Never Forgotten: Czech Embassy in UK honours WWII soldiers

22-01-2020

In connection with this year’s 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, the Czech Embassy in London has just launched a special project entitled Never Forgotten. During this year Ambassador Libor Sečka plans to lay flowers at every known grave and memorial of Czechoslovak soldiers who died in the UK in the war years, as well as gathering information on the current state of those sites. I discussed the project with Mr. Sečka on the phone from London.

A bomber crew of No. 311 (Czechoslovak) Squadron RAF, photo: Public DomainA bomber crew of No. 311 (Czechoslovak) Squadron RAF, photo: Public Domain “It’s a big anniversary and I think this is just the right time to remember all those who went to fight for the freedom of our country.

“Then we are entering a new era of Czech-British bilateral relations which we can call the post-Brexit era.

“What we trying to find is a new atmosphere, something which we can use like a base for new development.

“We started last week and we will continue this week and next week and we would invite many more players, both from the Czech and British sides.

“We will invite members of Parliament who correspond to these different areas to be with us.

“We will invite mayors, Czech citizens here and the Czech schools that are around the country.”

Roughly how many war graves of Czechs who died in the UK during the war are there?

“Up to now we have registered 127 places with graves of not Czech but Czechoslovak soldiers and with monuments.

“There are some places with more than one grave – there can be three, five and at times many more.

“So it’s very difficult now to say how many graves but what we can say is that we have 127 places.”

Libor Sečka, photo: Ian WilloughbyLibor Sečka, photo: Ian Willoughby Here in the Czech Republic there are still a few surviving Czech men who fought on the side of the British in World War II, such as the pilot Emil Boček. Do you know if there are any still living in the United Kingdom today?

“We had good cooperation with a few of them but in the last two years many of them died.

“So at the moment there is no-one who was really involved directly in the fighting.

“We are in contact with their families but not directly with soldiers.”

So many years after the end of the war, I think it’s hard for us to imagine what these men went through. But nevertheless, how do you view what these Czech men did all those decades ago – going to the UK and fighting in the war?

“I’d like to say what we are trying to do also is just to show that there were not only pilots – there were also other soldiers.

“Not everyone died in fighting over the sea.

“Many had a very tragic end of their life through accidents or in hospitals.

“But what I would like to say and what I would like to show, and this is what we’re doing with our colleagues, is that all of them deserve our respect.

Emil Boček, photo: Pavel Vítek / Czech RadioEmil Boček, photo: Pavel Vítek / Czech Radio “All of them had the willingness and decisiveness to go into the Czechoslovak army and to fight together with the British side.

“They decided to go to fight for the freedom of their homeland and country, so they really deserve our respect.

“I would also like to show the human stories behind them.

“We know only about a few heroes, mainly pilots, but there are a lot of people who deserve the same attention – they did a lot for our country but they are not known.

“So it’s another value to show all these special lives of these people.”

22-01-2020