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On A Personal Note…

Russian Text:

Карелу Шафранеку

желаю доброго

здоровья и всяческих

успехов в жизни и


Маршал сов. союза В. Чуйков

14 октября 1964 г.


Karel Shafranek

I wish you good

health and all sorts of

success in life and


Marshal of Sov. Union V. Chuikov

14 October 1964

Translated by Dr. Lena Maslennikova

Effective leaders understand the importance of recognizing and appreciating their team members in personal ways. The experience of receiving a handwritten note from a leader of an organization has more meaning in a global business environment with instant electronic communication. Even though sending personal messages was a typical practice during Marshal Chuikov’s lifetime, it was an incredible honor to receive a handwritten note from a leader of the highest military rank in the nation. Although Chuikov was very busy and active, he made time to recognize his colleague and wish him well in his future work. Vasily Ivanovich most likely used a Soyuz-brand fountain pen with blue India ink, and if one looks closely at the writing, there is a faint smudge made by his hand to the left of the word “work” (труде).

While there is only very limited information available, I was able to determine that Karel Shafranek was a Czech chemical engineer who conducted research on the desulfurization of petroleum in the oil fields of Karashuk, Syria in the late 1950s. Shafranek even visited New York City to participate in the Fifth World Fuel Congress (Section VII), which he referenced in his article titled “Desulfurization of Petroleum and Reduction in the Viscosity of Fuel Oil” published in 1962. In addition, Shafranek published at least one more article, which featured petroleum research in Basra, Iraq in 1963.

Although details on his relationship with Marshal Chuikov elude me, it is my educated guess that Karel Shafranek served as a researcher for Khruschev’s petroleum plan of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Experts like Shafranek were critical to squeezing out every drop of fuel from low-grade sources, which is why his desulfurization research was so important. It also means that Shafranek’s work was conducted during the time of solidification of Soviet-Syrian relations during the late 1950s.

After further research into Shafranek's career, I discovered that he worked for a corporation specializing in chemical and food-processing machinery called Chepos. The company was founded in April 1965 and is based in Brno. The crude oil processing plants in former Czechoslovakia, the former USSR, Syria, Iraq, and Egypt are among the most significant achievements in those early years of the organization's existence. Evidence of his work with Chepos is mentioned in Czechoslovak Scientific and Technical Periodicals Contents, Volume 1, Issues 5-6, a snippet of which is found here.

Regarding the note itself, 14 October 1964 was a significant date in 20th-century world history. It was the date when Nikita Khruschev was ousted from his position by the Communist Party leadership in Moscow. The ouster led to Leonid Brezhnev’s ascent to power as the new leader of the Communist Party and eventually the chief of state. Vasily Ivanonvich was a member of the Central Committee at this point, and his grandson Nikolai confirmed that Chuikov had taken part in the conspiracy against Khrushchev. It is my assertion that the note was written by Marshal Chuikov in Moscow on the date of the change of leadership, meaning the transition directly affected Shafranek’s work and research. Sending a handwritten note with well wishes was a generous gesture by Vasily Ivanovich, which speaks highly of his character.

Research on Shafranek's career and relationship with Chuikov is still ongoing, but hearing about Karel's transition to a company after Khrushchev's ouster is rewarding. When Khrushchev was ousted and Karel's position was affected, I think he felt uncertain about his future. Discovering his work with Chepos after this life-changing event gives me hope, really. Out of a bleak scenario, Shafranek landed well and continued his work. I am sure Vasily Ivanovich would have been very happy for him. :)

***An update: see below for an article written by Karel Shafranek about the Chepos plant.***

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