Tag Archives: Mary Liz

Vlado and Don and Marty and the Czech Ambassador

It’s been a while since we’ve heard Vlado’s “voice”, so here are a few letters between him and his friends, Don and Marty Davies, from 1955. Their fondness for Vlado is obvious, but it was Marty who wrote these wonderful letters. We don’t get to learn exactly what happened to the Davies car, but there was an accident on the road to La Berarde; and Vlado was being a know-it-all about the altitude of Col d’Izoard with Don, which prompted a “scolding” from Marty. Vlado refers in one letter to a dispute with a Czech Ambassador in Washington about his passport renewal, and I have included scans of the documents in regards to that. Also included are the condolence letters from Don and Marty to Vlado’s mother and sister, from September 1961.

But first, a few photos of the Davies in Geneva – at the UN Palais and Parc de Eaux Vives – and one with Maminka.
Don and Marty Davies Geneva

Don and Marty Davies Parc de Eaux Vives II

Don and Marty Davies Parc de Eaux Vives

21/II/1955

Dear Don and Marty,

you might remember the little Indian chappie called Radhakrishnan who was precis-writer for the GOC and UNCI (if you still remember what that stood for!) – he used his savings from various currency operations etc to make a trip to New York and was taken by Foster to see the Empire State Building. Asked for his impression, he said simply: “It reminds me of sex.” Poor Foster speculated for a while about the symbolic implications of that comment and finally asked point blank for an explanation – which was “but everything reminds me of sex.” Mutatis mutandis (and there’s quite a bit of mutatis, I hasten to add) I’m in the same predicament – everything seems to remind me of the Davieses. To start with – a year ago was the momentous date when I tried to introduce you to the noble sport of skiing and found a response enthusiastic beyond all my expectations; also, last weekend I spend at Mrs Cornwall’s Lodge in North Creek,- although this time both days were perfectly sunny and there was no need to have recourse to crossword-puzzles; going up I was caught speeding practically at the same spot as when we drove up to make our concerted attack on Mt. Marcy:- happily I was able to talk myself out of it; and so on ad infinitum. In other words, I miss you.

I started the New Year with a rather successful party, featuring the traditional roasted pig without the corresponding (also traditional) stinked-in apartment,- but things started going wrong thereafter. I tried to cold-shoulder an infected throat, hoping that the infection will get disgusted and leave if I don’t pay any attention to it, and ended up with a bad bronchitis which kept me at home for two weeks. It may have lasted longer but for the fact that at the end of two weeks came the weekend when I was assigned by the Appalachian Mountain Club to lead a 15-mile crosscountry excursion, my first leading assignment and so I decided to do my duty, fever or no fever. It turned out to be a blizzard day, and breaking tracks through two feet of new snow with a fifty pound rucksack on my back proved to be just the right medicine for my bug,- they took flight in absolute panick even before we finished the trip. I hope I discouraged them permanently from trying to return.

Your postcard from Garmisch had the foreseeable effect, it made me turn a proper green with envy and spoiled my working efficiency for the rest of the day while I was mulling over in my mind the more pleasant alternatives to my enforced location behind a steel grey desk in a steel grey room under a steel grey sky. Would also be interested to know how you made out in Vienna – bit of home territory for me, you know-, whether it was able to shower on you a sample of its old-time Gemuetlichkeit. Don’t take all your vacation time now – I am still hoping that I may get some assignment to Europe this year, and this time I would like to spend a bit more time with you than last year.

My office activities got somewhat expanded into related channels. I was elected representative on the staff committee, i.e. made a shop steward in our trade union,- I have the smallest unit in terms of number of staff but the only one who represents three Under-Secretaries; and I got stuck with the chairmanship of the UN Ski-Club..- Lonely Hearts Club would probably be really a better name, we have 97 girls and 14 men as members (not to speak of some married couples),-some of the girls quite charming little things [but] I still have a lot of troubles chasing after my bachelor-friends and trying them to induce to come as guests on our weekend excursions. I am probably getting to be known as a hopeless lecher, arriving every weekend to a ski-lodge with a carfull (up to six) of different girls. Good thing I have my visa in the bag, I would never have gotten through the investigation after this.

Remember me to your father, please,- you don’t know how wonderfully comforting it felt to know there are kind and thoughtfull people who not only are willing to help us, but will go out of there way in doing so and in taking the initiative themselves. In your words of the understatement of the year: Nice guy, really. God bless him.

With best wishes to you all-
Vlado

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25 May 1955

Dearest Vlado —

Don’t you suppose you could take Mr. Hammarskjold aside and explain that a very important mission takes you to Europe practically immediately, it is a mission in the best interests of the UN, peace and the fellowship of mankind. You know, the usual sort of stuff. You will be happy to report to him personally of your findings and recommendations. This is by way of telling you our time is up, almost. Plans of this moment are for our departure the twenty-second of June for –guess?? Algiers. Don is going to be something called Public Affairs Officer, much better than visa-stamping, but Algiers is not Paris. Since the French insist the problem there is an internal one which does not concern the UN I fear we can’t expect to see you there. I’m so sad. Paris is heavenly even if it is gray and rainy all the time. It is a divine, divine city and I don’t want to leave.

My only hope of getting you over here before we leave is to tell you we’re making the grand tour south to Marseille, to make you so envious you can’t bear the thought of our doing the Route d’Ete via the Col d’Isere, Col du Galibier, Col Izoard so we can see Briancon and Barcelonnette and you’ll come over to drive south with us. Oh, I know, I know, this isn’t by any means the route to Marseille. We’re going to Vienne for dinner and theatre in the amphi—-. What else can you do in an amphitheatre except theatre? And then we do the mountains. Suddenly, unexpectedly inexplicably Don has taken a fancy to mountains. He like them. Does this sound reasonable to you? Me, neither. I’ve just wound up ten pages to the family which sort of explains the typing, I’m typed out but I’m hoping that with sufficient warning of what is in the wind you will take a plane this way. Not only has Don taken a fancy to mountains, he is also fancying sightseeing. This is not to be believed. He drags ME sightseeing. For an entire year I’ve been apologizing at the same time I’ve been insisting on seeing things. Don used to go wash the car while I did churches or chateaux. Now he has the bug and it has bitten him badly. Won’t you come? Can’t you come? Don’t you think your family would like to see you?

We had such a nice visit with your family one evening ages ages back. I was then going to write you immediately to tell you how well he looked and how full of beans and plans he seemed. Goodness he is such a cutey. We’ve both got pretty sweet fathers. I’d be willing to bet he is all hot and bothered about the possibilities in Czechoslovakia now that Austria has been released. My poor darling of a Pop, though, just when he was getting all set to come to Europe for a long holiday, had a stroke. The news cut my heart in shreds simply because I couldn’t visualize Daddy as a cripple. I didn’t count on the incredible spirit which moves the old boy. Nothing is impossible. At his age, with his heart he has stunned the doctors. Instead of spending the entire summer in California as they has thought necessary, they leave for home the middle of June with Pop back on his feet, navigating, weakly, true, but determined that this will not stop him. The subject of a trip to Europe has been brought up again….He belongs to a tougher breed than any of his children.

Italy was great fun. Another time I’ll forget the existence of Rome which is a dull and singularly unattractive city and just concentrate all travel in the north of Italy. Those wondrous hill towns, each more delightful than the next….The news of the move to Algiers was here on our return. Fine thing to come home to.

Love, m.a.

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Hotel St. George
Alger
6 July 1955

Dearest Vlado —

Don has had his scolding; it is now your turn. The two of you were acting like a couple of children. This has absolutely nothing to do with the incident on the road to La Berarde. It was an “accident” in the real sense of the word, unexpected, unavoidable, unpremeditated. Pfft, we forget about it.

But, Vlado, what earthly difference does the precise altitude of the Col d’Izoard make? What great importance does St. Andre’s location on or not on a lake make? There are times when exactitude is frightfully important and insistence upon upmost precision may mean the difference between life and death. But, when Don reads from a travel folder that the Col d’Izoard is blank number of meters high and you flatly contradict him, he can only think that you think he is a stupid oaf because you know the Col is at least blank plus X. I know your reaction because it is one I’ve had to discipline myself to overcome. Fourteen years of discipline because I don’t want to contradict Don and be rude or hurt his feelings. I’ve had to learn that if I disagree or know Don’s position is not right, I must find a way around answering him that will not be contradicting him. Often it means keeping my own counsel if the matter has no great significance; at other times the subject has to be tossed around indirectly until Don sees by himself. Flattery works much better than insult and contradiction often sounds like insult. Contradiction makes conversation impossible….I could watch Don hedging his ideas to protect himself from being pounced upon, hedging them in such a way as to be completely meaningless and thus making himself look exactly the way you made him feel……..Therefore the sullen clouds.

I know now why three squabbling children used to get on Mother’s nerves — yes it is, no it isn’t, it is too, it isn’t either, you’re crazy, I am not, you are too and on and on ad nauseum. And that’s the end of the scolding. Let’s forget it too.

I’ve been told no mountain-climbing here before October, so, unless you can be persuaded to postpone your next summer holiday until Fall, we probably wont see you again till we get home on leave….Thank you for Moustiers Ste. Marie and the very thoughtful call to Marseille. Without you we would have known neither.
Love, marty

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23.IX.1955

Dear Don and Marty,

time flies,- it just knocks my breath out when I stop to think that it is three months since I waved you good-bye at the Roches Blanches in Cassis,- it still seems like last week. I better start recapitulating what I did since to realize how much time I let go by before writing you.

