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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.