Page:The Bohemians (Czechs) In The Present Crisis.djvu/16

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It was a terribly test to which the Czech nationality was subjected when the war broke out; a test which literally amounted to a choice between life and death. The present attitude of the Bohemians of course means persecution, it means gallows and the rifle squad for untold numbers of staunch Czechs, but had the Bohemians cravenly submitted to the Austrian government, the efforts to stamp out the Czech nationality would have gone on in any event, but with the endangering and possible loss of nationality would have been coupled a loss of national honor which indeed would have been worse than death individually or collectively.

It is not out of place to confess that some of us watched with anxiety what was going on in Europe. We knew that after the battle of White Mountain the best elements in Bohemian national life were crushed and stamped out, or driven into exile. We realized what inevitable effect this must have had on Czech character for a long, long time, and we wondered whether after all the Czech nationality had again become the nation of Hus and Jerome.

Our highest hopes have not been disappointed; in spite of all the persecution, in spite of the numerous executions, in spite of all the pressure brought upon all Bohemian political parties, the Bohemians in Austria are maintaining a silence which now is indeed more eloquent than words could be, while individuals of Bohemian origin living beyond Austrian boundaries are manifesting with all the vigor in their command sympathies with the Allies. The acid test has been passed successfully, the Czechs are again a nation of Hus and Jerome.

It was Goethe, I believe, who after the battle of Valmy said that he was glad to have lived then because he had seen the inauguration of an epoch. We may well repeat this statement now. We have indeed seen the birth of a new epoch, and we of Bohemian descent may well say that we are especially content to have lived in the present age and to have seen the Bohemian nation again strong and vigorous, again playing its part forcefully in the drama of nations.