I had a lovely week with mother, Olga and a friend of hers in the Dolomites – each early morning I popped off for a climb while the ladies were resting and picking wild-flowers, and by the time the clouds started gathering in the afternoon, I was back and off we went to the next place. I stopped for a few days of skiing in Cervinia,- went up the Breithorn /4200m/ on skis in shorts, and was roasting through my seventh skin with a tan which even now is still around. Was joined by some friends, fellow-climbers from the Appalachian Mountain Club, in Chamonix for a week’s climbing in the Aiguilles, interspersed with afternoon picknicks in the valley in which Olga and another girl joined up. And then the vacation was over with a blow and back through an empty Paris bereft of your presence and on to New York. Stops in Iceland and Gander, with temperatures near freezing and icy gales, a cold /non-pressurized/ plane, and the shock of landing in New York on the hottest day of the year, and being left standing in our warm clothing and weighted down by assorted luggage on the blazing hot concrete apron in the middle of the relentless afternoon sun. Struggling with heat and humidity through a rather erraticly[sic] unpleasant summer, to be relieved only by the blow and deluge of hurricanes. Apartment hunting /my South-African landlords decided not to have any babies for a while and gave up their “maternity ward” apartment, forcing me to look for a new one/ – but found a very nice place /apt.14-D, 2, Beekman Place, N.Y.22/ a stone’s throw from the office, high up, with unencumbered view over the East River, with the green of the UN garden right under me, bookcases lining not only the living-room and study, but also the bedroom up to the ceiling, and plenty of air,- and I managed to push the price down to 125 a month which is still within my means. A couple of weekends at the shore and one in the White Mountains, and then I took up rock-climbing again and am now hard on it, climbing every weekend. Am spending most of the evenings getting acquainted with the book supply,- see very few people.

Soon after my arrival in New York I was called by my former neighbour from Riverdale, who has taken over /together with three other associates/ the controlling interest in the Muldrow Aerial Survey Corp., a well-established company producing geological maps, surveys, etc. He offered me a job as the manager of their subsidiary company in Calgary /a Canadian corporation/, at a salary of $1.000 monthly, 2% of the sales /another $1.000 monthly/ and expense account including car, club memberships, etc. It was a very tempting offer – it would have meant considerably higher earnings /some 500 $ more monthly after taxes, taking into account that some of my present expenses e.g. car would have been borne by the company/, and a chance to get into private business a few stories about the ground-floor level. However, after a lot of thinking, I refused the offer. Immigration told me that as an employee of a Canadian corporation, I could not maintain my american residence for purposes of acquiring citizenship; the higher earnings seemed more than outbalanced by the lesser security of the job /I had my permanent contract here confirmed, and I have a promotion “in the works”/; the prospect of spending my working day in selling was rather dismal when compared with the pleasure and stimulation that my present job gives me; and last but not least, the prospect of exchanging my independent private life for one where I would have to keep up with the Joneses, backslap prospective customers and be a gregarious “regular” fellow seemed gloomy indeed. So I guess I shall remain an international civil servant for some time to come – offers like that are not falling from heaven each day.

To end this long egotistic tirade – I just had received a registered letter from the Czech Ambassador in Washington asking me to set a date at which it would be convenient to discuss with him personally the question of renewal of my passport /a similar letter was also sent to other emigrees in UN employ/. This is one of the occasions where I wish I was not an international civil servant bound by the rules of diplomatic curtesy[sic] towards an official of one of the Member-governments, so that I could answer the letter in a language appropriate to the occassion!

Before I close, there are two things I want to do. First, to apologize for my behaviour at the Route des Alpes,- I am sincerely sorry to have so stupidly spoiled such a nice trip, and my only and true excuse is that I did not realize what I was doing. My thanks to Marty for opening my eyes. Secondly, to inquire after the health of Mlle. Fregate and about the status of her doctor’s bills – did the insurance company pay up?- Because if not, my offer to cover them still stands, and I will feel much better with a slimmer bank account and a quieter conscience than the other way around. So please let me know.

All the best and lots of love – Vlado

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These four documents were paper-clipped together. Click to enlarge.

Here is the letter from Czech Ambassador Dr. Karel Petrzelka:
Czech Ambassador dispute 1955 IV

A copy of Vlado’s reply to the Ambassador:
Czech Ambassador dispute 1955 III

Here is a letter to Administrative Officer of the UN Bureau of Personnel, Miss Mary McKenna, asking if there are any objections before he sends his reply. And in case you were wondering, Miss Mary McKenna is the famous Mary Liz, and this may have been their first introduction to each other.
Czech Ambassador dispute 1955 II

11 October

Miss Mary McKenna, Administrative Officer
Bureau of Personnel

V. Fabry

1. As I have informed you by telephone, I have received a letter from the Czech Ambassador in Washington suggesting that “in the matter of your passport it may be necessary to hold person to person negotiations on this question”, and offering three alternative dates on which I may visit his office.

2. I consider myself stateless and I am at present residing in the United States on an immigration visa obtained in accordance with provisions made for immigration of displaced persons; after fulfilling the required period of permanent residence in this country, I intend to apply for United States citizenship. For reasons which I trust are known to the Bureau of Personnel, I cannot in good conscience comply with the suggestion made by the Czech Ambassador.

3. On the other hand, I realize that the staff regulations, while not requiring me to give up my national sentiments or political and religious convictions, impose on me the duty to exercise the reserve and tact incumbent upon me by reason of my international status. Consequently, after consultation with my superiors, I decided to send a polite reply to the letter of the Czech Ambassador. The English translation of my reply would read as follows:

“Sir,
In acknowledging the receipt of your letter of 17 September 1955, I should like to inform you courteously that I do not intend to avail myself of your offer to hold person to person negotiations with regard to the granting of a passport, as this issue has become irrelevant(literal translation: as this question has lost its object)”.

I intend to send this reply on Friday, October 14th, unless directed otherwise by the Bureau of Personnel.

And a message to Vlado from Mary Liz McKenna: “The Office of Personnel has no objections to your letter to the Czech Ambassador but we do not, of course, accept the responsibility of approving it.”

Czech Ambassador dispute 1955

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And now, the letters of condolence from Marty and Don:

1908 Belmont Road, N.W.
Washington 9, D.C.
27 September 1961

Nos tres cheres deux Olga,

This morning we laughed again at the mad escalade of Mt. Marcy in the company of Vlado. This evening at dinner we wept for the morning’s excruciating frivolity. Don returned from the office this evening to tell me that his worst suspicions had been confirmed; that the Fabry on the Hammarskjold plane was indeed Vlado.

How could it be, and, yet, how could it be otherwise, for so long as we have known dear Vlado he has been where the UN was having to handle difficult problems. The excitement, the intellectual challenge and the demand upon resources of courage both physical and moral — where else could Vlado be expected? Right there. And Don said this evening he felt that Vlado was merely a younger Hammarskjold, that everything which made Hammarskjold’s loss so irreparable could be repeated in Vlado’s case. Only Vlado, well, Vlado is a very dear and cherished person whom we were privileged to call a friend and whose family we have come to love as our own. Our sense of loss is that of a member of the family.

Our own desolation can be but very little in terms of your own. Vlado was so much more than son or brother; he was your guardian angel, bringing the family together as he did after it had been so painfully separated and then keeping it together with his enthusiasm, devotion and tender care.

Naturally, we are concerned for you both. Wont you let us have a word from you when you feel you can write. If it would suit your plans or your desires, we have heart and the room to take care of you here with us.

With all my devotion deeply saddened,

Marty

*******************************************************************

Sept. 27, 1961

Very dear friends,

It was not until today that I heard about the other members in Mr. Hammarskjold’s plane, and received confirmation of the identities. My first thought was for you. Where are you and what can we do to help?

I found late today that you both are in Geneva – or at least the telegram said “the family” is there.

We grieve for you and our hearts are with you in this difficult time. You must know, of course, that you have our affectionate sympathy.

Please let us know if we can be of assistance. If you plan to return to the United States perhaps we can be of some help in that way.

We would like to be with you now but since I am on post in Washington and will be assigned here for two more years, we cannot see you at least for a while if you are in Europe. But please let us know if there is anything we can do to ease your problems.

We both send our love. Bon courage.

Donald Davies

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Like Father, Like Son

Curve of Longing For Family
One thing I really admire about Pavel Fabry, is how affectionate he was in the letters he wrote to his family. Here is a little sketch of Pavel’s, with him in a hospital bed, a graph behind him that says in Slovak “Curve of Longing For Family”. The doctors are saying they have no cure for this “curve”, and Professor Fabry says he thinks a “Javaensis-Genevensis” tincture is what he needs. This was likely drawn during the late 40’s – early 50’s – when Vlado was working for Independence in Indonesia, Olinka and Maminka were refugees in Switzerland, and Pavel was in a hospital recovering from torture in a concentration camp, in the now former Czechoslovakia. Pavel’s sense of humor here shows he was living life on his terms, that he followed his convictions, and that he was willing to endure suffering for a just cause – a true romantic.

Fall in Love and Lose Weight
Then there are times when I am a little annoyed with him, like with this undated letter, sent to Vlado around the time he was working on the Suez Canal Clearance project in 1957, most likely before the project was finished. Pavel is telling him that he has to lose weight in two weeks, before their family vacation together (which would end with Vlado coming down with Hepatitis, and the weight loss that came with his illness). Then he says with all the tempting food of the Norwegians, Swedes, Canadians and Indians in the desert, that he would have to ride a horse at full gallop all day just to keep fit. He gives Vlado the advice to fall in love to lose weight, but not too happily, so he doesn’t fall apart at the end of it. Really, as if Vlado didn’t have enough to worry about, he has his father telling him he is too fat and needs to go on a diet! He is right though, that falling in love is great for weight loss, but he must have thought Vlado had some kind of superpowers to find a girl to fall in love with on the spot!

If Vlado was a romantic, it was because Pavel set quite an example for him. Romance was never far from Pavel’s mind, as can be seen in this little boudoir sketch (click to enlarge):
Pavel boudoir sketch
What is she whispering in his ear, I wonder?

Sometimes, thoughts of love and food were in competition, like in his surreal sketch of a fish woman:
Pavel La Peche

Keeping to the subject of romance, in another post, we read the love letters of Vlado and Mary Liz, with the last letter written in September 1957. There are no more love letters written by Vlado after that, but I found a portion of a Mr. America magazine, from January 1958, with a cover banner that reads “USE YOUR SEX URGE FOR BUILDING A HANDSOME BODY”:
Mr. America Jan. '58

Who knows if Vlado was trying to control his “urge”, or what, but romance may have been distracting him from larger goals in his life. I think Pavel was not much different than Maminka, in that he wanted Vlado to find a nice girl to marry – but I also think he took vicarious pleasure in hearing about Vlado’s carefree romantic life as a bachelor.

Vlado left some heart-sick women in his wake, as is shown in this last letter from 1959, written by a woman who wasn’t over Vlado at all, and whose impending marriage brought to mind funerals and drowning. This letter is more a distress call than anything else, which makes it a very funny read!

