Page:The Bohemian Review, vol1, 1917.djvu/139

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How Bohemians Organized.

By Vojta Beneš,

Organizer, Bohemian National Alliance of America.

The Bohemian people declared war to the death upon Austria, and all Czechs and Slovaks beyond the frontiers of Austria-Hungary had to be mobilized.

Moltke, the Prussian general, said many years ago: War takes three things—money, more money and still more money. Let me quote in this connection what Professor Masaryk stated in an address at Petrograd, May 18, 1917: “I left Bohemia with practically no money; the Austrian government took exceptional care that no considerable sum should get across the line. I was to be isolated so that I could do no harm. All the banks in Bohemia were strictly watched so that the officials might know who is getting money from home, and soon no more money could be sent out from Prague. It was self-evident, and the people at home took it for granted that America would help. I wrote to America, and the Bohemians there, all honor to them, are financing in a satisfactory way our movement. I need not tell you that a great deal of money is needed.”

There are no rich men among the Bohemian people in America who could afford to give large amounts; besides more than money was needed. It was necessary that the fight for the Czech nation should have the moral support of all the emigrants from Bohemia, of all whose mouths were not shut by superior force. The fight for independence had to be backed by Bohemians in every Allied and neutral country. The war made it the duty of the scattered fractions of the Czech people to finance the struggle for liberty and to speak for those who were not allowed to speak for them selves. To ask for money from others would have been a lasting shame for the Bohemian name.

Bohemians in France and England, and especially in the United States, took in hand the construction of the Bohemian National Alliance. This organization was created since the war began, but it has grown so wonderfully and has accomplished so much that it enjoys the respect and devotion of every Bohemian-born man and woman in these countries. The only sore spot until recently was Russia. Personal bickerings interfered with the smooth working of the “Svaz” of Czecho-Slovak people in Russia and much harm was done at the very time, when it was supremely necessary to present a united front and give proof of political capacity. But even there matters have been straightened out. Bohemians in Russia are now making an earnest effort to make up for lost time.

The Slovak people in the United States which had been organized for some time in the Slovak League, joined the fight for freedom from the start and the League works with us for the liberation of the sorely oppressed Slovakland.

Over all these organizations in the different foreign colonies presides the Czecho-Slovak National Council| in Paris to give direction to the fight of the nation against Austria-Hungary and to speak in our name and in the name of the people of the Bohemian lands. Its head is Thomas Garigue Masaryk, professor in the University of Prague|, scholar and statesman, deputy in the Reichsrat, member of the Austrian delegation, a man of international renown, and of spotless character, who hates empty words, but who can fight to the end in a righteous cause. A noted French astromomer, Dr. Milan Štefanik, son of the Hungarian Slovakland and proud of his descent, a man who had been honored by the French Academy for his scientific achievements and by the French Government for his daring exploits in the French flying corps, became the representative of the Slovak people in the Council. Dr. Edvard Beneš of the University of Prague is the secretary of this body. The Council enjoys the confidence of the Czecho-Slovaks everywhere, because Masaryk, the grand old man of Bohemia, is known by all to be the ideal leader of the nation at a time, when its fate is in the balance.

Masaryk resides most of the time in London, being a lecturer in the School of Slavonic Studies of the University of London. Dr. Štefanik, a high French officer, generally travels in the Allied countries on diplomatic and military business. Dr. Beneš is in charge of the work in Paris and France. In Russia there is now a branch of the National Council under the direction of whatever member of the Council happens