5/31/2022

CBCC member interview with…Jan Doskar, Principal Consultant, Rotarian and a CBCC long-standing member

On his departure from Czechoslovakia, his amazing career, many years of charity work through the Rotary Club, his vast travelling experiences, and so much more…



Could you please share some information about your background?

I come from Prague but have been living and working in the UK since 1969. Actually, I was supposed to visit Scotland on a student exchange on 21 August 1968 - on my departure day I was walking with my suitcase, via the Vinohrady radio to the main railway station, taking photos of the Russian tanks passing by. I even got chased by some soldiers at the Wilson Railway Station. Having studied at a Grammar School, I applied for a student visa for agricultural work in the UK, bought a one-way ticket and got £2 from the Czech National Bank and flew to London.

During my time at fruit and hop farms, I made some lifelong friends and learned to speak English, so when I moved to London, I was able to help some Czech professors with interim jobs and translations. When they left the UK, I joined Skytours holiday operator, travelled a lot and helped a local charity. In 1973, whilst in Canada, I visited the professors. I then joined Gartmore Investments, later JP Morgan and lastly Citibank until 1991. When the iron curtain fell, I was recruited by Visa International, initially to introduce advanced Visa electronic payments to Czechoslovak banks and later I was tasked with developing the USSR and Croatia. That included Belarus, Ukraine, Turkic States and Siberia. I was travelling extensively and made lots of friends from different walks of life. After Visa I remained in financial services. I qualified as an IFA setting up a stockbroking shop for Edward Jones (a US stockbroking firm) in Teddington.

For years you have been involved in Rotary Club activities, can you mention a few?

In 2000 I was invited to join a local Rotary Club in Twickenham where I found like-minded people raising funds for many charities. In 2020, I helped fund and volunteered to build a sand dam in Kenya (see
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJHP_eb1cx8). In 2019, I assisted with the malnutrition project in Uganda, and most recently raised funds for Ukrainian refugees. All this work is done in collaboration with local Rotary Clubs. Interestingly enough, on one of the trips in Uganda, I tracked in the Bwindi impenetrable forest to see gorillas at close range. It was an amazing but arduous undertaking. We were accompanied by soldiers as there are guerrillas too. The local villagers carried your luggage, cut vegetation in front of you and the trackers identified where the gorillas were – it can take several hours to find them.

In 2018 I became Rotary Assistant Governor coordinating 10 clubs and organised joint support for various organisations. Together with Lady Milena Grenfell-Baines, I arranged to present "The last train to tomorrow" – Czech Kindertransport. 


The Rotary work enabled me to travel to places around the world. I enjoyed attending Rotary International Conventions in Atlanta with Bill Gates, in Toronto with Justin Trudeau. The last one before COVID-19 was in Hamburg; this year I’ll attend Houston and Melbourne next year.

I also organise Rotary trips to Prague. Last time we visited Konopiste and saw parts of the Prague Castle usually not accessible to regular visitors. On the most recent trip to Prague, we explored the Karlstejn Castle and Melnik where we also experienced wine tasting given by accomplished aristocrat and sommelier Jiri Lobkowitcz himself. On the same trip, we supported the Rotary Club Prague International with a dragon boat racing in Prague. They managed to raise over 400,000 CZK in this major fundraiser for local and international charities.

Although I spend a lot of time on Rotary activities, I am still involved in financial services: for example, in South Korea, I am assisting with introducing AMP (alternative payment methods) into Europe and North America, and I am one of the board Directors of the Thamesbank Credit Union responsible for marketing.

What do you do in your spare time?

I am an avid reader of economics, trends, and investments. I teach primary students how to play chess. I also exercise – to keep diabetes under control. For that I use ‘treekly’ application - if I do 5,000 steps for 5 days, I get a tree planted in Madagascar. So I do something for myself and the environment.

Did you ever want to return to the Czech Republic?

I have considered going back, but when my travel visa expired, I received a letter from Czechoslovakia informing me that I had been sentenced in my absence, so I was not able to return. I also did not plan to live in a communist regime. It took until 1991 before I could rectify my relationship, visit my parents, and help Czechoslovakia with my expertise. I also regained my Czech nationality in addition to the British one. In 1979 I got married to a Goan lady who came to the UK in 1968 from Kenya. As she does not speak Czech, it seemed reasonable for me to stay here.

You have been a long-standing CBCC member…

Yes, and I see a great value in the membership. I like attending embassy events and meeting interesting people; in the past I met Thomas Bata Jr, various Czech Ministers and Czech Ambassadors, such as HE Libor Secka whom I invited to the biggest flower show in the world in Hampton Court, and HE Jan Winkler who attended my Rotary President’s dinner in 2007 at the Lensbury Club.

I appreciate CBCC friendship and its commercial informative and social values; it’s a platform enabling Czech and British communities to network and helps promote businesses.

How would you define yourself in three words?

Sociable, trustworthy and community minded.

Last word?

I love travelling and helping others. I’ve enjoyed living in the UK because of its multicultural society, its thriving Czech community and its proximity to Prague - it’s been easy for me to go back and forth.

        

By Tereza Urbankova, member of the CBCC Executive Committee 
We are looking for more CBCC members to be interviewed! Please email 
tereza@cbcc.org.uk if you are interested.


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