Tag Archives: UNSCO

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

Advertisements

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 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: