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The Czechoslovak Talks is a project that embraces the life stories of Czechoslovaks around the world – the stories of the personal ups and downs, the opportunities and obstacles, and especially the life experiences that we would like to preserve for future generations.


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Čeněk Kolář

I was born on December 13, 1946, in Prostějov, as the third of four children. Mom was a seamstress, dad owned a company with sixty employees for the production of paper goods. I was raised primarily by the employees, as my parents did not have much time for me. I completed my compulsory schooling at a boys’ primary school. In the 1950s, the Communists closed down father’s company, and my family found iself in a very bad financial situation. For this reason, only my brother Jaroslav, who was seven years older, had the privilege of further studies. At the end, however, even I managed to convince my parents to allow my studies at the Secondary Technical School of Papermaking in Hostinné. I graduated from there in 1966. With the financial support of my parents and a scholarship, I began my studies at the University of Chemistry and Technology in Pardubice in the same year. Simultaneously, my brother Jaroslav emigrated to Denmark, where he established himself as an astrologer.

bought a ticket from Copenhagen to Hamburg with my last money

During the holidays after my first year at the university, I did a three-month internship at a paper mill in Heidenau, Saxony, where I wanted to improve my German language, not knowing that I would need it soon. The invasion of Czechoslovakia by Soviet troops in August 1968 made me fear that I would never again be able to freely travel to foreign countries, explore the world, and thereby educate myself in foreign languages. At that time, I was a member of the university choir in Pardubice, which was invited to a singing festival in Sweden. I took advantage of this situation to expedite visas for Denmark, Sweden and Finland. Then immediately in September 1968, at the age of 21, I traveled to Denmark with my suitcases and guitar to visit my brother. After a few days, my brother asked me to return home and finish my studies. But I didn’t listen and bought a ticket from Copenhagen to Hamburg with my last money instead. The first night I slept at the station, the next day I reported to the police station and subsequently applied for asylum at the refugee department. They helped me find a job at the employment office, thanks to my first employer (printer) I also had housing soon.

práce v laboratoři Čeňka Koláře vždy bavila

After only one month, I showed a strong interest in studying at the University of Hamburg. First, I joined a several-month language course, then I received a scholarship based on the recognition of my previous university studies from Czechoslovakia. So, from September 1969 to 1976, I studied chemistry, followed by two more years of doctoral studies. During that period, I worked as a researcher and collaborator of the then highly respected Professor Paulsen on the topic “Chemical Structure of Blood Groups”, until I found my first job. I didn’t forget about my language education either, as I took several English language courses in England. In March 1979, I joined the research department at Behring Werke in Marburg, where I began a very successful fourteen-year research period that resulted in many patents and publications related to serology and oncology from the point of view of chemistry. At that time, I also participated in many congresses and conferences in the field of carbohydrate chemistry.

After the fall of the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia in 1989, my sentence for leaving the republic without authorization was canceled, and I was able to return to my home country again after so many years. After the reorganization at Behring Werke, I could no longer work in research, which was very fulfilling to me at the time. That was the moment when I decided to leave the job and found my own company Glycon, in which I wanted to use the know-how gained from the previous research. Thanks to a chance meeting with the director of the newly built Biopark in Luckenwalde at the University of Potsdam, I was offered premises for the location of my company. At that time, the premises of the Biopark were newly reconstructed after the departure of the Soviet soldiers who had been staying there for a long time. I accepted this offer, moved to the vicinity of Luckenwalde and gradually began to furnish the company’s four laboratories, office and storage areas. I got some of the apparatus and other laboratory equipment from a defunct company in which my former student colleague worked. I paid about a third of the costs for the equipment of the laboratories from my own savings, for the other third I took a loan, the rest was covered thanks to the financial support of the federal state of Brandeburg. At first, the company practically did not make any money, I had temporary housing in a nearby village, but my financial insecurity lasted for about four years. I was engaged in the production of carbohydrates and their derivatives. Compared to other manufacturers of these chemicals, mine had a much higher purity, which was appreciated even by the recognized experts in the field. In 1998, a turning point occurred, and the company finally began to prosper. I hired more employees, I could afford the gradual modernization of laboratory equipment, the expansion of the range of products sold, and thus the increase of their overall production. My customers from practically all over the world included and still include, in particular, universities that use our products as part of research, especially in the field of protein biochemistry.

I am a proud citizen of Hradec Králové

In 2021, I started a successful collaboration that continues to this day with Professor Keller from the University of Kaiserslautern, later from the University of Graz, who uses my products, among other things, for research into cancer treatment. The company Glycon provides internships to students and graduates of universities in the field of chemistry from various EU countries. Work is always very fulfilling and fun for me, I don´t think I´m going to retire any time soon.

So that’s the story of a boy from Haná who achieved success in a foreign country, traveled practically the whole world, but never forgot his roots. I have German and Czech citizenship and I am a proud citizen of Hradec Králové, where I stay whenever my duties allow.

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špičkové vybavení v Glycon biochemicals
v roce 1966 na maturitním plesu s maminkou
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