In Memory of Vlado: 28 September 1961

With deep respect for Dag Hammarskjold, and all those who died with him, here are the photos from Vladimir Fabry’s funeral in Geneva, 28 September 1961. I’ve also included a postcard photo of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Geneva, the location of Vlado’s memorial service.

John A. Olver, who had been Chief Administrative Officer for the UNOC, and was asked to accompany his fallen friends on the the Pan-Am flight around the world (The first stop was Leopoldville, then Geneva, Malmo, Stockholm, Dublin, Montreal, and last, New York), gives his reflections of this day in his memoir “Under Fire With Dag Hammarskjold”; which is part of “Dag Hammarskjold Remembered: A Collection of Personal Memories”, edited by Mary-Lynn Hanley and Henning Melber:

“As morning light started to appear we arrived at the Mediterranean, and then flashed across that same sea I had crossed in the other direction so recently. By early morning the high mountains began to appear, and suddenly, or so it seemed, the great white tower of Mont Blanc speared upward below us. The view was unusually sharp and clear, and it occurred to me that Dag Hammarskjold, passionate mountain lover, would have enjoyed this moment. I glanced over at Knut [Hammarskjold].

“Yes,” he nodded, “Dag would have liked this.”

Now began the descent for Geneva, down the length of the long, blue lake with the tidy Swiss city waiting for us at the far end. The familiar bump of landing was felt again, and my watch confirmed that the leap from the heart of Africa to the heart of Europe had been accomplished with split-second timing: it was precisely eleven in the morning.

The plane was towed to a large hangar at one end of the airport, and we disembarked into a glorious Geneva day, to join the silent ranks of thousands of mourners. We were home again, yet somehow we felt lost and far away.

In the hangar, the authorities of the city and canton, long accustomed to important ceremonies yet personally affected by the loss of a world leader whom they had come to know well, had set up a small chapel where last respects could be paid to the Secretary-General and his companions. There was a catafalque upon which the Hammarskjold casket would rest, accompanied by a book in which mourners could inscribe their names. In a few minutes, the casket was in place, and a long procession, stretching far out along the side of the airfield, began to form and move slowly into the hangar and out again. We saw in the endless line the faces of family members, friends, and persons from all walks of life and from offices of the United Nations, and the many other international organizations, plus the diplomatic corps and representatives of the Swiss Government.”

Body of Vladimir Fabry Returned to Geneva2
Pan-Am Geneva Sept.1961
Body of Vladimir Fabry Returned to Geneva1
Pan-Am funeral procession Geneva Sept. 1961
Funeral procession Geneva Sept. 1961
Evangelical Lutheran Church Geneva postcard
Evangelical Lutheran Church Geneva Sept. 1961
Vlado's funeral Geneva Lutheran Church
Vlado's casket Geneva Lutheran Church
2 Evangelical Lutheran Church Geneva Sept. 1961
Cimetiere Petit-Saconnex Sept. 1961

One of the most touching tokens of respect to the memory of Vlado, is a large, two-volume book set, embossed with the UN emblem, containing the collected signatures from every UN staff member around the world. Among the signatures of the European Office of the United Nations in Geneva, is this brief homage from John A. Olver:

“He perhaps came as close as humanly possible to being the ideal international civil servant. Certainly his example will endure lastingly in the Secretariat as an inspiration to us all.”

And from another Geneva staff member, whose signature I cannot decipher, there is this:

“I knew him to be a man of courage and of tenderness. It was a fine combination born of a fine mind and of an instinctive respect for his fellow man. When you see a young man growing in stature with the years and being consistently true to the things in which he believes, it leaves an impression that stays with you. Vladimir was just such a man. I shall remember him and be thankful in that memory.”

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