Les Vacances de Monsieur Fabry

Couldn’t wait to share the treasure I found this summer, film footage of Vlado with his family in Switzerland. It may not be the best home movie ever made, but it gives me a lot of happiness to see these charming people all come to life, and to see Vlado skiing.

Hammarskjold Investigation Continues

On Monday, I heard that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for the Hammarskjold investigation to continue, which is really positive news. From his 2 July 2015 letter to the President of the General Assembly, Ban had this to say in regard to Member States still withholding information in connection to the crash of September 17-18, 1961:

“It is therefore our shared responsibility to pursue the whole truth concerning the conditions and circumstances resulting in the tragic death of Dag Hammarskjold and the others accompanying him. To that end, I recommend that the General Assembly remain seized of this matter. This may be our last chance to find the truth. In our renewed commitment in this regard, I call on the Assembly to reiterate its message to Member States, further to paragraph 2 of its resolution 69/246, to ensure that any relevant records that remain classified, more than 50 years after the fact, are declassified or otherwise made available for review either by the Secretariat of the United Nations or by any eminent person or persons whom the Assembly may wish to entrust with this mandate.”

The Panel’s full report can be read here (UN document A/70/132) – click your preferred language on the blue bar to open the document, and then wait a bit for it to upload. I’ve read through it twice now, and the Panel did an excellent job. My heartfelt thanks to the Panel, and to the S-G, for all the hard work they have done – and will have to do – to “pursue the whole truth”. Bon courage!

News on Hammarskjold Report

Keeping up with the latest on the investigation – on June 12, I learned that the Hammarskjold Panel delivered their report to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, finishing more than two weeks ahead of their June 30th deadline. The news gave me pause, because I read this article at the end of May on Dagens Nyheter, “Lack of time worrying in Hammarskjold case“, which reported the concerns of many people closely involved and supportive of this investigation, that three months was not enough time for the panel to do the work properly.

Then I read this discussion a few days ago, from the United Nations Association Westminster Branch, published on June 1st, which I am transcribing here:

Is Ban Ki-moon’s Panel on Hammarskjold’s death running out of time to properly complete its report?

1 June 2015 Observers following the progress of the Hammarskjold Panel appointed by UN S-G Ban Ki-moon to examine new information on the death of former S-G Dag Hammarskjold in 1961 fear that it might have to compromise its programme as its budget extends only to 30 June 2015, when it must present its report. The Panel, with the remit of evaluating the new information for its probative value, began its work as recently as April, thus allowing for barely three months of investigation.

The Panel members are eminent experts in highly relevant disciplines. However, observers point to key issues which the Panel’s report might not have time to address adequately. One issue is that the Panel needs to understand the colonial mindset and context of British-ruled Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia, in which the original UN inquiry of 1961-62 was conducted.

There is understandable sensitivity that in re-opening the Inquiry, the UN needs to show due recognition of the treatment of colonised nations in Africa and of the conduct of the superpowers at the time of the accident. A number of African eye witness accounts of aircraft movements over Ndola airport at the time of the crash challenged official reports – and these accounts were disregarded as inherently unreliable by the original UN Inquiry, reiterating the approach of the inquiries by the colonial authorities. The release of various documents many years later supports their recollection. It follows that their claims to have witnessed extraordinary sightings in the sky, dismissed at the time, should be re-examined fully. The Panel visited Ndola to interview eye witnesses but observers worry that the Panel will have had insufficient time to listen carefully to all the witnesses, to set them in context, and to reach any conclusions.

In addition, it is important to know whether or not the Panel is getting traction for S-G Ban Ki-moon’s request to Member States for the release of ‘any relevant records in their possession’. The US government has not released into the public domain relevant documentation held by CIA, NSA and the State Department, even though these records are well over 50 years old. Nor has the UK government released any material held by MI5, MI6 or GCHQ, even though a MI6 official was at Ndola for six days surrounding the crash in activities relating to Hammarskjold’s visit. Belgium, France and South Africa may also hold relevant files, as may the UN itself. What records have the Panel seen? How comprehensive have the disclosures been? Are those records now available to the public? The Panel will surely not be able to write an authoritative report on the probative value of the new evidence unless all relevant documentation has been released by the countries involved.

