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Next week Arisaig will host a visit by Slovakia’s ambassador to the UK who will be in the area to pay tribute to its link with Czech involvement in the wartime Special Operations Executive (SOE).
Ĺubomír Rehák is visiting Arisaig on Wednesday August 8, as part of a tour commemorating the centenary of the founding of Slovakia’s predecessor state, Czechoslovakia.
He will be welcomed by local Highland councillors, the area’s community council and local residents.
‘We have arranged a short programme for him, including a driving tour of the local houses requisitioned as SOE training schools; wreath laying at the Czech Memorial and a small reception at the LSIC [Land, Sea and Islands Centre], at which he will present an exhibition of photographs relating to the centenary,’ explained the LSIC’s Alison Stewart.
‘The reception will start at approximately 6pm and will follow on from the wreath-laying ceremony which is taking place at the Czech Memorial at 5.30pm.’
The SOE’s links with Arisaig and the wider Lochaber area run deep. It was in July 1940 that the SOE was established, primarily, as was famously stated, to ‘set Europe ablaze’.
The Highlands had already been recognised as the ideal place to carry out the secret training of SOE agents and special forces troops such as the Commandos.
Among the local large houses commandeered as bases for the training were Arisaig House, Rhubana Lodge, Garramor, Camusdarach Lodge and Traigh House.
Agents of many nationalities were to pass through the Arisaig training programme, including some 300 from what was then Czechoslovakia.
Of the Czech agents deployed by the SOE in occupied Europe, around a third lost their lives – including Jozef Gabcik and Jan Kubis who assassinated SS Obergruppenfuhrer Reinhard Heydrich in May, 1942.
The memorial to the Czechs who trained in the Highlands was unveiled at Arisaig in 2009. The memorial was added to the following year with the addition of two special stones inscribed with the list of their operations and the names of the fallen. A plaque had already been unveiled at Traigh House in 2002 marking the link with the Czech contingent.
Slovakia’s ambassador to the UK, Ĺubomír Rehák , during a previous visit to Scotland in 2016.
NO F31 Slovakian ambassador