March 4, 1959

Dear Vlado,

Now it looks as if I may be in NY at last, but for the most unexpected of reasons – on a honeymoon! Probably, April 12-25.

I’ve been so interested to notice in how many ways marriage is like death! First, probably the only reason so barbarous a rite as a wedding has lasted so long in our streamlined society is probably the same reason the funeral has – i.e. sociologists say that all the transactions involved in planning a funeral take the bereaved’s mind out of the depths & the same goes for the bride, bereaved of her freedom!

Marrying is also like drowning in that you suddenly relive your past – at least your past loves & all my former boyfriends have come parading their images across my minds eye – & I must say, Vlado, that as I go through my card file, choosing addresses to send announcements to, each card brings up a little doubt, but the most difficult card to process was yours! Isn’t that funny, because I had dated other boys a lot more than you & I was just as inflamed over them.

It’s just that when I think of me settling down to air force protocol (he’s in for 10 more years!) I think of your verve; & when I think of those forever churning conversation on the base about TDY’s, PFR’s, ER reports etc., I dream of the day you, Otto & I went to the woods and captured those flagstones in such a unique way!

When I ask my 3 F’s (friends, family, fiance) what they would think of my sort of going to NY to get my trousseau & choose my silver pattern & all, they retort “and get that Czech at the U.N. out of your system? You’d never come back.” I shall always wonder if I couldn’t have made you come crawling & writhing out of your shell (if there’d been time) like a tortoise does when the Indians tie him above the fire so he will squirm into the soup pot! But my fiance says I’d better marry him without travelling to NY, because regrets are better than despair….

This stationary is a memento from our bi-family conclave to plan the bash (it will be April 11 at the ——City Community Christian Church – I dare you to come & stand up when the preacher asks “If there be anyone who denies that they should be married…”). His family is from Texarkana, long time friends of my folks, but we conclaved on neutral ground – in Fayetteville!

I do hope some sort of wife won’t open this letter, although I’m sure she would be understanding; otherwise she couldn’t have married you! But just in case I wish there was something I could say which would make me sure you’d know who sent the letter, so I wouldn’t have to sign my name, but I have a strong suspicion that you’ve taken many a girl hiking in the rain, driven her to help her pack on Bank Street – & even many admirers have sent you wooden pigs & sustenance pills when you were in Africa! So I’ll just have to say,

so long,

———–

Vlado and Mary Liz, 1957: Part 3

What a year 1957 was for Vlado – from late January until the end of May, he worked night and day on the Suez Canal Clearance Operation, and then he was stricken with Hepatitis; which he had contracted in Egypt, and it took months to recover from that. In all this, there was the consolation of letters from Mary Liz, who remained optimistic in spite of the challenges that kept them apart. Her letters end in September, sometime before Vlado returned to New York, at the end of his convalescence in Switzerland.

It was also a challenging year health-wise for Vlado’s sister, who had suffered a brain concussion – and for their father, who had serious heart troubles. Fortunately, for the ailing Fabry members there was Maminka, who nursed and cared for them all. It was a rare thing for all four of them to be together for an extended period of time, and I imagine she must been happy to give them all her attention.

7 July 1957

Congratulations!!!

and thank you for letting me know how you are. It’s such a relief to picture you sitting up and starting to enjoy life again. Yet every time I remember what you’ve been through I literally shudder. But you sure are made of stern stuff Vlado, that steak & 4 eggs for breakfast routine of yours must have helped too.

I hope you’re convalescing well. It seems as though with this illness the convalescent period can be trying since you feel like you’re “raring to go” whereas you’re actually not completely healed. And especially with Vlado who is so enthusiastic.

Karol read me parts of your letter to him – his came before mine & he knew how anxious I was – and you’re already thinking of the U.N. I know you have to but “take it slow”.

Now about my Trans-Atlantic phone call. I realized that you would be upset when you heard about it. But as I mentioned in my subsequent letter to your sister, I was sure they would not tell you until there wasn’t any chance of it aggravating your condition. As it happened, I had just heard from Karol that you were sick with some liver ailment but he didn’t know how serious it was. And when I tried to find out from Miss Cerna whether you were in the hospital and what your condition was, (it’s either good, fair or critical over here) all she said was that you were sick for a couple of weeks, that you would be for a while yet, and didn’t say whether you were in the hospital. So I hope you understand why I couldn’t tolerate it & had to call. It is fortunate that your sister speaks English – otherwise I’d have been completely frustrated (incidentally I’ve been promoted to French IV, but I was in no mood to try speaking that). It must have been difficult for her since she didn’t know who in the world I was. Actually, I knew I probably wouldn’t speak with you, if only due to the lateness of the hour. I just wanted to know how sick you were.

It’s wonderful though, to be able to speak with someone on the the other side of an ocean. Sometimes I think we can do anything if we try hard enough. I mean the scientists can.

But since you seem to be getting along alright I can wait until September to speak with you. I’m dying to see you again (have I said that before?) but realize that, after the attack you had, you need two months at least to rest up. Anyway, you’re in good hands so there’s no need to worry.

Love,

Mary Liz

P.S. My father keeps asking me how you’re coming along.

P.P.S. My letters end abruptly but that’s me. I’m trying to improve on it.

Geneve, 9.VII.1957.

Dear General,

Please forgive me for the delay in answering your letters, but it was only this morning that I got the permission to get up a bit,- and besides, even if I had been allowed to write earlier, I would have hardly been able to. For three weeks my fever never dropped under 104 – it was apparently all my fault, my body fighting against the illness instead of letting itself go – and even now I am still quite shaky. But I was really glad that I managed to finish the report before the virus started its dirty work – the first symptoms showed up on my last day in Holland – and I must have had a presentiment of the things to come that made me so eager to do the job before embarking on a vacation. Luckily the incubation period for the infection is 6-12 weeks, and that gave me ample time to clear the decks.

I am very grateful for your letters which cheered me up a lot, and I want to thank you sincerely for your kind words as well as for the thoughtfulness and effort of writing to me so often. I admit frankly that up to now I am still in a stage where I cannot bring myself to think with too much interest of any future work projects, but I am sure that I shall return to them with eagerness as soon as I recover. I will have a hard time to live up to the flattering words that you used about me in your letter to Mr. Stavropoulos.

Central Europe has the most marvelous summer-weather it had since decades – up to now I was in no position to appreciate it one way or another, but as I am recuperating interest in my surroundings I begin to realize what perfect mountain-climbing conditions I would have had if I had not let myself so stupidly be involved into an illness. For this season I will of course have to forget about mountain climbing and restrict myself – at best – to tame little walks along comfortable paths in some health resort.

My sister has unfortunately still not quite recovered from her accident, she still suffers occasional loss of balance and of memory, and so her wedding plans were again postponed until later. I am a bit sorry for mother with her two patients – she wouldn’t hear about my going to a hospital and insisted on nursing me all along – but she seems to take it well and claims that at least she was able to have a real long visit of mine this way. She remembers you and talks of you very often, you seem to have made quite a lightning contest and left a deep impression during the few minutes she was able to enjoy your company. My father also asks to convey his regards.

Thank you again for everything, and “au revoir”. Please give my best to Mr. Connors.

Respectfully yours

Vlado

Geneve, 10. VII. 1957.

Dear Oscar,

The doctor allowed me since yesterday to get up for a couple of hours each afternoon, and I am taking the opportunity to write to you and to thank you for your interest and for the very kind words you wrote to me and to Olga. I am feeling much better now, my temperatures are near normal (although for three weeks they never dropped under 104) and I am starting to feel interested in my surroundings again. But I still feel very shaky and tired, and spend most of the time asleep – after all, the kind and quantities of food that I am allowed to take in could hardly provide enough energy for a sparrow to keep alive. I don’t think I have even been so limp and listless before – I have literally to force myself to get out of bed, although normally I can’t stand it to be bedridden. But I hope that this sorry state of affairs will improve now that I am over the hump.

The weather during the past three weeks was about the best that Europe had in many a decade – hot but dry, with unblemished blue skies and radiant sunshine. Not that it made any difference to me at the time, but now that I am beginning to take more interest in life I feel a little pang of regret thinking of the perfect climbing conditions that I could have enjoyed if I did not let myself get stupidly involved into my illness. Well, it doesn’t look that I would be fit during the rest of this year to do any more than a few tame walks along the promenade of some health resort, so it seem to matter how the rest of the summer will shape up. I am glad though that I managed to finish my work on the UNSCO report before I got knocked out of circulation – I must have had some sort of a presentiment about it which made me rush the job. At this point I should also apologize for any trouble that I may have caused to you and Costi by my letter to Gen. Wheeler complaining about Sullivan’s position. I was already feeling unwell at the time and rather sorry for myself, and Sullivan had been a very sore chapter in the life of UNSCO, so I just blew up. Thanks for the reassuring words.

My doctor still refuses to commit himself in any way as to the time it will take until I am fit to travel back to New York and to resume my duties. I shall let you know about it as soon as I am told myself.

I hope you manage to enjoy some nice holiday with Molly and your daughters this year, and that you will have a pleasant summer. Please give my best regards to them.

With my best wishes,

sincerely yours,

Vlado

Geneve, 20. VII. 1957.

My Dear One,

thanks for your two letters (30.VI and 7.VII) and for all your love and thoughtfulness that showed and shone through them – it made me feel like packing up and flying to you right away. But on second thought I rejected the idea again – I don’t think I could bear it to have you around in the grumpy, messy and lazy state of mind in which I am now, it wouldn’t be fair in any case. I do look a bit less Oriental now (except for my eyes) but otherways[sic] I still seem to be in a sort of physical and mental doldrums. No wonder, with the amount and kind of food that I am allowed to eat even a kolibri-bird would have troubles keeping alive[Vlado means the family Colibri of Hummingbirds.-TB] (seems providential that I had gotten so fat in Egypt and could burn away the stored-up mass like a camel its hump), but even the few crumbs that I swallow seem to have troubles getting through my stomach and knock me out for a couple of hours after each meal. I would have never believed it if anybody had told me that there will be a time when I shall voluntarily (sic!) betake myself to bed and actually enjoy staying there. I don’t remember ever having been so limp and listless before, just as shaky and ready to drop as an aspen leaf in October. Somehow it doesn’t even bother me just to float along – at first I fought the doctor trying to get him to let me get up and out, but by the time he allowed me to do so I lost interest and the energy to make use of my new freedom, and now I have literally to force myself out of bed. It took me four days before I gathered enough determination to write this letter. Not much to be congratulated upon!

