Page:The Bohemian Review, vol1, 1917.djvu/205

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counter-attacking near Slachtince; Tarnopol was burning, and we still fought at Grabovka. Those are names that will be inscribed with golden letters into the history of the Czechoslovak army, especially of the glorious first regiment that had to hold back the strongest units of the second German army. But the names of these little villages will be written in black letters in the records of those German regiments that came into contact with the bayonets of the first Czechoslovak brigade. Our first regiment alone broke several guard regiments brought over from the French front.

Mackensen’s plan to strike quickly, to create a panic, to surround the Carpathian army and to push the Galician front into Russia was frustrated by our bayonets. Officers who witnessed our counter-attacks regretted that there was not at least a full army corps of us. The Germans would have been sent flying. At Grabovka, so the captured Germans told us, four attacking battalions refused to go forward, when some one called out: “Die rotweissen kommen”. (The red-whites are coming). That is why you read in Russian papers: How lucky that the Czechoslovaks were there. A tribute to our determination to fight to the death.

It is difficult to say just where our first brigade accomplished its most wonderful deeds, for all its units along the entire broken front held back the pressure of the gigantic German-Austrian might with such sang-froid that the equipment of the Russian units could be saved and artillery had a chance to pull out in time. Wherever our boys were stationed, not a single gun was lost. The first regiment by its fierce defense of the heights at Ostasevce made possible the destruction of the great army depots at Jezerna so that the Germans captured very little booty there; and the same regiment successfully covered the retreat of the entire supply train of a full army corps, while the second and third regiments prevented a panic on the wabbling front of Zborozh.

The Germans now claim that theirs was an unexpected offensive. But when one considers the remarkable coincidence of the arrival of fresh troops from the French front with the strike of the Russian forces near Tarnopol, where the bolsheviki controlled the regimental committees, the conclusion is inevitable that the “unexpected offensive” was in reality a well-planned campaign of the German-Austrian general staff and the followers of Lenine. That our part in this campaign did not result in the complete destruction of our brigade is very creditable to the ability of our commander, the regimental officers and the bravery of the men. Every member of the Czechoslovak Brigade realized how much depended on our resistance and how the entire Russian army would be encouraged by a demonstration that the Germans could be held up. We made it possible that the masses of deceived soldiers got over their hypnotic state and stopped running away, after they perceived that some regiments were still facing the enemy and keeping him out of Russian territory. We talked with a man who ran away with the disorganized masses. “See,” we told him, “we fought for your land and your liberty, while you marched back and abandoned us to be overwhelmed by the Germans, each of our regiments fighting two divisions”. He had blue, good-natured eyes and tears welled up, as we talked to him. “We did not think”, he explained with a red face: “we were told that if we left Galicia, they would make peace and we could go home to our women.”

From July 5th to July 15th lasted the splendid struggle of our brigade against an enemy many times stronger. It was necessary to defend a number of crossings over small Galician rivers, and for ten days and nights we were on guard without a rest, throwing back many attacks every day. We could get no relief, for we covered the retreat of an army. After every German attack we counter-attacked, but when the Germans fell back, our orders were to retreat, because on both sides of us Russian guard regiments continued to march backwards. At any rate we did our duty. Not only did we cut a way through, but we confounded the plans of our friend Mackensen.

Today we are resting, full of memories of those awful days. The regimental headquarters are in a fine country house in the midst of a noble park. And as we rest, we plan future battles. All the Czechs and Slovaks blown by the whirlwind of war into Russia are mobilizing. Masaryk, the leader of the nation, surely leaves Russia satisfied with us. He saw the foundations of the Czechoslovak army now increasing in size like an avalanche. Soon we will pay back to Germany and Austria for all the sufferings of the Bohemian nation. Masaryk saw the creation of an army of irreconcilables.

Will Austria-Hungary leave Germany before the end of the fight? It would be certain political and economic suicide for her to do so. Hence she cannot. Will Austria be subservient to Germany after the war? Austria-Hungary cannot help herself in the matter. Her dependence is not voluntary. . . Austria is firmly convinced that without Germany’s strong arm to support her she is doomed as a political entity.

A limited liability war in which we fight Germany ourselves and pay money to Italy and Russia to enable them to fight Austria and Turks with whom we are at peace, savors of sharp practice and not of statesmanship. It is a good rule either to stay out of the war or to go into it, but not to try to do both these things at once.

Among the many races of Austria the best showing in education is made by the Bohemians. The Austrian “Statistisches Handbuch” of 1914 states that among people of Czech race the percentage of illiterates was 2.4, while the Germans came next with a percentage of 3.1. The other races followed far behind.