Слике страница
PDF

tenor, and maintain the security of its frontiers. On Feb. 10 it was announced that the allowances paid to the unemployed had increased to about a million crowns a day, or thirty millions a month. A bill was therefore presented to Parliament to exclude Sundays and holidays in the allocation of these allowances. A maximum per family was established; false statements were to be severely punished; all unemployed would be compelled to accept any work assigned by the administration.

FAMINE IN BOHEMIA

Despite all these relief measures, it was announced on Feb. 19 from Prague that thousands of women and children were starving in Bohemia, and that an appalling death roll was inevitable in the next three months if help was not forthcoming. The people had pawned their every possession and were absolutely destitute. Public institutions could not keep the inmates alive. Among 1,700 inmates of the Prague foundling asylum and children's hospital more than 1,000 had died; other figures were equally serious. The daughter of President Masaryk confirmed the state of terrible suffering among the people.

On March 4 it was reported from Prague that the food crisis was so acute that several Czech papers had begun to reproach the Entente for not sending relief supplies. Supplies, it was admitted, were at Trieste, but they could not be transported to Bohemia because neither the Italians nor the Jugoslavs nor the Austrians possessed cars and coal; 500 cars were necessary to bring the flour, fat, and condensed milk awaiting transportation. Since the revolution telegraphic communication with Trieste had been broken off, as well as the postal service.

It had therefore been decided at Prague

to send a special Czechoslovak train to Trieste under military escort to obtain the supplies required. Negotiations with Poland had been begun to obtain meat, but the sanguinary and embittered conflicts at Teschen had broken off all relations between the two republics. The Elbe was frozen; in any case the allied blockade against Germany made this means of communication impossible. Czechoslovakia needed, according to an official statement, at least 45,000 carloads of grain to feed its population.

In the new territories, in Slovakia, for instance, there were potatoes and meat, but the peasants refused to dispose of them, or else demanded exorbitant prices. The Government had decided to send forces into Slovakia to requisition all grain and all potatoes. Meanwhile the bread ration would be reduced to one kilo a week, and a demi-kilo of flour, in the hope of holding out until the next harvest. A monetary reform was expected to improve the economic situation.

Dr. Karl Kramarcz, the Premier of Czechoslovakia, at a dinner given by the press of Paris on March 26, made the following statements:

Our national sentiment Is too strong to yield to Bolshevist temptation. Our nation will stand firm against It, unless It Is overcome by Bolshevism's main agent, hunger. If Bolshevism Is victorious In Russia, then Russia will Inevitably fall under German Influence.

The Premier admitted that Bolshevism was in dangerous proximity to Czechoslovakia, but was optimistic as to the ultimate failure of this form of radicalism. A mission from the Ukrainian Government arrived in Prague on April 8 to discuss the resumption of commercial relations between Bohemia and Ukrainia. The Ukrainian Government was ready to deliver oil in exchange for copper and glassware.

Work of the Czechoslovaks in America

By B. P. MATOCHA

[former Representative Of The Czechoslovak National Alliance In Washington]

THE Bohemians and Slovaks, the two races constituting the Czechoslovak Republic, like all Slavonic people, are inclined to be contentious among themselves. It is a part of their inherent nature. Their quarrelsome disposition caused them—at least it was one of the primary causes—to give up their independence. Palacky, the great Bohemian historian, during the chaotic conditions in the Dual Monarchy in 1848, at a period when the subjugation of this racial evil would have been the subjugation of the enemy, warned them that their national aspirations could be attained only when there was perfect harmony and understanding among all classes. Palacky understood and loved his people. He spent a part of his life in prison because of his intense love for them; in fact, his warning was given while he was imprisoned.

When Austria declared war against Serbia in 1914, Professor Thomas G. Masaryk of Prague University and Edward Benes, also a professor in that university, quietly left Prague for Paris. There they met M. Stefanik, a Slovak scholar and astronomer. The three men then and there began their labors to lead their people out of bondage. "Now or never" was their slogan. The Austrian Government set a price on Masaryk's head, and intercourse with his people in Austria was an impossibility. To rally the Bohemians and Slovaks scattered over the world and impart to them the bold conception of national independence was a part of their task. The three men were without financial means, but that did not deter them.

