Tributes to Czech exile who built new life centred on world of music

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The achievements of a man who escaped political events in Czechoslovakia in the wake of suppression of the Prague Spring to start a new life in the UK were celebrated at his funeral service.

Ilya Bohac became an exile in 1968, moving to Britain from Bratislava where he had been studying at university when the Russians crushed the Dubcek Government.

His gift for languages and his marriage in 1990 to Jane Findlay, a singer and teacher who shared his interest in opera, led to a career as a translator and coach for companies staging Czech operas.

From his base in Lewes, he worked extensively with Glyndebourne and the Brighton Festival Chorus, and also with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the Welsh National Opera and with opera companies in Geneva and Lisbon.

He coached many international singers, and worked on recordings of Czech and Moravian songs. Conductors and directors sought his advice.

Mr Bohac, who was 64, leaves a wife, Jane, and daughters Olivia and Anna.

Close friend Mark Rankin spoke at his funeral service, where “Janacek and Dvorak featured prominently ... The service was full to overflowing with friends and family, the result of his humanity and joy of life.”

Mr Rankin recalled that in his youth Mr Bohac had been an outstanding athlete in both track and field events. He said his sporting prowess gave him the resilience over recent years when he battled with cancer. It was an inspiration to all his many friends.

Mr Rankin said: “He was always up for discussing anything, even in the Royal Marsden, and I recall vividly a lively conversation ranging from the molecular physics of cancer to the reading of Zola’s L’Argent in its original French.”