Czech ‘Flatmates’ in the 1920s

While researching students from the modern day Czech Republic for the International Story project, I found it interesting that three Czech students who came within a year of each other (1925-1926) happened to share the same lodgings  at 64 Bothwell Street and all studied Divinity under Reverend George Milligan, Professor of Divinity and Biblical Criticism at the University from 1910 to 1932.

Professor George Milligan, Church of Scotland Minister & Biblical Scholar

Professor George Milligan, Church of Scotland Minister & Biblical Scholar

Josef Andro, son of merchant Václav Andro, came to study in 1925, aged 22. He lived with Paul Chiaski, a fellow Czech Divinity student from Budějovice, who was son of Pastor Anton Chiaski. Paul Zelinka (or Felinka), from Husinec, is recorded as living at this Bothwell address the previous year, he was also the son of a Pastor, Paul Zelinka.

64-100 Bothwell Street, 1975, Copyright © RCAHMS

64-100 Bothwell Street, 1975, Copyright © RCAHMS

Their shared lodgings became less of a mystery when the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) website revealed that 64 Bothwell Street was once a Christian Institute for Bible Training and a YMCA.

Their reasons for coming to Glasgow to study under this pioneering Church of Scotland minister and biblical scholar may also be explained in the situation of post-WWI Czechoslovakia and the religious unions that occurred both in Scotland and the new Czech Republic at that time. After the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Reformed and Lutheran churches under the ‘First Republic’ of the Czech Republic merged to form the Evangelical Church of the Czech Brethren, adopting the Presbyterian system of church government. As all these Czech students were mature students, it is likely that they studied under Josef Luki Hromádka (1889-1969), Professor of Theology at the Comenius Theological Faculty in Prague (Evangelical Theological Faculty of Charles University) from 1920. He was a Czech Brethren theologian who became a leading voice of central European Protestantism. Hromádka had studied throughout Europe including at Aberdeen, from where Professor Milligan had also graduated and where his father, William Milligan, was the first to hold the chair of Biblical Criticism (from 1860-93).

The question, however, remains as to what these Glasgow flatmates (Andro, Chiaski, and Zelinka) did when they left  64 Bothwell Street and went their separate ways with Professor Milligan’s teachings. Please get in touch if you can add more to this story.

By Claire Martin, MA History & Slavonic Studies, Czech Republic , Club21

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