The Czechoslovak Review/Volume 1/Bohemian Catholics co-operate
BOHEMIAN CATHOLICS CO-OPERATE
A great event in the history of the Bohemian National Alliance of America was the manifesto of July 4th by which the National Alliance of Bohemian Catholics became a part of the movement aiming at the liberation of Bohemia.
Since the very foundation of the Bohemian National Alliance in August, 1914, this organization gladly accepted into its membership all people of Czech descent, whatever their political and religious convictions may have been. A number of Catholics and even some priests became earnest supporters of the Alliance, but on the whole the Catholics stood apart, limiting their efforts to the collection of a large fund to be used for the relief of misery caused by the war in Bohemia.
Early in 1917, after the Allies had made the independence of Bohemia part of their program, Bohemian Catholics at a large mass-meeting in Chicago determined to take an active part in the great work that still remained to be done, before the ardent desire of all Czechs could be realized. In addition to their Cyril-Methodius Relief Fund Committee they organized the National Alliance of Bohemian Catholics with the purpose of helping to liberate Bohemia. After the entrance of the United States into the European war the relief work was necessarily put aside and all emphasis placed on obtaining political independence for the old home beyond the seas. Officers of the Catholic Alliance, which grew very rapidly, entered into negotiations with the Central Committee of the older organization, and agreement was reached which after proper ratification was made public on Independence Day.
The separate existence of the National Alliance of Bohemian Catholics is not affected by the pact; in fact there will be a friendly rivalry between the older organization and the Catholic body as to the number of branches created and the amount of money collected. But for all practical purposes they combine to carry on under the name of the Bohemian National Alliance to successful completion the difficult task of gaining freedom for their kin in Europe.
The publication of the agreement was received with great enthusiasm by all Bohemian-speaking people in the United States. For not only does it strengthen the movement for independence of Bohemia, but it helps to cast down the wall that has for decades separated Czech Catholics and non-Catholics in America.
In chronicling further the activities of the Bohemian National Alliance we have to record here several important national fetes arranged by various branches. In Cedar Rapids, on the Fourth of July a celebration was held to manifest the devotion of the Bohemian-born citizens to the United States in which Catholics took a prominent part, as the first fruits of their earnest co-operation. On the same day the Czechs in Baltimore paraded in large numbers through the business section of the city in honor of the “Day We Celebrate”.
A tremendous outpouring of people of Bohemian descent was witnessed in Cleveland at the Bohemian Day on July 15, when 12,000 persons paid admission fee to the grounds where amid scenes of unparalleled enthusiasm resolutions were adopted assuring the President of the loyalty and devotion of the Bohemian people. The speaker of the day was Professor Šárka Hrbkova, a member of the State Council of Defense of Nebraska. On that day also the Hudson County (N. J.) branch of the Alliance held a national fete at which the chief attraction was Arthur G. Empey, author of “Over the Gap”, and bomber and machine gunner of the British army, in addition to speakers from New York, among them Chas. Pergler, general director of the Slav Press Bureau. Full reports of the events of the day were furnished to the local papers by the corresponding secretary of the branch, J. L. Trnka. The anniversary day of the greatest son of Bohemia, John Hus, was remembered in Chicago by a memorial meeting, held in the Carter H. Harrison High School, July 6th. Dean Shailer Mathews of the University of Chicago and Vojta Beneš were the speakers.
The recruiting posters, drawn by Vojtěch Pressig and published by the Slav Press Bureau, were honored by being included among a traveling exhibit of the best recruiting posters issued in America since the outbreak of the war.
Resolutions for Bohemian independence, which had been previously adopted in a number of large cities were approved during July in Baltimore, Detroit, Cedar Rapids and Schenectady.
The event which aroused the greatest interest among the Bohemian-speaking people of America was the distinguished part taken in the brief Russian offensive by the Czecho-Slovak brigade. In the name of Czechs and Slovaks of America five thousand dollars were at once sent to Minister Kerensky with a cablegram requesting him to use the sum for the relief of the wounded of the brigade.