Throughout the project on the University’s Slovakian & Czech connections, it was noted that numerous students were registered with the Czechoslovak Refugee Trust, or with its predecessor, the British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia.
The Czech Refugee Trust Fund was initially set up by the British Government in 1939 to provide a financial support for German and Jewish refugees from Sudetenland, a former part of Czechoslovakia, after it was ceded to Germany by the Munich Agreement in 1938. The funds for the trust came from a British and French loan aimed at the reconstruction of Czechoslovakia and a British gift amounting to 4 million pounds. In 1939, when Germany took over Czechoslovakia, the remaining funds were directed to the support of Czechoslovakian refugees in Britain and its dominions. This support continued after the Communist takeover of Czechoslovakia in 1948.
The Trust also supported the education and training of refugees in the UK, and students of the University of Glasgow were no exception. Among these students that the Trust supported were Herbert Franz Zalud, who left Czechoslovakia in 1938 due to the rise of Nazism, and Lubor Velecky, who came to UK in 1948 to escape from Communism.
Herbert Franz Zalud pursued a career in engineering, and eventually returned to the Czech Republic. After graduating from the University of Glasgow in 1941 he held various positions, such as chairman of the Commission of Scientific Workers, First Deputy Director for Research at the Motor Vehicle Research Institute in Czechoslovakia and worked for the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.
Lubor Velecky graduated MA from the University of Glasgow in 1952 and entered the Dominican Order which took him to Oxford, South Africa and Rome, where he taught at the Vatican College. However, he later decided to leave the Order in order to marry, and moved to Southampton, where he became a lecturer in the Philosophy Department of the University of Southampton.
What they have in common is their opposition to extreme political regimes in Czechoslovakia, whether it was Nazism or Communism, and the prosecution of their families by these regimes. While Lubor Velecky’s father participated in the revolt against the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia and, after being arrested, was sent to concentration camp Dachau where he later died; Herbert Zalud’s family was prosecuted on account of their Jewish origins, his mother and sister dying in Auschwitz. Both experienced persecution in their home countries, and came to Glasgow, which welcomed so many others like them, who too were in support of the Czech Refugee Trust Fund.
By Jakub Rybak, MA Economics, Project Slovakia & Czech Republic