Czech ambassador Libor Se?ka talks about meeting the Queen and collaborating with the UK

The Ambassador of the Czech Republic Libor Secka meets Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace. Pict

The Ambassador of the Czech Republic Libor Secka meets Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace. Picture: Jonathan Brady - Credit: PA WIRE

Czech ambassador Libor Se?ka speaks to Roger Aitken, marking his first 100 days in office and the release of Anthropoid

Jamie Dornan and Cillian Murphy in Anthropoid. Picture: Bleecker Street

Jamie Dornan and Cillian Murphy in Anthropoid. Picture: Bleecker Street - Credit: Archant

A new historical thriller hits our screens this week. Anthropoid is based on the World War Two mission by Czechoslovak parachutists to assassinate SS General Reinhard Heydrich, one of Hitler’s main henchmen. Jamie Dornan and Cillian Murphy star in this historical thriller.

To accompany the release, Hampstead-based Czech diplomat Libor Se?ka reflects on his first 100 days as his country’s new ambassador to the UK.

Did you always have an ambition to become a diplomat?

No, in actual fact I wanted to be a sailor. From the age of 10 my dream was to be on the sea and travel from my landlocked homeland and see new countries. I used to collect maps and books on different countries, which helped sustain this goal.

By around the time I got into my grammar school years, naval studies were only available in Poland and Russia - subsequently the Soviet Union. There was choice between international relations and naval studies in Moscow. And, at the last moment I decided on the diplomatic path.

For me, studying in Moscow proved to be a very interesting time during the era of Perestroika. Those were very liberal times under Gorbachev and the glasnost (“openness”) policy reform.

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The new film, Anthropoid, comes at an interesting time. With the centenary of Czechoslovakia’s founding in 2018 and fifty years since the Prague Spring, are there plans for celebrating these milestones in Britain?

We have a plan for ‘Czech Republic 100’, which will mark the centenary of Czechoslovakia. It will focus on three specific areas to strengthen collaboration between the United Kingdom and the Czech Republic and to be developed over the coming years.

The main task is to build a collaboration in education, science and technology as well as the arts and Czech historical heritage, the latter including tourism. What is required is real involvement, co-operation in both research and production. The Czech Republic has a great deal to offer and vice versa.

‘Czech Republic 100’ activities will culminate in the jubilee year 2018, the centenary of the foundation of the republic that was achieved with great support from Britain. For 2018, there are a fair range of events that being organised. Amongst them are plans for a concert in Hyde Park with the Czech Philharmonic.

Recently you presented your diplomatic credentials and letters to the Queen. What was that experience like?

Meeting the Queen at Buckingham Palace is a top highlight in the career of any diplomat and so it was for me. The British Monarch is an amazing woman with so much energy and extremely skilful at making people feel at ease.

On the occasion of meeting the Queen I presented her with a bottle of Moravian wine, Znovin, which she was delighted to receive as she had enjoyed the same wine during her visit to the Czech Republic in March 1996.

In addition to having represented the Czech Republic in Italy and Mexico, you were your country’s Head of Mission in China. What did you learn during your four years in Beijing?

China is changing so fast. But one of the things that I took away was that there are various ways of viewing issues. Clearly, one has to appreciate and be aware of different Eastern and Western outlooks. During my posting in Beijing my grasp of the Chinese language reached an “operational” level.

Having served also as a Czech Republic representative in Brussels and led the EU Section at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Prague, what does the Czech Republic feel about the EU?

Prior to the British Referendum we had very much hoped that the UK would decide to remain in the union. From our perspective, it is important to stress that we have suffered from two world wars. And, for us a stable and guaranteed evolutionary peaceful development is important.

Anthropoid will be shown in UK cinemas from September 9. Thanks to Angela Spindler-Brown, Editor of the ‘British Czech & Slovak Review’ for translation assistance for this interview.