Apart from giving you my latest medical bulletin, there is hardly anything else that I could write. My mental activities are limited to reading news magazines and extra-lightweight literature a la Forester, Chesterton, and Hemingway, with occasional Huxley or Anouilh thrown in, not to speak of Francoise Sagan and a ghastly Nevil Shute. I certainly don’t let the international situation worry me, far from it; although they[sic] are a few things to worry me nearer-by – my sister is still in a very bad shape from her accident and my father had three attacks during last month – and all this has of course further ramifications that will have to be thought out and decided upon soon, for my sis regarding her planned marriage and for father whether to let him continue working, but all this is still too complicated for me to bother right now. My apartment situation in NY is in a mess too, I may have to call on your help for storing awhile the things I have there if I decide to give it up – it would be a three-cornered project with Karol supplying the key and packing, Harry my car for driving and you the expert and dependable management and, if you can, a bit of an attic or closet space. I shall send you an emergency signal with instructions if it comes so far – although, on second thought, I remember now that you are off to Cape Cod, so it shall have to be somebody else. Anyhow, I don’t think it will really be necessary. By the way, how long are you going to be on the Cape – better let me know your address so I can drop you a line there in case I come back before you.

You can see my muddled and wobbly mental state from the way this letter reads – but between the lines I hope you can see the real message which is lots of love.

Vlado

P.S. Father sends his best, and decided to brighten up the envelope a bit to make up for the poor letter. Thanks to your Dad for his interest.

Here is just one example of Pavel’s cheery envelopes:
Pavel Fabry envelope drawing

29 July 1957

Well I finally got off to the Cape – arrived here at Chatham 8:00 Saturday morning after an all-night train trip. This has convinced me I should learn to drive – but definitely. It really wasn’t so bad – had a fascinating conversation on electroencephalography with a doctor we met. While I was at the hospital I saw it practiced on a Puerto Rican woman – but she was so scared of everything that the result wasn’t too enlightening -. Still it does prove a lot.

Chatham is a quiet little town and we’ve seen all there is to see so far. Yesterday we bicycled around and today we had some fun with a motor boat. However the water was sort of rough and we had quite a time leaving a certain island that we had stopped at. Especially since there were lots of rocks that you could be dashed against.

On Wednesday we plan to go to Provincetown.

It was was so good to get your letter. It came just before I left and quite unexpectedly since I know you’re feeling so lousy. Still I had wished I’d hear from you.

What I meant by “Congratulations” was that I was so glad your fever had gone down and that the worst was over. Even tho maybe it’s not so apt an expression, I couldn’t think of anything better at the moment. But it’s quite natural that you should feel so weak and it’s just as well that you float along sometimes.

I’m so sorry to hear about your sister & your father – Karol had told me about Olga’s accident when he told me about you; but at that time he thought she was getting along all right. And she sounds so sweet in her letters. -It never rains but it pours I guess.

Your father’s envelope was just the cutest thing. Hope he’s feeling better and tell him thanks for his greeting.

However, no letter of yours needs brightening. And if you knew what it means to me just to read that you do care, you wouldn’t think so either.

As far as your apartment – even tho I won’t be back till sometime August 17th, you could get in touch with H.S. (my father, that is) since the space is there for any of your things. He’d be only too happy to do something.

Really don’t know where I’ll be for a couple of weeks – probably be moving around. But from 10 August to 17th I’ll be in the Berkshires – address is: Chanterwood, Lee, Massachusetts. It’s supposed to be mid-way between Tanglewood and Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. Only don’t tell me your coming back till you’re actually getting on the plane (a post card would do). And please don’t feel you have to write otherwise, because I understand.

All my love,

Mary Liz

Commerorative Medal letter

7 August 1957

TO: Mr. V. Fabry

FROM: A.G. Katzin, Deputy Under-Secretary

SUBJECT: Commemorative Medallion
United Nations Suez Canal Clearance Operation

A medallion commemorative of the Suez Canal Clearance Operation has been struck by the Smit-Svitzer consortium for their own distribution among personnel, salvage officers and crews associated with them in the operation.

They have requested that one of the medallions should be presented to you on their behalf and it is suggested that you might like to acknowledge this gesture direct to Mr. Murk Lels, Chairman and Managing Director, L. Smit & Co.’s International Sleepdienst, Westplein 5, Rotterdam, Netherlands.

This medallion is one of thirty-two which the salvage consortium have distributed as a token to certain members of General Wheeler’s staff who participated in the field operation and to representative members of echelons of the Secretariat and others who assisted generally in the operation.

Suez Canal Commemorative Medal obverse

Suez Canal Commemorative Medal reverse

Geneve, 23.VIII.1957.

My Dear One,

I hoped to be with you by now – but it still isn’t quite that far yet. I am going to be released from sick-leave status by the end of the month, though, unless some new trouble shows by then. Seems I really managed to make a mess of myself. Then they want me to take a convalescing cure for two or three weeks – which I wouldn’t mind too much as I shall be allowed to go on walks and to spend the time in the mountains (or rather, unfortunately, under them). I’m still weak, listless and irritable, but I’m sure that will pass when I’m able to live more normally. I can eat a bit more now – an absolute starvation diet by my usual standards but quite an improvement – although I still get cramps whenever I exceed the slightest bit the norm in amount or kind, and nothing will do but the most carefully supervised home cooking. And that is supposed to last for another three months – how cheerful!

My future dietary problems caused me also to change my mind about my apartment. I don’t know whether you heard, but my landlord had some troubles with the house owners (who want to make a cooperative and force old tenants out) about subletting the place, and as a result my sub-sub-tenant, David Sisson, had to move out in May a few weeks earlier than his agreed date (which was to coincide with my planned return). The situation was apparently smoothed out, but the threat that the sub-tenant may have to leave the apartment at short notice persisted, and so I wrote to my landlord that I did not consider further bound by my lease as of May. There was some correspondence in which he asked me to remove my belongings and I claimed difficulties. But after learning that I shall have to rely on home cooking because my diet will still be too restricted to allow me relying on restaurants I decided that I may be best off keeping the place (where I can go home for lunch) even if it will be only for a short time. Two days ago I wrote to Mr. Crandall that if he did not yet find another tenant, I am willing to keep the apartment. At the same time I wrote to him that if he has rented the apartment and still insists on moving my stuff out, he should get in touch with you. I hope it won’t be necessary but if it comes to the worst, would you be kind enough to see to it that my things are properly packed and put away – maybe Harry LeBien could help you taking the stuff away, and of course if you can keep it for a while in some attic it would save the need to crate the loose items that do not fit into the two empty suitcases I have there. There are two packed suitcases, a rucksack and a lot of loose stuff in the two closets (bedroom and hall) that I used; if I remember well, I left there also some small bags, some packed and some empty. You will, I hope, recognize my radio, embroideries and dishes and glassware – if not, a commission consisting of you, Karol, David Sisson and Mr. Crandall should be able to decide on the ownership of each item found in the bedroom, living room and kitchen. My books were on the lower shelf on the right of the bed. The biggest problem will be the kitchenware which I left out so that David can use it, but where some items belong also to Mr. C.. I hope you don’t mind this nuisance but it is a great comfort to me to know that somebody will take good care of my interests if it comes to it, and I know I can rely on you!!!

Au revoir soon – and all my love –

Vlado

8 September 1957

I sure was disappointed when I read that it would be later still. But it’s much wiser and, of course, only fair since you didn’t have any vacation. You must be having a wonderful time; wish I was there.

Thanks for the pictures. You certainly have made good progress. Being able to sit up for your meals really means a lot, doesn’t it. What really hit me in the other picture (besides your horizontal position) though was the look on your face and the way your hand lay so limply. Don’t ever do that again! – get sick, I mean.

And the beard is interesting. I guess it was hard to shave in bed. But wasn’t it uncomfortable during those hot days?

I look kinda different too – got my hair cut. But since I haven’t a decent picture you’ll have to use your imagination. Hope you like it too, because I do – lots.

So far I’ve heard nothing from Mr. Crandall. I’m glad you recognize my dependability. My mother told me it would come in handy. I just like doing things for people like you, though. So don’t worry about it being a possible nuisance.

Hope to see you real soon, darling. I love you –

Mary Liz

Vlado and Mary Liz, 1957: Part 2

When reading biographies, I’m always disappointed when letters are quoted in part and not printed in full, because I’m interested in even the mundane details of a life. Vlado’s life was anything but mundane in 1957, and his letters tell a great story – Mary Liz was just one part of it. I’ve also included here correspondence from General R. A. Wheeler (a.k.a. “Speck”), Oscar Schachter, Vlado’s sister Olga (Olinka – who we learn has had a head injury that postpones a wedding to man she later decides not to marry); and Don Sullivan, who sent a poorly phrased letter that pushed an exhausted Vlado too far, showing that even someone as intelligent and respected as Vlado had his bouts of insecurity. And though I have not included the letters of Vlado’s Maminka and Tatulo, they make an appearance here in their own charming way.

—————————————————————————————————

9 May 1957

Dear Vlado,

Thank you for your letter of 29 April. We had been wondering why we had not heard from you for so long a time, but I am glad to learn at long last that you had a particularly enjoyable assignment and that you found General Wheeler and the rest of the group so congenial. You may recall my discounting the story which you got about possible difficulties in working with the General. I am glad that your relations turned out to be as I anticipated. Stavropoulos told me that you had requested about five weeks’ leave and I am certainly agreeable to your taking it. I am terribly sorry to learn of Olga’s accident but I hope that by this time she has entirely recovered. We had heard somewhat indirectly about the forthcoming wedding but we were not quite sure of the date. I hope you found your parents well and in good spirits. Please give all of the family our warm regards. We look forward to seeing you on June 20th.

Sincerely,

Oscar

Oscar Schachter

Dr. Vladimir Fabry
14 Chemin Thury
Geneva

—————————————————————————————————-

UNITED NATIONS SUEZ CANAL CLEARANCE GROUP

ISMAILIA

15 April 1957

Dear Mr. Fabry:

Mr. and Mrs. Connors and I cordially invite you to buffet supper at our residence at 6:00 p.m. Sunday, 21 April.