Masaryk had on several occasions visited America. He had married an American girl and had made many friends here; and now he called upon them for aid. About 20 per cent, of the Czechoslovaks in the United States responded, nearly all men of radical thought, like himself. True to the na

tional traditions of their fathers, earnest and determined, they donated time and money to the cause. Legislative bodies were addressed, propaganda disseminated, appeals made to their conservative brethren as well as to American citizens.

The Bohemian National Alliance, the organization under which these labors were carried on, seemed to accomplish very little in the first two years. The socialistic ideas of the leaders were looked upon with suspicion. The conservative Czechoslovak element, ever true to the spirit and customs of their new fatherland, would not venture to give aid to the cause, though tacitly favoring it.

THE CONSERVATIVES ORGANIZE

The conservative Czechoslovak element, however, believing in preparedness, began a movement to organize. If the American Government should ever sanction the step taken by their radical brethren, they would thus be in a position to lend immediate aid. The result was that in less than six months the Bohemians and Slovaks were organized and the National Alliance of Bohemian Catholics had been established with headquarters in Chicago, while the Slovak League had been established in Pittsburgh.

In the meantime the radical element, never advancing, never despairing, labored and toiled. Masaryk hurried to Russia, established a branch of the council, and rallied the soldiers who surrendered or were captured during the great drives on the eastern front. To gain independence for Czechoslovakia their leader depended on America for moral and financial aid, and insisted on a union for that purpose. Would the opportune moment arrive? Would the conservative element co-operate and fulfill Palacky's prophecy?

On Feb. 9-12, 1918, the radical element, almost in despair, having failed in its ■well-meant but misunderstood efforts, met in Chicago for the purpose of working out a new program. "Get the cooperation of the other organizations" was whispered to the conservatives. On the last day of the conference the craved but unexpected occurred—the United States declared war against Germany. The leaders of the conservatives, believing that the hour had struck, decided to transform the inactive legions into action.

THE FACTIONS UNITED

A delegation representing the Slovak League and the National Alliance of Bohemian Catholics arrived at the headquarters of the Masaryk radicals and entered the Chicago conference unannounced. One of the delegates, Mr. Dostal, stepped forward and addressed the conference, saying in part:

We have come to strengthen you In your efforts, not to weaken you. We have come to fulfill Palacky"s prophecy. While the world Is concentrating its forces on the battlefields of Europe to oppose the destruction of democracy, within the .hopeless confines of the Austro-Hungarlan Empire the people of our own flesh and blood are being imprisoned, sentenced to death by thousands by the same ruthless hand that is stretching forth to perpetuate the same crime oh other liberty-loving peoples. They are bowed in sorrow, these dear brethren, for they are situated within the path of the enemy's devastating march. They are secure on no side from their traditional foe. The atrocities In Belgium are hardly a parallel. The world knows of the crimes committed there, but our people are suffering and dying, men, women, and children, with no eye to see except that of the tormentors and executioners. Our brethern are imprisoned, their property taken, mothers separated from those they most dearly love, with no ear to hear their heartrending cries except again the same oppressor. Must this sickening work go on?

Hero in America we are blessed with everything. We have been, not adopted, but taken into the bosom of the American fatherland with outstretched hands, and without distinction are enjoying the liberal laws. We have even gained the true feeling of American generosity. Is it not in full accord with the great American spirit to lend our brethren across the seas, in the death-grip of the enemy, our comfort and our aid?

It was in 1526 that the Czech Nation, Independent, free, entered Into a triple alliance with the Germans and Magyars

of Austria-Hungary—with the lofty motives in the hearts of our forefathers— for the purpose of resisting the Turkish hordes that were threatening to destroy European civilization. The Czech Nation completed the triple alliance, and served to wrest the sword from the hand of the infidel; but this very alliance, entered into with as honest an intention as men can conceive, resulted In a treacherous grip upon the members of the alliance. The Slavs made a bold stand for their rights time and again, and emphasized that fact in 1620, when they staked all they possessed in the disastrous battle of White Mountain, (Bila Hora.) The chivalrous spirit of our forefathers was destroyed, the flower of the nobility perished, institutions were demolished and property confiscated. Then our national aspirations, our genius for music, our love of freedom, remained in oblivion as a forgotten necropolis for a period of two centuries. In fact, so complete was the defeat that the Anglo-Saxon historian could not find sufficient trace afterward to lay a cornerstone in history to perpetuate the memory of this heroic people. And it was In this great struggle that our forefathers failed to unite firmly as a nation.

