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Czechoslovak College  in Great Britain 

 

 

by Lubor Kunc

 

First time published in the Czechout

 

 

I would like to add some new information to the article of Mr. Spong originally published in one of the previous issues of the Czechout journal published by the Czechoslovak Philatelic Society of Great Britain .  Mr. Spong summarized  a lot of information about Czechoslovak College in Bishop’s  Stortford, which he discovered in British archives.

 

Mr. Spong discovered, that the Czechoslovak College was situated in town Bishop´s Stortford (about 50 km far from London) in a building called Hassobury House (known since 1594) . The school was founded by Czechoslovak government in close co-operation to the British government for the teenage boys from Czechoslovakia .

 

It is tradition to discuss a matter with all involved  parties. So let’s speak Czech archives and phil. material ! They tell us a lot of information about political background of the school as well as a tragicomic story from Czechoslovak history.

 

The Czechoslovak College was founded in accordance to Anglo-Czechoslovak Cultural Convention signed in London on June 16, 1947 . Article 2 of the Convention enables to establish cultural and education centres of one party on territory of second party . 

 

As result of the Convention, British government founded  British schools in Czechoslovakia and  Czechoslovak government established in 1947 the college in Bishop’s Stortford. I was not able to discover, whether any other Czechoslovak school in Great Britain or any other country existed or not – it is possible, but not confirmed.

 

The Czechoslovak boys were chosen by British Council and Ministry of Education of Czechoslovak Republic.  The first two years of the programme were successful , but in 1948 important changes in Czechoslovak political scene with big impact to this programme  occurred .

 

In February 1948 the Communist took over the government of the Czechoslovak Republic. The year was tragic for democracy in Czechoslovakia. Communist leader Klement Gottwald as prime minister started to build “new society” as per Soviet concept .  The non-communist President dr. Edvard Beneš as well as Jan Masaryk, son of first Czechoslovak President and Minister of Foreign Affaires,  died, Klement Gottwald become “the first President representing the workers”  and the newly formed Czechoslovak government consists of Communists only .

 

Because of their orientation to the Soviet Union, the Communists didn’t support the Anglo-Czechoslovak students exchange programme.  In 1948 the Czechoslovak representants in the common British-Czechoslovak Committee caring about the education programme started to boycott its work.  The Communist “support” to the programme resulted in 1949 by non-issuing of passports for students chosen to study the Czechoslovak College in G.B. . Thanks to this action no new students can enrol the school in 1949 and after return of “old” students home the school was closed .

 

Great Britain refused such behaviour of Czechoslovak government by diplomatic notice dated April 24, 1950. The document mentions not only the Czechoslovak College matter, it contains information about  actions of communists police against visitors of British Council office or about visa problems as well.  

 

The above situation was the main reason, why Czechoslovak College was closed in 1949. What a pity,  because the students educated as per British standards with friendly connections to foreign people and with very good knowledge of foreign languages could be important contribution to the Czechoslovak’s reconstruction after WWII. But exactly these signs were unacceptable for the Communists, who were aware about importance of schools for their goals, and who started to build the Czechoslovak educational system as per Soviet one, which resulted to “firing” all non-communist teachers and students from Czechoslovak schools in 1948 .

 

As you can see the period was not mature for any international  co-operation with Czechoslovakia, of course with exception of Soviet-Czechoslovak one …  .

 

I have found two Czechoslovak stamps, which can be understood as black humour  or bad joke. The two stamps were issued in frame of a set commemorating  the Second Congress of International Student’s Union in 1950. The stamp with face value of 3 Crowns celebrates “Making the education system more democratic” and the 5 Crowns stamp calls for “International Solidarity of Students”.

 

How the Communists did the everyday work for reaching the goals, you can see in the history of Czechoslovak College in Great Britain !!!  I am sure, no other words are needed to finish the article , I would only like to express my thanks to the Ministry of Foreign Affaires of the Czech Republic for providing me with copies of the diplomatic documents I am mentioning  in the article .

 

 


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