Tag Archives: Vlado Fabry

Reintroducing “Vlado”

Vlado in Egypt

My name is Tara Burgett, I am an independent researcher and archivist, and the author of this blog dedicated to Vladimir “Vlado” Fabry. My husband, Victor, is the nephew of Vlado, the only child of Vlado’s sister, Olinka. When Olinka passed away in 2009, we discovered a trove of papers and photos stuffed in old suitcases in the house in New York; recognizing their importance, we packed them up and brought them to Washington state, and since then I have made it my mission to share the family story with the world.

Vlado and sister Olinka with his Buick and Bambi hood ornament
Vlado and Olinka in Switzerland

When I first began my blog in 2013, the only information I could find on the internet about Vlado, other than the details of the plane crash in Ndola with Dag Hammarskjold, was a memoriam to one of Vlado’s girlfriends, Mary Sheila Dean Marshall; written by her son Chris Marshall. Here is the paragraph mentioning Vlado 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 of his “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. What did bother me though, was the statement from Mr. Marshall, that “Vlado may have been connected with the CIA”; which was just his opinion, when in fact, his father, Sheila’s husband Mike Marshall, was a CIA operative from 1952-1967.

The more time I spent reading and translating the letters and documents, the more I realized how important it was that I speak up for Vlado and his family. The Fabry family were the targets of intentional and malicious slander, in revenge for their fierce resistance to both Nazi and communist invasions of Czechoslovakia, and sharing their archive has been my way of setting the record straight.

Vlado and his mother Olga Fabry – Maminka – Geneva, 17 April 1948

Vlado studied Law and Political Science at Comenius University in Bratislava, following in the footsteps of his father, Pavel Fabry, who was also a lawyer. Before joining the United Nations Legal Department in 1946, Vlado served as Personal Secretary to the Minister of Commerce in Prague. Vlado and his father were both very romantic and unconventional characters, who loved music, poetry, travel, and all kinds of adventure; they were not afraid to stand up for their beliefs, even in the face of danger and threats of death.

Vlado hugging his father good-bye at Prague airport, June 1946
Vlado and Pavel in Switzerland

After the communist coup d’etat in 1948, the whole family were forced to flee Czechoslovakia, and lived as political refugees in Switzerland. Vlado was often on the move, working for the UN in many countries, including New Zealand, Indonesia, Ghana, Egypt, and Congo, but he would stay with his parents in Geneva whenever he was on leave, at 14 Chemin Thury. 

Vlado and Maminka in Switzerland
Vlado with his parents, Geneva, Switzerland, 14 Chemin Thury
Breakfast in Geneva, 14 Chemin Thury
Vlado at work, Geneva, Switzerland, 14 Chemin Thury

Vlado was loved by many of his colleagues at the UN, for his kindness and hospitality, and for his enthusiasm for skiing, mountain climbing, as well as his intellect and charm.

Vlado in Geneva

I could say more about his personality, but I feel the letters Vlado left behind, and the letters of his friends and family who knew him, say it best. He was an example of courage that anyone who knew him tried to follow, and is an inspiration to me, personally.

Condolence letter from Mary Sheila Dean Marshall
Last photo of Vlado and Dag Hammarskjold, from Daily Express, included in letter from Mary Sheila Dean Marshall
Condolence letter from Cynthia Knuth
Condolence letter from Zeno F. Marcella
Condolence letter from John A. Olver
Condolence letter from Bernard T. Twight
Condolence letter from Marty and Don Davies
Friends of Vlado, in Geneva, Marty and Don Davies
Condolence letter from Constantin A. Stavropoulos
Condolence letter from “Dody”
Condolence letter from Lucy T. Briggs, daughter of Ambassador Ellis O. Briggs, who served in the Foreign Service – she is the friend that gave Vlado “Bambi” – which you can see Vlado attaching to the hood ornament of his Buick, in the header photo of this blog.
Condolence letter from Monique Cegel (now Madame Rime), Vlado’s personal secretary in former Leopoldville, now Kinshasa, room 632 Le Royal
Tribute to Vlado from Elspeth Young

Letter from Ivan S. Kerno, 18 December 1946

My husband Victor is the nephew of Vlado Fabry, the only child of Vlado’s sister Olinka. When Olinka passed away in 2009, we discovered a trove of papers and photos stuffed in old suitcases in the house in New York; we packed them up and brought them to Washington state, and since then I have made it my mission to share the family story with the world. The photo above shows one of these suitcases, which was originally owned by Ivan S. Kerno – Slovak lawyer and family friend, who was Assistant to Secretary-General Trygve Lie and was head of the United Nations Legal Department. We have many letters from Ivan Kerno, but here is one from Garden City, Long Island, New York, from 1946, the year Vlado joined the Legal Department of the United Nations; addressed to Vlado’s father, Pavel Fabry, in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, to our family home that is still illegally occupied by the Russian Federation, since the coup d’etat of 1948.

Paris Match, 30 September 1961

This article from Paris Match does not give the name of the photographer who took the photo from the Ndola crash site, showing a DELL paperback mystery called “NOW, WILL YOU TRY FOR MURDER?”, but I have not seen it anywhere else. As a side note, this is the first novel of author Harry Olesker, published in 1958, and produced for Kraft Television Theatre in June 1958; according to this link I found, Olesker “received a master’s degree from Columbia University before serving in Army Intelligence during World War II.”

L’Express, 21 September 1961

I was hesitant to share this here, because of the editorial choice of the word “suicide” to describe the death of Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold, but it is important because this was saved in a collection of other international papers by Olinka and Olga Fabry. The political cartoon, showing Moïse Tshombe collecting his money from the Union Minière du Haut-Katanga mines with the murders of Patrice Lumumba and Hammarskjold, is gruesome but on point. From our personal coin collection, not from the Fabry archive, I have also included scans of two coins from Katanga from 1961.

Letters from Vlado in New York, 1946

Here are two letters in Slovak from Vlado in New York, written in July and August of 1946, shortly after his arrival in the States. At this time, the United Nations Headquarters were located in Lake Success, NY, in the Sperry Gyroscope Company factory. The first letter, written to his sister Olinka in Lausanne, Switzerland, is on onion skin paper and is not getting any younger; it is hard to decipher because Vlado wrote on both sides of the paper, but, for those determined to know what he was up to and wrote, it is not impossible to translate! Ďakujem for the help!

Vlado at Rockefeller Center Rooftop, NYC, 18 July 1946

Good Bye, Czechoslovakia!

In June 1946, Vlado Fabry left his position as Personal Secretary to the Minister of the Interior in Prague, to join the Secretariat of the United Nations in New York. He packed his bags, said farewell to his friends and family, and said good bye forever to Czechoslovakia. The following photos are from Prague, showing Vlado at an undated political gathering, and his departure in June at the airport on a Swissair flight to Zurich.

Vlado Fabry, Prague, circa 1946