British Czech and Slovak Association going strong despite 1993 split

04-04-2003

Members of the British Czech and Slovak Association gathered in London recently for an interesting talk by architect Robert Voticky on Prague after last August's floods. After the talk honorary secretary Maria Hughes told me a little about the association's origins and activities.

"The British Czech and Slovak Association was established in 1990 as a result of informal discussions in Prague from a Czechoslovak British Society that no longer exists and it was launched in November of 1990 by Alexander Dubcek here in London, at what was then the Czechoslovak Embassy."

You are the British Czech and Slovak Association. How Czech, how Slovak is it? Is it fifty-fifty?

"We'd like to think it is. In terms of membership I can't answer because we don't look at people's backgrounds. It's a mixture of British, Czech and Slovak nationals who want to keep contact between the three countries. In terms of our activities our magazine the BCSA Review that's published alternate months, six times a year, is probably nearer fifty-fifty. In terms of our events, which are normally talks or lectures, it really depends on the availability of suitable topics and speakers to match them."

How many members have you got?

"On average - it fluctuates - we are over 300 nationally in Britain, but we also reach into the Czech and Slovak Republics and as far as Australia."

Before the British Czech and Slovak Association talk, which was held at London's Czech Centre, I spoke to membership secretary Jitka Paterson Sigmund. She told me the name - Czech and Slovak - meant they didn't have to make any changes when Czechoslovakia split only three years after the association was founded. That said, not all members were keen to maintain relations.

"One or two people were saying we'll join you again when you become just Czech. I think I can only think of one member who actually said I will not renew my subscription."

Don't you find that as the years go by there is less and less connection between the two countries?

"Not on cultural themes and things like that...no, I don't think so. And I think that people have now accepted that they are two separate people, and friendly people. I mean, for heaven's sake it's no different than English and Welsh and English and Scottish. It shouldn't be any different."

You can find out more about the British Czech and Slovak Association at their website at www.bcsa.co.uk

04-04-2003