Page:The Bohemian Review, vol1, 1917.djvu/41

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The Bohemian Review

fighting gallantly on the Russian side. The Eighth, Thirtieth, Eighty-eighth and 102nd regiments made the same move in a little less unanimous fashion. Thousands of recalcitrant Bohemian soldiers have been executed, and wholesale confiscations have been levied against the families of those who have been taken prisoners; yet still the desertions go on.

A people so devoted and resourceful can not be destroyed and should not be held in tutelage. When the war ends, there should be an independent republic of Bohemia.”


Twenty eight delegates attended the conference of the Bohemian National Alliance, held in Cleveland on February 17 and 18. Two years ago a smaller conference was held in the same city, and from it dates the real growth of this remarkable organization created by war. The Alliance has to-day 147 branches in 25 states. It has collected considerable money which has been sent to Profesor Masaryk and his co-workers in Europe to enable them to conduct a campaign of publicity in the interest of Czecho-Slovak independence. That this money was well invested is proved by the Allies’ note of January 10, 1917, which for the first time since the thirty years war made the liberation of Bohemia an international problem. Without the effective work of the Bohemian exiles the probabilities are that Bohemia would have been forgotten.

At the Cleveland conference the subjects of discussion included methods of organization to the end that all those of Czech descent in the United States should take part in the work of the Alliance; means were considered of gaining the sympathy of America for, or rather America’s attention to, the just demands of the Czech and Slovak race for freedom. Closer co-operation between Bohemians and Slovaks was urged as being in the interest of both these kindred races. Recommendations of the conference submitted to the local branches for approval include the retention of the central office of the Alliance in Chicago for a further period of two years, and an amendment to the constitution intended to facilitate the creation of more branches.

The delegates present at this conference represented Bohemian settlements from Boston in the east to San Francisco in the west and were of various professions and callings. Businessmen, workingmen, doctors, lawyers, ministers, publishers, university professors and three ladies mingled together on terms of perfect equality in a way that would have convinced any observer that democratic manners are deeply rooted in the hearts of the Bohemian people.

Sunday night, February 18, after the conference adjourned, a mass meeting of Cleveland Slavs was held at Grey’s Armory, attended by some three thousand people. The chairman was V. Svarc, a Cleveland attorney. The English speaker was Charles Pergler of Cresco, Ia., who in a scholarly and effective speech argued that Americans, if they are true to the principles of the American Revolution, must approve of the struggles of Bohemians and Slovaks for freedom; in support of his thesis he quoted various state papers in which our presidents and secretaries of state expressed the sympathy of America for oppressed nations fighting for liberation. From the Bohemian point of view this Cleveland meeting will be memorable, because on that occasion representatives of all religious and political persuasions spoke from the same platform. Democrats, Republicans and Socialists, Catholic priest, Presbyterian minister and leader of free thinkers, all urged with equal enthusiasm the duty of all the children of Bohemia to help the land of their fathers in this critical period of its history.

The conference sent a telegram to President Wilson, and the mass meeting adopted a resolution, both to the effect that Slavs of Austria-Hungary will support the president in any steps he may find necessary in defense of American rights.


If war comes between the United States and the Central Powers, Bohemians in the Republic will be very much in the same position in which Bohemians in the Dominion found themselves in 1914. Those that were not naturalized were considered alien enemies, being subjects of the Austrian Emperor. At that time the Canadian government had no time or inclination to pay attention to the impassioned protests of the Czechs that their hearts were on the side of the Allies. Bohemians in Canada are few, some four thousand all told, scattered from Nova Scotia to British Columbia, mostly laborers and farmers, lacking leaders whose voice would be heard in Ottawa. Many were interned, others had to report themselves regularly to the police, and all suffered much from the suspicion with which Canadians looked upon all foreigners coming from Austria. When the government of the Dominion found time to study the problem of the interned aliens, it followed the example of the imperial government and declared the Czechs or Bohemians, as well as the Slovaks, a friendly race. The Bohemian National Alliance of America, to which at first the Canadian Czechs attached themselves, was recognized in Ottawa as the spokesman of this people, and two representatives of this organization visited Canada in 1915 to procure the release of their interned countrymen and to inform the Canadian people of the sentiments of Bohemians. But the most powerful agent in convincing Canada of the friendly feelings of this “Austrian” race was the action of the Canadian residents of Czech birth by volunteering for army service. In Michel, B. C, all the physically fit members of the local Bohemian National Alliance joined the army and are now in England. In Portage la Prairie, Man., seventy Bohemian volunteers are training with the 223rd Batallion, and they expect to grow into a full company before they are sent across the ocean. In every province of the Dominion there were Bohemian volunteers, and the Bohemian National Alliance of Canada, an or-