As we near the end of our Mission here, we wish to express our sincerest appreciation for your loyal and efficient assistance throughout our strenuous task. It will be a great pleasure for us if you are able to come to our farewell party.

Will you kindly let Miss Picard know if you can come.

With best wishes,

Yours sincerely,

R. A. Wheeler

Special Representative of the
Secretary-General
United Nations

Mr. Vladimir Fabry,
UNSCO
Ismailia.

——————————————————————————————————

16 April 1957

Vlado darling –

Just wanted to wish you a Happy Easter! And tell you that a package is on its way to you. However, I had it planned so that you would get it on the 20th and now I see in your last letter that you’ll be leaving Egypt on just that date. Honestly, I could scream! Aside from that, I think it’s wonderful that you[‘re] leaving – finally.

– Have a good vacation –

Love

Mary Liz

—————————————————————————————————-

General Wheeler cable 6 May 1957

CABLE

6 MAY 1957

PEREZGUERRERO UNTAB CAIRO

FOR FABRY FROM GENERAL WHEELER

QUOTE MOST ENJOYABLE VISIT WITH YOUR PARENTS AT AIRPORT ALSO WITH SECGEN AND DOCTOR BUNCHE WHO LEARNED MY ARRIVAL THROUGH TELEPHONE CALL TO UNATIONS HEADQUARTERS BY YOUR MOTHER STOP DISCUSSED OUR OPERATIONS FOR TWO HOURS WITH SECGEN AT AIRPORT STOP INFORMED HIM MANY THINGS WE DISCUSSED BUT STILL PLENTY FOR YOU TO DISCUSS BUT DON’T BELIEVE HE WILL REMAIN LONGER THAN ONE WEEK HOWEVER NOT URGENT SINCE CAN WAIT UNTIL YOUR RETURN STOP THANKS YOUR HELP ON MY DEPARTURE STOP BEST WISHES FOR HAPPY HOLIDAY UNQUOTE

PANOMNIPRESS

——————————————————————————————————

6 May 1957

Dear General,

I hope you had a good trip, arrived safely and found everything just as you expected. Your poor little left-over here is quite busy and rather sad; Egypt and life in general without you just isn’t quite the same.

Nothing in particular happened since your departure except that two packages arrived with some workshop instruments. Basil just came from Ismaïlia; everybody there remembers you and of course they all miss UNSCO and you in particular. I reviewed and revised the Syllabus and it is being typed now. If we can finish typing it before the pouch closes, you will find it enclosed, if not it will have to wait until the next pouch. Yesterday and today I worked on Chapter XV – Administration and Finance and tonight I plan to tackle the concluding chapter. I will send you a copy of both separately with Friday’s pouch to complete your set of the provisional draft of the report.

I am enclosing the clippings of two articles from local papers which I think might be of interest to you. I spoke this morning with Aly Khalil and he will send to you an English summary of any interesting articles that appeared in the Egyptian press at the occasion of your departure. I am also enclosing the apportionment of cost of hire of salvage vessels to the individual wrecks, but unless you cable me and instruct me so, I shall not append this information to the report. Whoever wants to take the trouble can prepare a table for himself from the operational chart of work done on the wrecks. Your two albums received from Col Younes were given to the Information Centre for pouching whenever their weight permits.

I think that’s about all, except for my best wishes for a very pleasant vacation.

Yours respectfully,

Vlado

P.S. I sent a little thank you note and a few flowers to Mrs. Idriss also in the name of all the others who were invited on Friday afternoon; I am mentioning this only so that you are not surprised if you hear about it.

—————————————————————————————————–

10 May 1957

Dear General,

Please find enclosed two copies of the revised draft of the Syllabus, as well as two copies of the first draft of Chapters XV XVI of the report. The only gap in the report now is the description of the “extraordinary feats” of our salvage crews in Chapter XVI, paragraph 5, which as you may remember, Jack Connors undertook to provide; I might try my hand on it when preparing the final draft. If you have any comments to make on what I said in these two chapters, please cable me.

I worked quite hard since you left and spent all my days and evenings in the office. But my work is progressing very slowly and I am still only about halfway through the report. There are so many things that give rise to second thoughts or flash danger signals when re-read, that making a second draft is nearly like writing the report anew. I am also trying to work out the language so that it would require minimum changes when the draft is finalized at Headquarters. I expect and hope to be able to send you the complete revised draft by next Friday’s pouch. As agreed, I will send a copy to you directly to Washington; three copies to you at Headquarters in a sealed envelope to be held until your arrival; and one copy to be held at the UN for Mr. Connors.

Thank you for your kind cable from Paris. I also got a letter from my mother who of course is enthusiastic about you but felt very sorry for you that you were deprived of your nap during the Geneva stopover.

You have probably read about the Secretary-General’s visit to the Middle East. I have asked Shastri to bring to the Secretary-General’s attention my presence here and my availability to report to him on UNSCO if he so wished, and also obtained the necessary visa so as to be ready to travel to Beirut or Jerusalem at a moment’s notice. But there was no reaction to my message so far and I assume that he has probably too many other things on his mind right now. In any event, by your meeting with him in Geneva the need for an immediate oral report has, I believe, been largely obviated.

I hope you don’t mind my bombarding you with papers during your vacation. After all, you don’t have to read them.

Respectfully yours,

Vlado

—————————————————————————————————-

14 May 1957

Vlado darling,

You’re probably thinking that I’m very silly for bringing this up, but I can’t help thinking it’s important — polio vaccination. Everyone here is getting vaccinated (that is, everyone under 40) so I think if you can, you should. The germs have to go somewhere & they’re going to be a lot more virile too. Of course you’re healthy and never catch anything but since everyone else is doing it…..(that’s what the doctors say).

It’s going to be so good to see you again Vlado — I can hardly believe it’s only a few more weeks. We’ve got so much lost time to make up.

Wish I had time for more but I’m on my way to work now and have to dash.

Take it easy on those Swiss mountains.

Love from Mary Liz

——————————————————————————————————

COPY (CABLE)

16 May 1957

DRACO 253 FOR FABRY FROM WHEELER

GRATEFUL YOUR LETTER TEN MAY STOP EVEN BACK HOME WITH ALL ITS PLEASURES I STILL FIND MY PRIORITY INTEREST IS YOUR WORK IN CAIRO STOP YOUR DRAFTS ARE MOST EXCELLENT AND YOUR PROGRESS PHENOMENAL STOP WILL BE PLEASED TO RECEIVE COMPLETE REVISED DRAFT STOP SECGEN HAS APPROVED MY LEAVE TILL JUNE FIRST WHEN I WILL RETURN NEWYORK STOP HOPE VERY MUCH YOU CAN SOON BEGIN YOUR LEAVE WHICH YOU HAVE SO WELL EARNED BEST WISHES

KATZIN NEWYORK

—————————————————————————————————–

23 May 1957

Dear Mr. Fabry:

Since I have returned to New York I have been doing some of the completion work required here in the Suez Canal Office. Unfortunately, the question has arisen here by others on the date you were supposed to depart from Cairo. My only reply was that according to the best of my knowledge you were due to depart from Cairo approximately 10 May or the latest 12 May and had planned to spend just a couple of days visiting Luxor. I was advised today that on 20 May you were still in Cairo and were planning to leave there on 22 May. This was quite a surprise to me, but my only reply can be that any arrangements about your delay must be due to a special arrangement with General Wheeler in connection with the report. However, you know that it is rather difficult for us to visualize what type situation developed which required your stay in Cairo as late as 22 May.

In a letter received today by Mr. Frerker it was noted that you planned to arrive Monday or Tuesday in Rotterdam. Therefore I am writing this letter to you via the Information Officer in order that it may reach you on Monday. I have been instructed to inform you that you are to finish your work within two days in Rotterdam and mail all papers in your possession to me here at Headquarters. As a result we will assume you are on annual leave beginning Wednesday, 29 May. Furthermore, relative to your extended stay in Cairo from 10 or 12 May to 22 May, I think, for per diem purposes, you should submit a report on your requirements for your continued stay in Cairo. Pending the receipt of this report I have no alternative but to consider your stay in Cairo from 12 May to 22 May as on personal annual leave.

I am sorry to have to write you this type of letter, but when we discussed this matter in Cairo I told you at that time that the officials at Headquarters take a rather serious view of mission personnel staying in the area beyond the agreed departure time, unless there is adequate and full justification.

Regards.

Don Sullivan

——————————————————————————————————

26 May 1957

Vlado darling,

You’re post-card arrived on Friday as a big surprise. Here I was thinking you were enjoying yourself in Europe when all the time you were slaving away in Egypt. I would have written if I knew you were still there but I figured that, since you were on vacation and with your family etc., you wouldn’t miss not getting a letter from me. Thank you for that particular card, too.

Also I feel that anything I may write seems so trite, especially compared with what you would tell me. I mean, there you are making history and really tidying up this world of ours and here I am telling you about the latest movie I’ve seen. Which reminds me that Karol took me out a while ago and we saw the “Bachelor Party” – very good, people were so real. But before we left each other (to go home) he asked me to try & arrange something with Helse – just the three of us. And I did – about 3 weeks ago we went out & had a very good time. First to the Beekman Towers for a drink, then to Gay Vienna, & we had dessert at the Cafe Geiger. It’s fun playing cupid.

Actually, the last movie I saw was “The Mountain” and thought it good from the climbing point of view and the photography but the main character was a little too good to be true. I just couldn’t believe it was Spencer Tracy either.

But I do other things besides go to the movies, I assure you. Just finished Greene’s “The Quiet American” & was very amused, although I realize he must have been feeling sort of bitter when he wrote it. Yet I can’t help feeling that he does like us after all. (Maybe I say that because I’m just like a lot of Americans who can’t see why they should have any enemies.) But there was one part I liked & that reminded me of someone I know. He is describing the girl he’s in love with (she is Vietnamese) & how “…she is wonderfully ignorant. If you were speaking of General Thế [leader of Vietnamese forces] in a conversation, she’d interrupt to ask who he was.”

It had a happy ending, which was nice. Some people say he’s pessimistic – I don’t know as all I ever read by him was some short stories and the “End of the Affair.” I must read The Heart of the Matter, tho.

Hope you come home early in July since I’ll be going away the 29th to Cape Cod but not with the family (they were so vague about when they would go, I went ahead & made plans with a girlfriend). We’ve got to go hiking together!

