N. observer gathers people together outside the Togoland Congress Office for a photo.
Another from Jasikan, British Togoland, February 1, 1956. I’ve included the Slovak notes from the reverse of one, which suggests the photos have something to do with registration for the election.
Untitled, in the British Togoland collection. Could this be election day?
This photo – and the six others that follow it – are all untitled, but it’s a possibilty that this was one of the meetings between the UNEF and the UAR.
Untitled, Egypt. Vlado is exiting the tent, far right.
The two sphinxes – untitled.
Really, there are no photos from Vlado’s time in the Congo but a few. Here is an untitled photo, possibly Congo, with him arriving on a Sabena plane.
This photo, and the following photo, were sent to Vlado’s sister Olinka by Sheila Dean Marshall in her condolence letter; which Sheila collected from the DAILY EXPRESS in London, and are stamped on the back with the copyright. This is one of the last photos taken of Hammarskjold and Vlado before they boarded the DC-6 on September 17, 1961, headed to Ndola on what would become their final peace mission. This was the first version of the photo I found.
Here is the full expanded photo, which includes Sture Linner at left, reading. Found this much later. On the back, Sheila writes “Vlado before they took off in the aeroplane.”
Untitled photo, possibly from his time with UNEF.
Photo of unknown flight – I’ve included the Slovak notes from the reverse. Help with Slovak translation is always appreciated.
This photo and the next are both untitled, taken at United Nations Headquarters in New York.
This last photo is untitled as well. I wonder why Vlado’s secretary is typing on top of a duvet? The old typewriters were so loud, maybe it muffled all the noise. I like the photo of Vlado at his desk – I have his copy of the Petit Larousse by my own desk.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and here is a letter of great desperation written by Vlado’s sister, Olga Fabry – who was still a stateless political refugee at the time of his death – asking Constantin Stavropoulos to help her obtain a professional position at the U. N. Library in Geneva. With both her father and her brother gone, she suddenly had to financially support her mother and herself, and that meant being bold and asking every important person she knew for help. This letter was translated from French:
Oct. 10, 1961
Allow me to thank you again for your presence at Vlado’s funeral and for your lovely speech to the church. Your presence was a great comfort to my mother so painfully struck by the cruel loss of her beloved son.
Maman has been admirable until now, but the much dreaded reaction unfortunately has already started to manifest itself. It’s a bit too much for her and for me, especially since Christmas, when Papa died, we had only Vladko for our support. Vladko was our support, notre soutient, our everything, in this world in which we are already deprived of homeland and family. Now we have also lost Vladko, so tragically, so brutally and it seems the ravine of misery and despair appears to engulf us slowly…. Mother is even more saddened and upset since she was always so opposed to his mission in Congo, especially so soon after the death of my father.
Even in New York in the Spring, you were out, I think, she asked M. Schachter could Vladko return as soon as possible. She has been very worried and unhappy ever since Vladko has been in Congo, as if she had a presentiment… She showed me now the copies of letters she wrote to you and Mr. Schachter when Vladko was sent to Congo; he knew nothing of these letter, but she had felt something, and she wanted to do everything for him to return… alas, he left his life there.
Now we have, in our present so heavy, such desperation to take care of our future.
After talks with the Head of Naturalization in Geneva, I obtained a promise of Swiss naturalization on the condition of having employment at the United Nations in Geneva.
I went to see the director of the Library of the United Nations in Geneva, Dr. Breycha Vauthier, who told me of a professional vacancy in the library. He told me he would like very much that I take this position, because I have already worked in the Library of the United Nations in Geneva, I know the languages and that New York always sends someone who is not proficient, who does not know the languages and of which one wants to get rid of.
As I have already worked temporarily on several occasion in the Library, I have already a good experience and thorough knowledge of the functioning of the U.N. Library in Geneva. I’ve even done my diploma work. In addition, my experience in the United States where I am “Head Librarian”, my development from below can only speak in favor of my professional competence. In New York I hold a professional position and my salary is equivalent to that of P II in the United Nations.
Mr. Breycha told me he would write to Mr. Palthey in New York to recommend me from the professional point of view; the professional positions, as you know perhaps, are decided in New York. Mr. Marx told me that he would write to New York to recommend me, so to speak from a point of view of moral obligation of the United Nations to my mother and to Vlado.
If difficulties arise, if there are problems to vanquish, it must be overcome. It must make an exception this time, even if the United Nations have never done it before. Vlado, as you said yourself in your speeches, has rendered outstanding service to the United Nations, and everyone knows how and how much he worked, all that he has so generously given: his brilliant intellect, his intelligence of the heart, his multiple talents, his devotion, and ultimately the sacrifice of his life so young, all to the United Nations.
My mother may have only a few years left to live and I would like to make her life easier as much as possible and make it impossible for her not to suffer any more injustice or human wickedness. She would like to see me continue in some way not so nobly traced by her son and I would like to work in the institution and for its ideals for which Vladko sacrificed his young life.
Decisions for professional positions are taken in New York. Dear Costi, I pray you especially to do EVERYTHING for me to get this professional position in the Library of the U. N. in Geneva, I ask you on behalf of my poor mother so painfully affected and on behalf of our beloved Vladko of which you were a friend. I beg you to continue your friendship with Vladko and also for my mother and me and not abandon us in our hours so difficult to endure.
My thanks go out to you with all my heart for all your help and I ask you to receive, from my mother and me, our best wishes and memories.
Here is Olga’s diploma from the Ecole de Bibliothécaires, signed 8 March 1957.
I have not found the letter that Olga sent to Sture Linner, Head of UN Civilian Operations in the Congo, but he found the time to respond her request – even asking Ralph Bunch for his assistance!
UNITED NATIONS ORGANIZATION IN THE CONGO
19 October 1961
Dear Miss Fabry,
You and your Mother have been in my thoughts very much indeed all this dreadful time. I was so sorry not to be able to find you again on the eve of my departure, but I trust there will sooner or later be an opportunity for me to pass through Geneva and I shall then certainly be very happy to look you up.
I do wish with all my heart that you and your Mother may find strength to endure all the strain from which you must be suffering. Already from our brief encounter, I am convinced that you have the fortitude of character that will carry through even this ordeal.
As to your request for me to help you to obtain an assignment as a Librarian with the UN in Geneva, I took it up with Ambassador Spinelli during our trip from Geneva to Stockholm after you had first mentioned to me your wishes in this respect. Mr. Spinelli promised to do everything he could to obtain some such post for you, and I got the impression that the prospects were quite bright. On receipt of your letter, I have cabled Dr. Bunche in New York, quoting what you say and also reporting on my conversation with Mr. Spinelli. I am sure you realize that a decision on this matter is beyond my competence, but I trust that with a double approach thus having been made, to Mr. Spinelli and to Headquarters in New York, the matter will be settled to your satisfaction.
Please give your Mother my warmest regards.
Here also is the response from Stavropoulos, which I did not translate, but he offers some of the same encouragement as Linner:
Because of Olga’s intelligence and determination to survive, she was able to find work and take care of herself and her mother, and would eventually spend many years as Librarian at the U.N. Foundation Library in New York, as a citizen of the United States.