The Czechoslovak Review/Volume 1/With the Bohemian National Alliance (1)
WITH THE BOHEMIAN NATIONAL ALLIANCE
The month of May opened with the visit of the French Commission to Chicago. When Mayor Thompson made his unfortunate statement that he would not issue an invitation to the French guests of the nation, because it might not please the various immigrant groups of Chicago, naming Bohemians among other races, the Alliance made a strong protest to the mayor and took steps to have the real attitude of the people of Bohemian birth on this point made clear in the public press. Officers of the Alliance were members of the Chicago Invitation Committee and at the dinner in the Congress Hotel presented Minister Viviani with an elaborate address of thanks, referring to the part played by France to have the peace terms of the Allies expressly include a declaration in favor of Bohemian independence.
In the protests made by foreign born citizens of Chicago against the so-called Kaiser spelling-book, the Bohemian National Alliance took a leading part. Thousands of torn out leaves containing the objectionable article laudatory of the Kaiser were brought by school children to the headquarters of the Alliance.
In New York a large mass meeting of all Slavs was held in the Carnegie Hall early in May, due mainly to the efforts of the local Bohemian Alliance. Prof. J. Dyneley Prince of Columbia University was chairman, and among the speakers were Dudley Field Malone, Collector of the Port; Count Tolstoy, Minister Charles B. Vopicka and Dr. B. E . Shatzky, representative of the new Russian government.
Bohemians of Nebraska, Kansas and the Dakotas held a very successful convention in Omaha at the end of April. Pledges of loyalty were given to the President, universal national service was endorsed, and the sympathy of America was asked for the just claim of Bohemia to independence.
The situation in Russia caused much anxiety to the leaders of the Alliance. When at first the talk was heard of separate peace, several lengthy cablegrams were sent to the big men of New Russia be- seeching them not to consider such a move for a moment; later on, when changes in the provisional government disposed for the time being of any likelihood of a separate peace, but when the new program of no annexations and no indemnities was proclaimed, appeals were made again to Russia on behalf of Bohemians and other subject Slav races to the effect that the break up of the Hapsburg empire and the liberation of all Slavs should not be confused with annexation. There has always been a strong feeling in Russia that the Russians, as the most numerous of Slav races, should play the part of big brother to the smaller Slav nations, and the appeals of the Bohemian National Alliance were addressed to this well known sentiment.
Organizer Vojta Beneš returned from his circular tour of the Western states. Several new branches of the Alliance were founded as a result of his work. The total number of the branch societies at the present time is 178. Direct members, paying one dollar and upwards a year, number fifty thousand; counting in members of societies which joined the alliance in a body, the total member-ship of the Bohemian National Alliance exceeds one hundred and twenty thousand.
Charles Pergler, vice-president of the Alliance, had the honor of addressing the joint session of the Texas legislature on May 10, his subject being “Bohemians in the Present Crisis.” The same night he spoke to a large gathering at the University of Texas. From Austin, Mr. Pergler proceeded to New York to take charge of the Slav Press Bureau, founded by the Alliance in co-operation with other Slav organizations.
In the latter half of May, Prof. Ferdinand Písecký arrived in the United States from Petrograd, having left the capital of Russia a few days after the victory of the revolution, of which he was an interested spectator. Písecký, who had been a professor of languages at the Jičín Normal College, was mobilized as a reserve officer in the Austrian Army, allowed himself to be captured by the Russians in November, 1914, and after some more or less unpleasant experiences as a prisoner of war, organized a large volunteer body from among the captured Bohemians, some of whom fought in a special Bohemian division, and others in the Serbian division of the Russian army. Lieut. Písecký was then attached to the Serbian legation in Petrograd and was sent to America to inform the workers in the cause of Bohemian independence of the progress of the movement in Russia, and to take back a report on the work done in the United States. Under the auspices of the Bohemian National Alliance, Prof. Písecký is giving a series of some fifteen lectures in the larger Bohemian settlements, his subject being the Russian revolution: its causes, its progress and its future, and the burden of his talk is the duty of Bohemians in America to fight in the cause of liberty, as Bohemians in Russia and France have so nobly done. Prof. Pisecky feels very hopeful about the outcome of the present turmoil in Russia.