I’ve been waiting to wear your skirt till you return but I’ve shown it to all my friends & they all agree that it’s just beautiful. I don’t know who actually purchased it and whether you mentioned whom it was for but you may tell the person who bought it that I appreciate and enjoy it so much. Thank you again, you’re a prince.

All my love,

Mary Liz

Remember what you said before you left about keeping to myself. You know, I am (in the way I think you meant) but not just because you said so, but because I want to.

——————————————————————————————————

V. Fabry.

Rotterdam, 6 June 1957

Dear General,

I trust you have received my letter from Athens and I hope you were able to decipher it. It took me nearly a week to shake off my flu – I would probably not have had the patience to stay in bed that long, but my mother was with me and I had to obey higher authority. She also convinced me that it would not make sense to fly off to Rotterdam on a Friday and we spent three wonderful days in Rhodos, basking in the sun and enjoying the sea and sights. As it turned out, there was no need for me to have a guilty conscience about delaying the Salvor’s operational report: it is still in preparation, and only today was I able to see the draft of its third section. I was pleased to note that our information is more accurate in many respects that that available to Salvors, and the comparison of our draft reports was decidedly not a one-sided affair. I am writing to you under separate cover on the results of my inquiries here.

I had a very disagreeable surprise upon my arrival here: a letter from Mr. Sullivan informing me “that it is rather difficult to visualize what type situation developed which required your stay in Cairo as last as 22 May” and that he has no alternative “but to consider your stay in Cairo from 12 to 22 May as on personal annual leave”. Mr. S. instructed me to finish my work in Rotterdam within two days and to mail all papers in my possession to him. He told me that officials at HQ take “a serious view” of mission personnel extending their stay without adequate justification; the whole tenor of the letter clearly indicates that I am very much in the dog-house.

I feel quite certain that Mr. S’s letter was not written on your instructions. In any case, I can’t believe that you would have such a low opinion of my honesty and loyalty to my duties to have authorized a letter questioning my integrity and placing a black mark on my record. I have swallowed quietly and without complaint many an undeserved slight and insult caused to me, and I always tried to assuage the feelings of other mission personnel when they were incensed by Mr. Sullivan’s tactlessness or arbitrary manners. But this time I was too deeply hurt to let things pass without comment. It is not for me to say whether I managed to do an useful job, but I certainly worked hard and long hours up to exhaustion. Since you left Cairo, there was only one evening when I quit my desk before 2 a.m.; I did not even take the time to have a look at the museum or a haircut. I have of course no witness for the solitary evenings spent in the office, but Mr. Perez-Guerrero dropped in occasionally and can testify that I was never idle and quite worn out by the time I left Egypt. Excuse my getting so emotional about it, but I resent very much Mr. S’s implication – and his placing it on the record – that I was goldbricking and trying to swindle the UN out of per-diem or leave. Maybe he cannot visualize how anyone can work hard when his superior’s back is turned, but I happen to be one of those queer characters who take a pride in completing their jobs for the sake [of] achievement and who feel unhappy as long as something is left undone.

I still consider myself bound by your instructions to send all my communications concerning the report in a sealed envelope addressed to you, and I am therefore disregarding Mr. Sullivan’s directive to send my papers to him. On the other hand, I cannot but obey his injunction not to spend more than two days in Rotterdam; I am therefore regretfully sending on some of the Appendices in an uncompleted form, not having had the time to prepare a clean copy or (as in the case of Appendix O) to select and annotate the relevant material. I assume it will have to be done in New York.

It was a wonderful mission, and having met you and worked for you was one of the nicest things that ever happened to me. I am glad and proud to have been assigned to UNSCO and will always look back with pleasure at the time spent on this assignment (even though my sincere efforts will apparently end up with a blot on my record). I only hope that my work was not quite useless and that you found my services to be of some advantage. I am looking forward to see you and Mr. Connors at Headquarters by the end of this month.

Respectfully yours,

Vlado

—————————————————————————————————-

11 June 1957

Dear Vladimir,

Thank you for your letter of 6 May from Cairo, of 27 May from Athens and of 6 June and 7 June from Rotterdam. There is no need for me to tell you again how very much I appreciate the fine work that you have done in completing our report. It is a most excellent job that I am very proud to sign. I am sure that its thoroughness, accuracy and completeness will impress the Secretary-General.

I am informed here that a short report is desired from us by 15 June. We have, therefore, decided to submit under date of 13 June the syllabus that you prepared and which we are forwarding as you wrote it except for the following changes in paragraph 2, Survey of Obstructions:

“44” obstructions changed to “43”.

“five” to a dumping ground changed to “six”.

Last sentence changed to read, “Thus, the total number of wrecks which were removed by the United Nations Clearance Operation was 30, although two additional wrecks which had been worked by the Anglo-French salvage fleet were re-worked by the United Nations forces, one of which was re-floated”.

I will, therefore, write a letter to the Secretary-General saying that our report on field operations of UNSCO will be completed and submitted to him before the end of the month; that enclosed is copy of the index of its contents and also copy of the list of appendices; that the report, exclusive of the appendices, will contain about 200 typewritten pages; that there is herewith also submitted a syllabus of our report which, it is suggested, could serve as the desired brief report on our field operations.

I don’t know how this letter and our syllabus will be handled by the Secretary-General. Colonel Katzin mentioned that he will be writing a few pages for his report to the S.G., but I don’t know whether it will be a separate one or will become a part of ours.

Our complete report will be forwarded to the S.G. about 20 June. We want to submit it as soon as we can complete our careful review and can finish assembling the appendices. Colonel Katzin is going to Rotterdam late in June and, of course, would like to have our report before he departs.

Regarding your letter of 6 June in which you referred to a letter from Sullivan, I knew nothing about it until I received your letter. Needless to say, I am very unhappy about any possibility of your receiving any black mark against your record by having done your duty in accordance with my instructions, and I assure you that I have taken the precaution of informing all those involved that you were working under my orders.

I had a talk with Oscar Schachter, and I am sure he understands the situation. He asked me my views about extension of your leave until 5 July, and I replied that it had my full approval as you have completed the report most satisfactorily in every respect.

I suggest that, if there are any administrative problems in your case, they can await your return for discussion. Naturally, I would be available for any reference that is needed, but I am sure that there is nothing serious for you to worry about.

I propose to return to Washington and my old job at the World Bank at the end of June. If necessary for me to return to New York thereafter, I will look forward with great pleasure to reunion with you.

With my warmest good wishes

Most sincerely,

R. A. Wheeler

—————————————————————————————————-

12 June

Dear Vladimir:

Copy for you.
Have a happy vacation.

As ever,
Speck

SUEZ CANAL CLEARANCE OPERATION

12 June 1957

Dear Mr. Stavropoulos,

Now that Mr. V. Fabry has completed his assignment with the Suez Canal Clearance Operation, I wish to thank you most sincerely for making his services available to us. In writing the report of our field operations, he has performed a valuable and important service to our Mission, for which I shall always feel grateful to him.

I wish to commend him highly for his intense application to our work and for his quick grasp of the technical side. He showed unusual ability in clearly and accurately preparing reports of complicated technical operations.

I admire Mr. Fabry not only for his high intelligence and professional competence but also for his fine personal character, honesty and integrity.

With best wishes,

Most sincerely,

R. A. Wheeler

Special Representative of the
Secretary-General
United Nations

The Legal Counsel
United Nations
New York

—————————————————————————————————-

12 June 1957

Vlado darling,

This is just a note. Because I think you might misinterpret a silence. But all I want to do now is wait until I see you. You do understand.

All my love

Mary Liz

P.S. Your package did not arrive yet. But thank you anyway for remembering.

—————————————————————————————————-

14 Chemin Thury
Geneve

20 June 1957

Dear Mr. Schachter,

As it will take some time before Vladimir can write himself, I thought I better give you the bad news: Vlado came from Holland all drawn out and only a shade of himself, complaining of indigestion. He thought that perhaps the intestinal ‘flu which he caught upon leaving Egypt was coming back. But his fever was getting worse and worse, hovering around 104, with peaks up to 105, and finally last Saturday his doctor conceded that it looks like an infectious hepatitis. You just cannot imagine in what state the rest of the family was…We were all very worried about Vladko, especially the high fever, and until the diagnosis could be stated, we were all in a panic. The doctor said that his body fought the outbreak of the disease very strongly, and it was not until yesterday that it could be proved that Vladko has in fact jaundice of the tough virus type, contracted sometimes between 6-12 weeks ago. It is too early to say yet how long it would take to cure him, but it is usually the matter of 2-3 months. The doctor also said that the ‘flu he had when leaving Cairo was apparently part of it. I am very sorry for Vladko, he was so much looking forward to spent his leave with us, and now he is suffering in bed. My poor parents had just too much this year, first my accident, and now this bad illness and all the worry and anxiety it brings with it. Well, let’s hope that there will be no further complications and that about 2-3 months he will be feeling well again.

I was, and all the family was sorry to hear that you are not coming this year to Geneva. It would have been lovely to see you again. How is Molly? And how are the young ladies? I hope all goes well for you.

Please excuse this letter, which is rather shaky. I am still not quite well, it seems that my head is still not in a right place, and now it will be 3 months since the accident happened.

Kindest regards from my parents and Vladimir, all our best wishes for you, Molly and the young ladies.

Affectionately yours,

Olga

—————————————————————————————————–

General Wheeler letter 25 June 1957

25 June 1957

Dear Vlad:

Last night I met Stavropoulos at a party and he said that he had received a letter from your sister telling of your illness. I am greatly distressed because I feel certain that it was brought on mostly by your devoted attention to our report, working intensively and for long hours at a time without sleep.

I just wanted to send you a note of good wishes for your speedy recovery. Please write me the good news that you are feeling fine again.

I am returning to Washington tomorrow. Jack will meet Katzin in Rotterdam on July 1st to negotiate certain items of cost and expects to be back home by July 10th. The World Bank will continue to be my employer as I will be back at work on the old problems that are not as susceptible of definite solution as is canal clearance.

My residence address is 2022 Columbia Road, N.W., Washington 9, D.C., telephone Executive 3-6360, extension 3931.

Please remember me kindly to your Mother and Father.