With the still festering sores inflicted by the enemy, who is opening them anew with fresh strokes on the soil belonging to our forefathers, let us, then, with true American greatness offer up a part of our time and money for our unfortunate brethren. Let us do what seemed impossible, unite absolutely for this holy cause, and we shall win. Again I say that we have not come here, to deprive you of the national aspirations which you possess, but to aid and strengthen you in the fight. We congratulate you upon the great efforts you have made. We come as the representatives of 75 per cent, of the people. All we demand is that we work in harmony and strictly according to American views and principles.

HEADQUARTERS IN WASHINGTON

The members of the conference responded by standing up in their seats and cheering their new comrades in arms. Men who had been bitter enemies, men who had shunned each other, now shook hands and embraced. It was a moment that will never be forgotten. The union had become a reality, the trinity had become one for the purpose of liberating Bohemia.

The Czechoslovak National Council at Paris was recognized as the head. Sixteen delegates were chosen for the three organizations, to act as the executive body. It was decided to establish the American branch of the Czechoslovak National Council in Washington with three representatives to correspond to the three organizations and empowered to act for the people in political matters. In order to inform the public of the aspirations of the Czechoslovaks, a Slav Press Bureau was also established in Washington. But the three young representatives, inexperienced in this line of work, sought the aid of Captain Voska —now attached to General Pershing's staff—who came from New York and offered his services. When Professor Masaryk arrived at San Francisco, on his way from Russia to Paris, the State Department refused to allow him to proceed through this country, but Captain Voska, immediately after being informed of the fact, made satisfactory arrangements for Masaryk to proceed on his journey.

THE MORAL EFFECT

With the three representatives in Washington, representing 1,700,000 Czechoslovaks in America, the future at once seemed brighter. Large influential dailies in Washington, Chicago, New York, and elsewhere began to devote space to the Bohemian cause. Senators and Congressmen were now willing to know the details of the renascent nation's political demands. The report reached the Washington Council that Professor Masaryk would pass through the United States, remaining here, at most, two weeks. He was met in Detroit by a delegation, and Rev. I. Kestl, the head of the National Alliance of Bohemian Catholics, greeted him and made known to him that there was a complete union, and that he was looked upon as the head of the movement. Less than a score of years had passed since Masaryk had attacked the Catholics, but the past was now forgotten. In Chicago Professor Masaryk was given a grand welcome, and was induced to remain for an indefinite period. When he went to Washington his plans had modified to meet the wishes of the conservative element and to conform with the tacit desires of the American Government.

THE SOLEMN DECLARATION

After a number of conferences a declaration was prepared, embodying the real aims and spirit of the Czechoslovak people. This solemn declaration was handed to President Wilson on the Fourtl, of July, 1918. It was, in part, as follows:

We, loyal Czechoslovaks of America, bowing In reverent respect before the majesty of your people, bending our heads before the memory of your greatest sons, Washington and Lincoln, stand with all the might we possess behind you and your President, greeting in him your great new morning.

We came here from the land of suffering and oppression. It is on this account that we hailed America like a rising sun after the dark night of humiliation. And she received us—poor, unknown, insignificant. She received us, and her sun warmed us from the first moment we set foot on her soil—the big sun of a freer, happier life than we had lived in our oppressed native land. » • •

Over the vastness of the oceans, over mountains and dark valleys of death, there came to the Czechoslovak land a voice like a bugle announcing victory, singing a great Marseillaise of life and hope into their bitterness of disappointment and despair. It was the voice of a man speaking the message of God's brightest angel: "The world must be made safe for democracy! The nations shall determine their own destinies. They shall rise from the graves of centuries to do the work of God, which is the work of man, in the language of their mothers and in the traditions of their race." Thus spoke the man—Woodrow Wilson. Thus, through him, spoke the whole American Nation.

Strengthened by the might of his glorious courage, our brothers In the old country gave their death pledge, April 13, 1018, within the walls of the ancient Capitol. And In firm, unshakable faith in the final victory of our most sacred rights, In faith In the victory of justice, victory of right over might, freedom over slavery, democracy over privilege, and truth over falsehood, we raise our hands today, on the threshold of a new era of world history, and, by the dear memory of our fathers, before the eyes of the resurrected nation and the graves of our fallen, in great harmony of soul, we promise for today and for all the future: "Wc will remain where we have taken our stand. We will keep on till we win!"

Repeating the solemn pledge given by our brothers, having on our lips the names of this country and her President, we, too, lift our hands today, July 4, 1918, as we are gathered under the folds of the flag of this great Republic, and solemnly pledge ourselves to be loyal and true to the Government of the United States and Its President

This document, signed " Czechoslovaks in America," was the first official expression tempered by the conservative element. It portrayed the genuine spirit of the Czechoslovaks and formed the foundations of the proposed republic. When Professor Masaryk made his entry into Prague in 1918 as the first President of the republic, Captain Voska, representing the American Government, received the same ovation as the tireless leader, because the people knew that they were indebted to America for the laws and Constitution prepared and drafted strictly according to American precedent. And because Professor Masaryk willingly submitted to the American spirit, to the will of the people here, he was made the first President of Bohemia.

FINANCIAL SUPPORT As soon as matters were reconciled at the Chicago convention the organization called upon the people for financial support Never had they responded more willingly or liberally. One patriot gave his entire earnings, consisting of a house and lot, to the cause. Many individuals sent checks amounting to $1,000; thousands gave $100 each. In Pittsburgh $60,000 was raised in two weeks; in Chicago $100,000 within the same period. In Texas $5,000 was collected in less than three months. But the people, in spite of the large sums contributed, did not overlook their first duty to their adopted fatherland. In the Fourth Liberty Loan campaign the Czechoslovaks purchased $31,000,000 worth of bonds, or $6,000,000 less than the Poles, who are numerically twice as many in the United States.

A part of the money collected for the cause was retained in this country, but the greater part of it was sent to the National Council in Paris and distributed for political and propaganda work. England, France, and Italy would never have recognized the Czechoslovaks at such an early date if it had not been for the financial and moral support given by the Bohemians in America.

On the morning of Sept. 4, 1918, Mr.

Lansing called Captain Voska and handed him the official text of the recognition of the Czechoslovak National Council by the American Government. Even though the Allies had already recognized the council, this recognition by the United States was considered the most important of all. The council had now become a de facto Government. The New York Times, the next day, interpreted the meaning of the recognition in the following words: "The recognition of the "Czechoslovaks is held here to mean "that America is irrevocably committed "to the principle of dissolution of the "Austro-Hungarian Empire as a feature "of the scheme of reconstruction of Eu"rope along lines of nationality."

CZECHOSLOVAK RECRUITS

The new nation's political desires realized, another step was necessary—to give still further aid to the United States and the Allies in subduing the Central Powers. To this end the Czechoslovaks rallied with no less zeal and fervor than they had evinced in their political fight. American citizens of Czechoslovak descent volunteered and behaved with signal courage upon the battlefield. Those who were not citizens were sent to Camp Stamford, Connecticut, where they were trained at the exclusive expense of the council, receiving 10 cents a day. Since the council was not able financially to supply the recruits with uniforms, they were forced to wear their civilian clothes, which oftentimes were torn and ragged, but to this fact the soldiers paid little or no attention. When the bill passed Congress forming a Foreign Legion, there were no more able-bodied men among the Czechoslovaks to volunteer, as they had all joined the American or French Army.

Masaryk, instead of returning to Paris, remained in Washington until he was made President of the republic. The Constitution for the new nation, first read in public in Independence Hall, Philadelphia, was modeled upon the laws and Constitution of the United States. Thus, in the very fibre of its being, the Czechoslovak Republic is a product of American liberty.

« ПретходнаНастави »