The following appeal was received in January. Letters from Mr. Sobota and pictures taken of him and his son (also a talented bookbinder) by Susan Swartzburg on a visit to Czechoslovakia last summer, are circulating in this country. One of the pictures is shown here.
One of our most talented bookbinding and conservation colleagues, Jan Sobota, has, due to negative circumstances in his native Czechoslovakia, been obliged to flee his country with his son Radek, aged 17, to Switzerland, where he is in the process of seeking political asylum. He has been forced to leave everything behind to the State: his house, his bindery, bindings and library, as well as friends and relatives. Fortunately an adopted part of his family (a widow and two children) also left that country and they are all living together in Switzerland. Jan found some temporary casual work with a bookbinder which has now stopped, so he is without a means to a livelihood. Jan has good experience in bookbinding, restoration and conservation with Czech State Archives and has also carried on his own very imaginative work in making book- objects, some of which are illustrated in my book, The Book: Art & Object, and Volume 2 of The New Bookbinder.
My wife Dorothy and myself have been privately collecting funds in order to help Jan and his family to subsist and to later allow him to travel in search of work. His wish is to find sponsors and work in the United States, where his experience, skill and imagination will be a great asset.
I am appealing to anyone who would like to help, or who sees a year's work in bookbinding, restoration or conservation available for one or two skilled binders, to get in touch with me. It may be some months before Jan can learn some English and clear all the immigration procedures for entry to the United States, but he would then require somewhere to shelter with his family (five persons).
Would anyone wishing to help a valued colleague in desperate need of funds please respond generously by sending checks made payable to The Jan Sobota Appeal to me at: 83 Nutfield Road, Merstham, Redhill, Surrey RH1 3RD, England.
Thank you very much.Philip Smith
Radek and Jan Sobota