With best regards,

Sincerely,

Speck

—————————————————————————————————-

General Wheeler letter 26 June 1957

SUEZ CANAL CLEARING OPERATION

26 June 1957

PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL

Dear Vlad:

Just a note to tell you that during a farewell talk last night with Andy Cordier, he decided that he would ask you to prepare the report that the Secretary-General will submit to the General Assembly, or, at least that part of the report pertaining to our field operations. He said that I would be requested to come up to New York for reviewing this report before its submission.

Andy also said that decision has not yet been made concerning how our report will be handled but he suggested, and I agreed, that perhaps it should be printed by U.N. as a basic document because so many governments are interested in having copies of our detailed report. In fact, several representatives have already spoken to me about it and of course I always refer them to the Secretary-General.

I hope you are improving rapidly. I will be glad to see you again. I am leaving here in a few minutes to return to Washington.

With best regards,

Yours sincerely,

Speck

R. A. Wheeler
Special Representative of the
Secretary-General
Untied Nations

——————————————————————————————————

26 June 1957

Dear Olga,

I was greatly distressed to receive your letter of 20 June telling of Vlado’s illness. I can only tell you how much we hope that he will speedily recover and that he will have the vacation to which he has been looking forward and which he has so well deserved. His work in Suez has received the highest possible praise from General Wheeler who, in addition, has told me of the great respect and warm affection which he has for Vlado. Vlado has undoubtedly been too modest to tell you of this, but I am sure your parents will be happy to hear of the high regard in which he is held by those who have worked with him.

We are sorry to hear that you too had not yet gotten over the effects of your accident, but I hope that by the time this letter reaches you you will be completely well. Perhaps you will be able to come with Vlado when he returns to New York.

Molly joins me in sending our love and best wishes to all of you. Please let me hear from you as to how Vlado is getting on.

Sincerely,

Oscar

Oscar Schachter

—————————————————————————————————-

30 June 1957

Darling –

Although I couldn’t believe it when Karol told me, it’s really no wonder after the super-human feat you accomplished. I only hope you haven’t suffered too much. I know it has been awful for you and not only physically. But Vlado, the only way you’re going to lick this thing is with Rest & Diet. And complete rest – you must force yourself not to think of international affairs for now. And you can force yourself if you really want to.

A friend of mine, who is a doctor, came down with it last spring and had to stop seeing her patients for a length of time. It was hell – she has a real vocation, she feels – but she did it. And now she’s cured.

You’re so healthy anyway that you should recover easily & quickly. Don’t forget I took care of people with Hepatitis, so I know what I’m talking about.

You know I miss you terribly, especially now it is hard. But I have beautiful memories. Like the night we went to the concert at the U.N. You kept looking at me from time to time and I was torn between listening to the music and wanting to look back at you – which I did. It’s so good to have the records of the music – that is your Overture to Egmont, & my Beethoven #7 & Scherzo from Midsummer Night’s Dream. I wonder why we love music – is it just because of the collection of harmonious sounds or does music contain something intangible. To continue through with my remembrance – Afterwards we went for a drink to Bemelman’s Cafe & talked about how stupid conformity was. And I knew right then that I more than liked you.

I’ll never have to ask myself why I love you Vlado.

You said that night that you felt comfortable with me. I hope this is always true because even though we haven’t had time to talk about everything, I think we feel the same about a lot of things.

It’s time for bed now so I’ll say good-night and please be good to yourself, darling.

Mary Liz.

Vlado and Mary Liz, 1957: Part 1

Vlado Fabry 1
Vlado – L’apparition

This next series of letters is dedicated to my dear friend in Geneva, Simone, who was close friends with my mother-in-law Olinka. She was surprised when I told her that Vlado had left behind love letters, because she never heard anything about him having girlfriends. She rarely saw Vlado – he was like an apparition – but she has told me how much Olinka adored her brother, and worshiped him like a god. Simone is my favorite person, and I miss her, so these letters are my birthday gift to her.

The only thing that is disappointing here is that Vlado didn’t keep copies of all the letters he wrote to Mary Liz, his romantic interest of 1957 (and beyond?), but I can imagine Mary Liz must have treasured them. Perhaps they have been lost, but I hope they have been inherited by an appreciative family member, like myself.

(For further context of the events of 1957, I recommend reading Vlado and the Suez Canal.)

7 February 1957

Vlado

When you will receive this, I have no idea, but I wish you could have it in time for St. Valentine’s Day. Because even tho you know it now, I want to tell you again how much I love you. Of course, I want you to realize this every day – but especially on Valentine’s Day.

And Vlado, I don’t expect anything. All I hope for is your happiness and the chance to love you – & please let me. What comes back is not important to me. I am eternally grateful to Him for the mere fact of meeting you. It’s joy to know someone like you.

I say I want to please you because I know that your happiness does not lie in my power alone – I can only add to it, if possible. And you are the only human being whose happiness is of such concern to me.

Mary Liz

Don’t feel as tho you should answer this, please.

Ismailia
22/II/1957

My Dear One,

your letter did not quite make Valentine’s Day (which I eventually discovered to be 14/II) but whatever day it did arrive was proclaimed to be Valentine’s Day irrespective of any conventional date it may be feted by other people. Thank you, my darling, – I am not trying to answer the letter because that cannot be done – I am only trying to tell you that I do not recall ever having been so touched and made so mellow – and at the same time a bit ashamed – deep inside as I was when I read through your lines.

It made me very happy and at the same time a bit sad over my inadequacy to give as much in return as you offer to me. But I do love you – and you know it – as much as my queer warped nature permits me to, and I too and full of tender desire to protect you and make you happy and fill your life with excitement and joy. And I do miss you.

I scribbled a quick note to you on my arrival – it may have reached you just about Valentine’s day if it was not delayed on its way, although if I had realized the approach of that occasion I would have surely tried to add a line or two. There is very little that I can write about myself – the working hours here are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Sunday, and that leaves very little time for any private adventures. I miss my weekend exercise, but got into the habit of making a two hour walk, changing into trot and run as soon as I am out of the city, each night, and for lunch I take two hours off for a sunbath and quick dip into the Timsah Lake (it’s still rather cold and I nearly [ran] into a minefield the first time, but it’s getting warmer and I know my way around now). But every two or three days I spend on the road or “on the Canal”, I should say, making inspection trips, straightening out problems, and holding palavers with the salvors or with Egyptian authorities, or else giving a hand to the UNEF staff on legal problems. As soon as I catch up enough with my work to be able to extricate myself for a few days, I plan to visit the front lines in the north and south and have a look at St. Catherine’s Monastery, and maybe spend a couple of days at Luxor and Thebes. But that will have to wait for a while. In the meanwhile there is the fascination of learning a new trade which more than compensates the lack of free time and exercise and the occasional fleas and bedbugs. Although there was a time at the beginning when I felt rather asea (or acanal) trying to weigh the respective merits of doing a parbuckling job by using sheerlegs or by blowing up camels (which, by the way, does not refer to a zoologic digestion process but means pumping air into oversized barrels attached underwater to a wreck).

Love, Vlado

28 February 1957

Dear Vlado,

It was so good to receive your letter – and I must say it came as a real surprise! I’m afraid I took you at your word when you said not to expect much in the way of letters. However, it didn’t arrive till last Tuesday (more than a week since you mailed it).

Peggy took off on a vacation for three weeks and left me to take her place. It’s fun – writing my own letters and running the show (not completely tho – Mr. S [Stavropoulos] is still here). But it means that I’ve got more on my mind these days and that’s why I didn’t write before this. I can’t honestly say that the work is hard but I just have to use my brain more. Enough of Volunteer Services…

The Ski Club misses you so much. Gary Karmilloff filled in for a while but now he has a London assignment so that the post of Liaison Officer (& V.P) is still vacant. They are planning a weekend in the middle of March to Manchester, Vt. and then I guess the season will be over – too short. Have you had a chance to ski in the Cedars of Lebanon?

Ran into Peter Kempton the other day. You probably know he’s working with Hungarian Relief. Seems like one big happy family! And he is really enjoying the work, I think.

When I read the last part of your letter (about your walk down by the lake) I wished I could fly right to you. But then I remembered what you once said about being close to someone even tho he was far away physically. I feel very near to you Vlado – maybe because you’re in my thoughts constantly.

I love you

Mary Liz

P.S. Let me know if I can send you anything e.g. books or food.

Sunday, 10 March

Darling,

Thank you for your beautiful letter and for making me so happy. And I am so overcome that it is difficult to put into mere words how I feel. When you come back I’ll really be able to tell you.

Don’t be sad if it seems that you cannot give as much in return because that doesn’t concern me. Believe me when I say that it is not so much what comes back that is my happiness as it is the chance to give my love to you – freely. And your “good” nature makes me love you, so don’t accuse yourself that way again. I love you so much now, I can’t see any flaws.

Last night I saw a play by James Joyce, “The Exiles” (incidentally I went with an Irish girlfriend of mine). The main theme had to do with fidelity although there were all sorts of undercurrents, as usual. But he said so much (my program is covered with lines scribbled with lipstick) and one line really struck me. It was a scene with the central figure explaining to his little son what it is to give something & he said – “When you have something it can be taken away from you but when you are given something, it is yours forever.”

As far as form in letters goes I’m afraid I don’t pay much attention to it (as you can see from my letters). Content is more important to me and not only in letters but in literature too. Characterization & plot means more to me than language or style of writing – although I do appreciate the letter.

You are working hard over there – by this time you must have weeks of compensatory time coming to you. When you mentioned in your letter about taking a trip to St. Catherine’s Monastery I recalled the first & only time I visited one. A girl from school was being “clothed” i.e. she received part of the nun’s regular habit thus marking passage from postulant to novice stage. Anyway – this was in a Carmelite Monastery which meant that this was to be the last time family & friends could see her – thereafter she would live a strict cloistered existence. So we could see her but only through an iron grille. Well one of her friends had brought along her four year old son, who appeared quite bright. However, at one point the nun had to leave the room for something and this little boy turned to his mother & said “Mommy, when is the lion coming back?” You can understand him in a way – it looked just like a cage. But I think he’s a little comedian.

You mention doing a parbuckling job by using sheerlegs or a camel. Why don’t they use a parbuckle? But I get the impression that you are there for more than just the clearance operation. Do you have to have to stay there until the problem of administration of the canal is solved?

More questions – is your secretary from Hdqs.? By the way, I must compliment you on your typing – so neat & hardly any errors. What can’t you do?

