“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
Many of the postcards in the Fabry collection are of typical images from Switzerland, but there are a few that stand out in contrast.
(click images to enlarge)
“Freedom and Independence for Slovakia” was sent from Munich on April 12, 1960, and signed by someone named “Tiso”, but not Jozef Tiso.
The second card, drawn by Dr. Pavel Fabry and written in Slovak, was sent from Aigle, in the Swiss canton of Vaud (a place I am very fond of) on May 1, 1949. I tried to translate this, but was not successful – something about being kicked out of place (a woman appears to be kicking the backside of a man in the drawing, too).
I recognized this image immediately – Lenin’s Tomb and the Kremlin:
The postcard is written in German and dated January 1, 1949, with stamps and cancels from both Denmark and Czechoslovakia – what makes this one even more interesting is that the card is from the Soviet Union, written in Cyrillic.
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I found this – a postcard of the Graf Zeppelin sent from the Graf Zeppelin.
In an entirely different box of papers I found the original ticket for the Zeppelin ride, dated August 17, 1931, with the name “Wladimir Fabry”.
Lucky for him it wasn’t a ticket on the Hindenburg.
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:
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:
On Sunday, I watched the documentary of the McCarthy hearings, “Point of Order”, for the first time, and it is a chilling piece of political theater, composed of the 36 days of televised hearings on ABC.McCarthy was obsessed with an imaginary number of Communists and spies in the State Department, and everywhere else – a number that always changed. Because of his crazy methods and complete lack of evidence, he was censured by the United States Senate. After listening to the drone of McCarthy’s voice for an hour and a half, I wondered if he wasn’t drunk through those entire hearings. He died on May 2, 1957, at the age of 48, from acute hepatitis complicated by alcoholism.
In my American public schools, I learned that history was boring and irrelevant – perhaps it was because all of my history teachers were primarily athletic coaches – but history is a thrilling adventure, and a mirror to reflect our times. How can you not be interested in all the great and horrible details?
In connection to the time of the Army-McCarthy Hearings(April 22-June 17, 1954), I present here a letter from Ambassador C.D. Jackson to Dr. Pavel Fabry, dated February 11, 1954. On this date, Jackson was working as Special Assistant to the President for International Affairs under Dwight D. Eisenhower, and this letter was sent from Berlin during the Berlin Four Power Conference; the Conference was held from January 25 – February 18, 1954. Jackson was a busy man and had a long list of important jobs, including Deputy Chief at the Psychological Warfare Division from 1944-1945, Managing Director of Time-Life International from 1945-49, President of the anti-Communist Free Europe Committee in 1951-52, presidential speech writer for Eisenhower’s 1952 campaign, adviser to the President on psychological warfare from February 1953 to March 1954, U.S. Delegate to the Ninth General Assembly at the UN in 1954, and other illustrious titles.
(click images to enlarge)
Dr. Pavel Fabry drew wonderful pictures that he sent in letters to his friends and family, so I can guess that is what he sent to Mr. Jackson. I offer you one of the finest examples of his work from my collection, “You go slowly but surely”, showing the Palais des Nations in Geneva, which he made for his daughter, Olga:
I have this one framed and hung in my office, to inspire me.
I’m curious if Jackson really did keep and frame what Pavel sent to him, and I wonder what it looked like – there is no copy of it here that I can find. The Dwight D. Eisenhower Library, in Abilene, Kansas, has the collection of Jackson’s letters from 1931-1967, so if anyone has the letter and drawing from Pavel, they do.
In almost all of the photos of Vlado he is clean-shaven, except for a brief period of time when he decided to grow a beard:
This isn’t my favorite look for him, it makes me think of the Boers.
Here are two newspaper articles about Vlado’s visit to New Zealand in 1950, sporting his new beard in the photos (click images to read):
There are some women who really like beards, and Anne Harris of New Zealand is one of them. She sent Vlado this letter from Middlemore Hospital, where she had been for 16 months as a patient, asking him for a little of his beard:
On the back of this letter, there is a note that Vlado replied with a Christmas card that year. If you’re still around, Anne, you’ll have to let me know if Vlado sent you some of his beard!
After I posted yesterday, I learned that Lucy T. Briggs was the daughter of Ellis O. Briggs; an Ambassador for 37 years to many countries, including Czechoslovakia; and sister to Everett Briggs. Lucy became the third member of her family to join the career Foreign Service in August 1957, and her brother, Everett, joined the year before. Vlado most likely knew Ellis Briggs, and that’s why Lucy sent him chocolates and the stuffed Bambi before she’d even met him. From the other letters I found from Lucy, the relationship doesn’t appear to be anything but friendly. I suppose when your work takes you all over the world, it’s good to have friends in many places.
Here is a letter from the UN in Indonesia, asking Vlado to meet with Miss Wiendriati Ernestina Soehadi, who was working at the Indonesian Delegation to the United Nations(click images to read):
This letter comes from a place closer to my home, from Spokane, Washington, written by owner and manager of Broberg Travel Agency Teckla M. Carlson:
And here is a letter from Vlado to Teckla, dated December 19, 1951, describing his experience of arriving at the Tibetan border the very day the Chinese Communists came to take it:
Dear Mrs. Carlson,
It was so sweet of you to remember me when you went again to Europe, and to send me a letter from your trip. I hope you had a lovely time, and brought back with you many pleasant memories. I regret only that I did not know of your trip, I would have liked to give you the address of my parents and sister in Geneva and suggest that you use my car while you were in Switzerland,- you can see so much more while travelling independently on the road. Please let me know next time!
I left the Indonesian mission in May – I was quite glad to leave the country after having spent three and a half years there. I should not be ungrateful really, it was a very valuable experience, and I had many thrilling moments and adventures, but three and a half years is a long time to spend without friends, accustomed amenities, and access to culture and professional education sources. To make it worse, the tropical climate disagreed with my constitution, I had a number of annoying local diseases, and came back 56 lb lighter than I departed. On the way back, I visited Indochina, Macao, Thailand and Burma, and spent some time in India. I made a trek to the Himalayas from Darjeeling, and luck had it that I arrived at the Tibetan frontier post on the day when the Chinese Communist officers arrived to take it over following the surrender of Tibet to the new Chinese rulers. I had planned to sneak at least for a short look-around into the Land of Monasteries, but the sight of the Red Stars rather damped my enthusiasm, and I limited myself to cross symbolically with one foot – and even that I did rather cowardly at a place screened from the sight of the frontier guards by a big rock.
In Europe, accompanied by my family, I toured by car Skandinavia beyond the Polar Circle, the Low Countries, and France and Italy. I arrived in New York late in August, and returned to my regular duties in the UN Legal Department. My home and office addresses are on top of this letter. There is not too much to be written about my life here – after the excitements of my mission assignments and of my travels it is a mere routine. I rented a house in the suburbs, recaptured my cook-housekeeper from the people to whom I had “sublet” her during my absence, renewed my relationships with former acquaintances, and in general live the well ordered life of the Suburban Commuter. When you pass through New York next time, please stop and see for yourself.
I am wishing you a Merry Christmas and all the best in the New Year, and hope to see you or at least hear of you soon.
Update 9/12/13: “Crash Victim Known in City” (from the Spokane Daily Chronicle Sept. 19. 1961, p.24)
Vladimir Fabry, killed in the plane crash that claimed the life of Dag Hammarskjold yesterday in Northern Rhodesia, visited Spokane three years ago.
Fabry, U.S. legal adviser to the United Nations in the Congo is a close friend of Teckla M Carlson, N1727 Atlantic, and he and his sister, Olga, also a UN employee, were her house guests in 1958.
A travel agent, Mrs. Carlson first met Fabry in 1949 at Geneva after he had succeeded in having his father released from a concentration camp. The Spokane woman said they have exchanged letters since that time.
When I first began to sort through the family papers, I found a little stuffed “Bambi”, with a necklace around it’s neck, and a bright green four-leaf clover with a tiny red ladybug hanging from the chain. Then I found the photo of Vlado securing Bambi to the hood ornament of his Buick, which I use as my header on this blog. The Fabry family called themselves “the four-leaf clover”, because they knew they were lucky; and in the books of Olga Fabry, I found hundreds of four-leaf clovers, falling out of the pages. This totally charmed me, because I love to collect four-leaf clovers, too. I’ve been wearing the necklace ever since I found it, and I keep Bambi on my desk.
This is a photo of Dr. Pavel Fabry with Bambi:
This is a letter to Lucy T. Briggs, who gave Bambi to Vlado – I don’t know who she is yet, but she gave him the gift before she’d even met him (click image to read):
I found these other pictures of Bambi being displayed with the photo, right after I took almost the same photo.