Budgetary issues appear to be driving the UN Panel’s agenda. With only US$500,000 to spend, its work must complete by the end of June and it is this finance-driven deadline that worries observers. In the UK, the recent conclusion of investigations into the Hillsborough football stadium tragedy of 1989 illustrates that such exercises can lead to great expenditure but, at the same time, it is important to the community that closure is both authoritative and transparent. “We owe it to the deceased, to their families and relatives, and also to the wider global community, to undertake everything possible to establish the truth. To those who insist it is a waste of time to review such events from history, we would argue that the injustice felt at the time still resonates today” said David Wardrop, Chairman of the United Nations Association Westminster branch, co-ordinator of the international campaign to re-open the Inquiry. “At a time when critics of the UN System and its Member States challenge its determination to manifest the principle of transparency, it is on such issues that it and they will be judged.”

I am in agreement with the points made in this discussion, the Panel needs more time, and we need to keep pressing for transparency “to establish the truth”.

In previous posts, I have expressed my concern about the disregard of the African witnesses by both the Rhodesian and UN inquiries of 1961-62, and also the obstruction by the NSA to release relevant documents. Anyone who doubts the powerful racist legacy of Rhodesia, that it has no relevance today, need only read the current US news about “The Last Rhodesian” who murdered 9 African-Americans in South Carolina – right now, the Confederate flag, the most potent symbol of American slavery, waves high in defiance above the SC State capital, while the US and State flag are at half-mast, a potent message of deep disregard for those who were murdered, and for all people of color.

And here is one last article, published 21 June on CBC News, “Evidence may lead to new probe in 1961 death of UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold“, which says that “Ban [Ki-moon] is examining the panel’s report and will make his own recommendations on how to proceed before it is distributed to the General Assembly–expected to happen this coming week.” I wish the Secretary-General, and all involved, good luck, and I hope to hear good news soon.

To Dag With Love

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View from above Ralph Bunche Park.

It was a beautiful week in New York City for my visit to the UN Archives. Every morning, I took the 7 to Grand Central Station, walked down 42nd Street, crossing 2nd Avenue – also known as Yitzak Rabin Way, and then on towards 1st Avenue, where the Headquarters of the United Nations rise up along the edge of the East River. I slowed my pace through Ralph Bunche Park, which is mostly concrete, but the small fenced-in area of plants and flowers attracted a couple of American Robins, who were busy hunting for breakfast. I spent my time between 42nd and 47th Avenue – the location of Dag Hammarskjold Plaza – walking past security guards outside the US Department of State and Foreign Missions, and the House of Uganda, feeling very much at the center of the universe with all the languages being spoken around me. I’m sure I was noticed with amusement by a few, I was the only lady with UN blue hair!

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Dashing diplomats, at the entrance of the UN.

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Taking a rest in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza.

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The Gazebo

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There was a farmer’s market my first day at DH Plaza.

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Fun public art – the giant Hello Kitty Time After Time Capsule, designed by Japanese artist Sebastian Masuda.

After my morning walk, I made my way to the UN archives, where the staff were waiting to help me get started. The archives are open to everyone, it’s a free service, and I had a really positive experience there – I even met someone who worked with Vlado’s sister, Olga – who was a librarian at the Dag Hammarskjold Library – that made me very happy. Here was my desk the first day:

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Of course, since it was my first visit to an archive, I requested too much, and had to narrow down and prioritize quickly what I wanted to look at after the first day. To me, it was all very interesting, but I would have needed to spend a month in there, 8 hours a day, just to see everything I requested, and I had only three days!

The hard work was a pleasure, but it gave me an appetite. Fortunately, there were plenty of great choices for lunch in the neighborhood. One day, I had a Maine lobster roll from a food truck across the street from UN Headquarters, and if I hadn’t been so eager to get back to the work, I would have tried out the Nigerian food truck on the next block, too.

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Also had a nice lunch here – a “Dag Burger with Cheese” at Dag’s Patio Cafe in DH Plaza.

By the end of my visit, I came to appreciate that it is the personal letters of these people that interest me the most, and how lucky I am to have so much of Vlado’s correspondence. I went to the archives out of curiosity, with no expectations, but with hope that I would find something special, something that other eyes had missed.

And I was rewarded for my efforts – with a love letter written to Dag.

When I found it, I immediately thought of Susan Williams’ discovery in the Royal Library of Sweden in Stockholm, the intriguing newspaper clipping she found inside Dag’s wallet that said ‘and when Nefertiti murmurs, “Oh Moses, Moses, you stubborn, splendid, adorable fool,” the Bible seems a long way off.’

The writer is very forward in her intentions, and though it embarrasses me to admit it, I couldn’t help but see a bit of myself in her admiration for his character, her wish to do something good because of him. I can’t deny the romantic tone of my writing, that I fell in love with both Vlado and Dag in the course of my research, and that love for them gave me the courage to write some of the things I did, so I feel this letter was meant to be found by me. The last page, with her signature, will be transcribed, to protect her identity. From the same file, I’m also including transcriptions of a letter of introduction from the Ambassador to Spain Jose Felix de Lequerica, and a small note from the Secretary-General’s private secretary, Miss Aase Alm, which came before he received her letter.

From the United Nations Archives in New York, S-0846-0004-08, Operational Records of Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold, 1953-1961.

“Mision permanente de Espana
en las Nacions Unidas

New York, September 14, 1959

Miss Aase Alm
Private Secretary to the
Secretary General of the
United Nations.
New York, N.Y.

Dear Miss Alm:

I have received today a letter from His Eminence Cardinal Spellman, introducing Miss ——, from Houston, Texas, and asking me to receive her. During the course of the conversation Miss —— told me that she wishes to present her compliments to Mr. Hammarskjold and speak to him about a personal matter. I have called her attention about the difficulty of such an interview, as I personally cannot arrange for this meeting not knowing myself the nature of same.

But in the view of the interest shown by Cardinal Spellman, I am giving this letter of introduction to Miss —— in the event that during your conversation with her you may be able to find something of interest to the Secretary-General and, at the same time, comply with the wishes of Miss ——.

Thanking you in advance for your kind attention, I remain

Very truly yours,

Jose Felix de Lequerica
Ambassador
Permanent Representative of Spain
to the United Nations.”

On this note from Miss Alm, two big exclamation points in red pencil were added to hers–in red pencil at the top of the love letter is written “Oh!”:

“I asked Miss —— to write to you, as you were too busy at the moment to receive her; explained at the same time that an appointment would be difficult unless she could give you some information what it would be about. I think you would want to see this because of the introductions from Spellman and de Lequerica!”

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Written on stationary from The Drake Hotel, Park Avenue at 56th Street, New York 22, N.Y.:

TELEPHONE: PLAZA 5-0600
[Ext. 421 written beneath]

Personal

Dear Mr. Hammarskjold;

I chose to meet you through the Spanish Ambassador because I thought that Spain’s more or less neutral position would eliminate any political implications. Even though I did not relate my specific reason for desiring to see you, His Eminence Cardinal Spellman very graciously assisted me by sending a letter of recommendation to H.E. Jose Felix de Lequerica.

Since meeting you through conventional channels is highly improbable, I shall proceed with all frankness and sincerity to reveal my reason for wanting to see you.

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These reasons are unknown to my friends, relatives, or even to my mother who has accompanied me to this city. People travel all over the world to see the many wonders and the beauty of nature, but God’s greatest creation is mankind, and a man of your goodness and wisdom is the most beautiful sight of all.

You know Dag, that although Cassanova was supposed to have been the greatest rogue lover of all time, none of his numerous lady loves ever followed him. Of course his base type of love can be compared to your love for humanity only in that yours is so much more superior on both counts.

How well you use your intellect and readily become a tool to God’s manipulations by carrying out your mission, the burden of your high office with dedication and inspiration.

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If you should perhaps have a few human imperfections, I’m sure they are heavily overshadowed by your better qualities. You undoubtedly derive much satisfaction by working and administrating for humanity and peace, yet high places are sometimes very lonely, demanding the impression of aloofness in order to appear impartial. To complete this impression, some of your close friends might do well to remain obscure. I would like to be a silent friend now and in your riper years after your work is done and you retire to ‘pasture’. And if I might someday in some small way be of any help to you, I would be very happy to make an effort to comply.

I plan to leave New York on Tuesday September 22nd and return to my home in Houston, Texas. I have been here since September 11th and trust that I will not have to wait much longer to meet you.

Please do not be embarrassed by my directness. My manner of writing is usually to the point as you can tell by a letter that I am enclosing here in reference to food surplus.

I realize that in polite society revelations such as I have made here are out of order and are kept more demurely, but time and circumstances do not permit this subtle cultivation of friendship. However, you may rest assured that at our meeting I shall conduct myself in the quiet, controlled dignity that becomes a respectable woman. Personally, I am much meeker and much more at loss for words.

With sincere esteem

Apartheid: “A Policy of Good Neighborliness”

Here are a few videos of Dr. Hendrick Verwoerd, who has been called the “Architect of apartheid” for the policies he put into practice during his time as Minister of Native Affairs and as Prime Minister of the Republic of South Africa.

Recently, in a speech to the Democratic Alliance’s Federal Congress, Allister Sparks listed Verwoerd as one of the “really smart politicians” he had met in his 64 years as journalist in South Africa – but he also included his friend and colleague Helen Zille – an anti-apartheid activist and journalist, who put her life in danger to expose the cover-up of Steve Biko‘s death, calling her “the smartest political tactician of all.” I think the assumption by those upset with his inclusion of Verwoerd, is that they think he admires him personally, when he only called him “smart”. Verwoerd was smart, in that he knew how to manipulate public opinion for personal gain and to turn human rights backwards – when Dag Hammarskjold met with Verwoerd in January of 1961, Brian Urquhart wrote in his biography of him “He had felt that he had been speaking to Verwoerd across a gulf of three hundred years”. But to better understand why people are upset to even hear his name, you must hear Verwoerd in his own words.

“Our policy is one, which is called by an Afrikanns word “Apartheid”. And I’m afraid that has been misunderstood so often. It could just as easily, and, perhaps, much better be described as a policy of good neighborliness. Accepting that there are differences between people, and that while these differences exist, and you have to acknowledge them, at the same time you can live together, aide one another, but that can best be done when you act as good neighbors always do.”

“The Republic is the only sure and stable friend that the western nations have in Africa. We are here to stay, and we are here to aide all others in whatever they may need and can get from us. We have, for a very long time, developed in South Africa a nation of our own – friendly, prosperous, progressive. We hope that the rest of Africa will become likewise.[…] Of course there has been sensational journalism and conditioned reporting, which created the impression that there would be great difficulties ahead of us. We have no doubt at all this will pass. Certain restrictive measures had to be taken recently, mainly to insure to protection of the masses – of all races who seek peace and order. Therefore, a stable government will continue in South Africa.[…] Here the solution is sought by openly retaining the white man’s guiding hand; which elsewhere is the hidden guarantee of industrial development, and even good administration.”

In 1966, Hendrick Verwoerd was assassinated, stabbed in the chest and neck while at his desk in Parliament, but it wasn’t the first attempt made on his life. Six years earlier, at the Johannesburg agricultural show, he was shot in the head twice. This video shows that earlier attempt.

Štvorlístok

The four-leaf clover – Štvorlístok in Slovak – was the symbol of the Fabry family, and finding them and tucking them into books is something our family still does. Here is the first one of the year, a gift found by my husband, my biggest fan and number one supporter.

First Four-Leaf Clover of 2015

I’ve pressed it in my favorite book, “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass” – a man who shares first place with Socrates on my list of heroes. Here is an observation by Douglass that truly inspires me:

“Very soon after I went to live with Mr. and Mrs. Auld, she very kindly commenced to teach me the A, B, C. After I had learned this, she assisted me in learning to spell words of three and four letters. Just at this point of my progress, Mr. Auld found out what was going on, and at once forbade Mrs. Auld to instruct me further, he said, “If you give a nigger an inch, he will take an ell. A nigger should know nothing but to obey his master–to do as he is told to do. Learning would spoil the best nigger in the world. Now,” said he, “if you teach that nigger (speaking of myself) how to read, there would be no keeping him. It would forever unfit him to be a slave. He would at once become unmanageable, and of no value to his master. As to himself, it could do him no good, but a great deal of harm. It would make him discontented and unhappy.” These words sank deep into my heart, stirred up sentiments within that lay slumbering, and called into existence an entirely new train of thought. It was a new and special revelation, explaining dark and mysterious things, with which my youthful understanding had struggled, but struggled in vain. I now understood what had been to me a most perplexing difficulty–to wit, the white man’s power to enslave the black man. It was a grand achievement, and I prized it highly. From that moment, I understood the pathway from slavery to freedom. It was just what I wanted, and I got it at a time when I the least expected it. Whilst I was saddened by the thought of losing the aid of my kind mistress, I was gladdened by the invaluable instruction which, by the merest accident, I had gained from my master. Though conscious of the difficulty of learning without a teacher, I set out with high hope, and a fixed purpose, at whatever cost of trouble, to learn how to read. The very decided manner with which he spoke, and strove to impress his wife with the evil consequences of giving me instruction, served to convince me that he was deeply sensible of the truths he was uttering. It gave me the best assurance that I might rely with the utmost confidence on the results which, he said, would flow from teaching me to read. What he most dreaded, that I most desired. What he most loved, that I most hated. That which to him was a great evil, to be carefully shunned, was to me a great good, to be diligently sought; and the argument which he so warmly urged, against my learning to read, only served to inspire me with a desire and determination to learn. In learning to read, I owe almost as much to the bitter opposition of my master, as to the kindly aid of my mistress. I acknowledge the benefit of both.”

Paying It Forward

Earlier this month, I was on my way to the library with a stack of UN Archives request forms, to take the final step of entering the data into the computer and sending it to the archivists in New York. I stopped to pick up coffee and chocolate at the little grocery and met a friend there, a poet, who has been following the news of the investigation about Dag Hammarskjold, so I showed him what I was doing. Then he asked me – What is the story to you? What are the lessons you have learned in all this? I’ve been thinking about that a lot, since I am at a crossroads with where I am going next, but I will try to answer.

What I have learned from Vlado is that love gives us the courage to take risks, and that we must take risks to make peace in this world. Vlado lost everything – his home, his country, his nationality, and he was separated from his friends and family for long periods of time. From the age of 25 until his death at age 40, his home, his family, his tribe was the United Nations, and his gave all his heart and mind to it. He worked hard, not only because of his personal integrity and strong ethic, but because he needed to belong to a tribe who encouraged him to take risks for peace. He was just so joyful in everything he did – even in his letters of complaints he seems to be enjoying himself – his pluck has inspired me to be happy in everything I do.

Hammarskjold wrote “Pray that your loneliness may spur you into finding something to live for, great enough to die for.” It was out of gratitude for what was given to me, and a need for friends to share this story with, that made me start writing here, back in March 2013. Above all, this blog has been a goodwill effort towards the family members of all those who died in Ndola for peace, to the ideals of the United Nations, to the people of Africa and the world, and every single person that has contributed in some part in holding up the memory of Hammarskjold with their research, everything I’ve learned has come from their devotion to his memory. And to all the kind friends who have reached out to me in generosity – thank you for all that you’ve taught me, for inspiring me to keep writing and learning, and for this time when I’ve felt part of something bigger than myself.

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