Called Karol and asked about your apartment. He said David was having a fine time living there and, if it was Mr. Crandall you were wondering about, everything is all right with him. He asked about you, naturally, and I gave him all the news. And he said he was just as well pleased that you didn’t write to him since he then didn’t have to write back since, he said, he was not one for writing letters.

Saw Dr. Kraus and he wants to see the x-rays before starting the exercises. But I don’t think it is necessary (exercises). I’m wearing high heels and can even run for the bus in the morning. Anyway I do have an appointment with him for next week. My doctor knows him – I don’t think very well – but then I guess most doctors know of him.

I think I’m going to call it a day and go to bed; so tired. — Don’t run into any more minefields, it can be dangerous. —

All my love,

Mary Liz

And now, one last letter from Mary Liz…

7 April 1957

Vlado darling,

It was such a beautiful day today! About 50, not a cloud in the sky, and just a slight breeze blowing, The crocuses are starting to come up in the backyard and already you can hear crickets. Next spring, we must be together–

Was just listening to the news and it said that by Tuesday the Canal would be open to all traffic. I know you’re hearing this from all sides but really you and the other people working on the Canal are to be congratulated (hope that doesn’t sound glib because I mean it). The World Telegram had a article some weeks ago about the General [R. A. Wheeler] and it said at the beginning there was some people who thought the clearance might take close to a year. So you must have a tremendous sense of accomplishment. Yesterday I ran into a girl I worked with at Shell Oil and she said their stock is almost up to what it was but that it had gone down $12 a share in the beginning — and Shell doesn’t even have holdings over there (Royal Dutch does, of course).

Do you still manage to go swimming at lunch time? Karol told me to tell you not to anymore – because of the sharks – “we don’t want Vlado soup”, he said. Sometimes I see him in the hall – and the other day he had a wonderful opportunity to meet Helse. She and I were coming down the stairs from the fifth floor and he was walking toward the elevator. He walked past us first but then stopped to say hello but Helse had kept on walking since she was not coming with me anyway. But maybe he’s lost interest or something.

The Ski Club had its party last Friday nite. At the home of a Mr. Caprario – friend of Dianea’s and not a member. He let us have the complete run of his six-room apt. – very kind and warm-hearted person. You know, even tho I keep meeting such good people you’re the best — of all –. Vlado, I love you so very much and I wish you were coming back soon. At the party I especially missed you and Bill Vaughn only made it worse by saying every time he bumped past me “Tell Vlado to come back – or When is Vlado coming back”.

Mike Shaw was there and was nice enough to take me home. We left sort of early (12:30) because I had to get up at 8:00 the next morning and anyway he hasn’t been feeling well these days. He’s a good kid – a little affected sometimes but a good kid! The party went off pretty well — everyone cooperated wonderfully with the food and we had a film on Norway. The projectionist was telling me about the raw films they’ve received from Egypt and said I could come down and see some of them.

While we’re on the subject of Egypt again — our Travel Counselor is now featuring the Land of the Pharaohs as the ideal place to spend your vacation. I’d like to know who’s kidding who – anyway I don’t believe there’s been much of a response. Still I’m wondering why the thought occurred to her.

Dr. Kraus (saw him a 2nd time to show him the x-rays) sends his best regards and so does Christine and–I send you all my love.

Mary Liz

Vlado and the Suez Canal

The United Nations Suez Canal Clearance Operation (UNSCO) was one of many missions that Vlado was involved with. Interesting items have been saved from this time, including a chart of the UN clearance operation schedule from January-April 1957; which shows the names of the tugs, salvage vessels and diver’s ships, with names like “Hermes and Wotan” and “Atlas”. It’s a very large chart, but I will post it here soon.
This is a photo of Vlado taking a camel to work:
Fabry Archive - Selected Photographs (43)
Here are three letters written by Vlado from Ismaïlia, Egypt, during the clearance operation – the first letter was sent to his friend and flatmate in New York, William W. Crandall, March 27, 1957:

Dear Bill,
I am afraid I shall be late with my rent this month but I left early last week for what was supposed to be a two days inspection trip into forward positions and what eventually turned out to be nine days out in the dessert (my spelling shows to you what is uppermost on my mind after a week of field rations). (And no USArmy rations, either Yugoslav or Indian, and neither of them go for fancy stuff). Anyhow, I eventually caught up with the pouch again, and the cheque is enclosed. Next time I better start thinking of the rent by midmonth.

Most of my work here is on the problem of opening up the Suez Canal and I am thoroughly enjoying the technical side of it – I am getting to be quite an expert by now on sweeping wires, parbuckling, blowing up camels (although when I heard the term the first time I could not visualize anything else then the results of a faulty digestion of the local beasts of burden), patching and pumping, as well as on the even more complex problems of dredging maintenance, rehabilitation of workshops and floating equipment, signalling systems and traffic direction that must be solved before the Canal can be opened. Less pleasurable is the realization that notwithstanding all the efforts here and the good progress of the technical operations and negotiations on the local level, nothing will come out of it until the political issues are solved by the big boys. I also got caught up by some of the problems of the Emergency Forces, although that’s not really my job, and that was quite interesting too.

I hope all is well with you – I think a bit wistfully of New England snow, this being my second skiing season that I am missing, but basking in a reliably constant sun is not too bad either, at least now while it is not too hot. But there is not much one can do for exercise – specially so as the office hours are 8am to 10pm, Monday through Sunday – and I see myself coming back as fat and flabby as King Farouk (or even worse so unless I find some suitable partner willing to engage with me in the one kind of exercise that he was practicing quite assiduously).

With Best Wishes – Vlado Fabry

This next letter is to Mary Sheila Dean Marshall, dated March 2, 1957:

My dear Sheila,
If you should catch me off my guard and jump on me with the question “how long since you left New York”, I should quite sincerely answer that it was last week or so. I keep surprising myself each time i look at the calendar and realize how time has flown. One reason why all time conceptions become blurred may be our working hours arrangement – 8am (sic!) to 10pm, Monday through Sunday, not counting overtime -; with no weekends or even solitary Sundays to mark the full stop after another elapsed week one simply never knows that another week has begun.

This having been said I am a bit at a loss what else I can write without getting at loggerheads with the UN staff rules concerning unauthorized release of confidential information. I can’t write about my private life – not only is there none but even if I had any I’m sure it would be classified as “restricted”,- everything else seems to be, including memos telling us what to do about fleas and bedbugs and summaries of news clipped from local papers. There are flocks of correspondents swarming around and of course all of them know perfectly well what we are doing and what’s going on, but still both at UNEF HQ and at the Canal Clearance Group I have to pretend as if I was an invisible man whom they could not possibly have seen emerging from a plane or car. Maybe the story about the secrecy class of documents marked as “to be destroyed before reading” was not an invention at all.

In spite of everything, I am thoroughly enjoying life and the feeling of being in the middle of it, and I feel smug and happy whenever I get a chance to stop and realize how I feel or that I feel anything at all. I don’t know whether others feel the same when they wake up to it, but judging by the grumbling about tiredness, food, vermin, roads, dust, sleeplessness, cold, heat, dirt and everything else that one constantly hears around, I may be a blissful idiot completely unaware of the black doom around me. Of course one does get a bit discouraged from time to time when after beating for hours against a stone wall one finds the efforts rewarded by a small crack, only to come back the next day and find that the wall is as solid again as it ever was, but that’s all part of the job and is more than compensated by the absolute bliss when things do move ahead. And there is always the net profit on top of it – the new experience, in particular what I was able to pick up about the salvage and navigational aids business when working on the Canal clearance problems.

With best wishes to Desa [Pavlu] and to all other friends – Love, Vlado

This last letter, dated April 7, 1957, is to Mary Liz (still don’t know her last name, but she worked for the UN), who had a sweet romance with Vlado:

My Dear One,
Sorry for the long pause in my writing. You were just about due for a letter when things started crackling in Gaza, and what with the SG’s [Secretary General Hammarskjold] visit and the rush to finish clearing not only the physical but also political obstacles standing in the way of normal traffic through the Canal, this is the first time I have a free evening since nearly a month. But I don’t regret having been caught up in the madhouse of hectic rush and strain, far from it, I feel grateful for the chance to have been right at the focal point of world history for a while – although I would be a hypocrite not to admit the sigh of relief when Stavropolous OK-ed my actions and took over the responsibility. I always boast to be able to sleep a log in any circumstances, but there was a night when I tossed around tense with worry despite the fact that I had worked 39 hours without a break and should have been tired enough. I was the only lawyer on the spot, events moved so quickly that there was no time to set opinions into code and send them to headquarters for approval, actions were taken on papers dictated right in the typewriter without a chance to reread and revise them, and for a while I was left with the nightmare of figuring out ex-pot all that could go wrong instead of having a chance to think it over in advance. But we muddled through somehow. I admit that there were days when I did not think of you at all, or at most with a quick flash of recollection swamped away before the image could get proper hold, but I am making up for it now – I literally woke up with you on my thoughts the last three mornings and you stayed with me whenever my mind lazied away from work through the day and evening.

Not much I can write about myself otherwise. I took an apartment (top floor, of course, to have an unobstructed view) with a big terrace and a contraption for beating out carpets on it that I planned to use for some chinning up exercises, but hardly made any use of it. Nor did I find time during the last month to go for my lunch-time swim and sunbath. I stayed in Cairo during the SG’s visit, but all the time could not find an hour for myself to look into a mosque or museum. And of course no time to read – although during the first month here I managed to pense books on Islam, on the pharaonic art and history, on 17th century philosophers, on Abelard, Graves’ Sargeant Lamb, Greens’ Heart of the Matter, Weller’s mediocre but for me interesting novel on “liberation” by the Russians, Dylan Thomas’ autobiography, Faulkner’s Unvanquished, a collection of Truman Capote and a few more.

Hope to get a letter from you soon – never thought I would ask anybody to write me just for writing’s sake, but your letters are very precious to me and it feels so good to read and reread them (I got three so far). Let me know how your leg feels – will you be ready for some hikes when I come back? By the way, I shall leave here around the 20th or 25th April for Europe, reach NY probably beginning June.

All my love – Vlado

And just one more extra – the footage of Hammarskjold’s visit to the Suez Canal in 1957, thanks to HammarskjoldProject on Youtube: