The Czechoslovak Review/Volume 2/Story of a Czechoslovak Private
Story of a Czechoslovak Private.
This is the story of Demitrij Chaloupka, a private in the Czechoslovak Army who came to the United States from Russia as orderly to Major John Šípek. Chaloupka was born in 1894 in Svratouch, Bohemia, was a baker before the war, and his experiences and sentiments are typical of those of the average
I was drafted in Liberec on July 11th, 1915. On the 21st of July I presented myself at Kutná Hora for service with the 21st Regiment of Infantry. We were put at once under guard of Magyar soldiers who were to take us to training quarters in Hungary. Even before we left Bohemia we had a sample of the kind treatment of the Austrian Government for the Czech soldiers; we were not allowed to sing our Czech songs. We did not want to stand for that and insisted on singing what we pleased; then the third day when I got up in the morning I saw that we were surrounded by soldiers with arms and when I wanted to get out of the room I was stopped. I found out that the night before our boys were singing “The Sixth of July” (a song celebrating the martyrdom of John Hus). A Magyar cadet wanted to stop it, but they paid no attention to him; then a patrol came to arrest them, but the boys threw them out of the barracks. There was a long investigation and finally one sergeant was found guilty of insubordination and sentenced to death. Although his wife and three children begged for his life, it did not do any good, and when we got to Hungary a few days later, we heard an order read to us that this poor fellow was shot.
In Hungary we were to be trained for the front. I did not get much of it, for inside of a month I got a furlough to go home for the harvest. I was home fourteen days and I had to bring with me from Hungary things to eat, because at home we had nothing except a little corn flour, while in Hungary they had everything. When I got home mother cried over me, because I came inrags. My pants were all patches, the blouse was full of bloody spots, for we drew uniforms of men who were killed. The cap sat on my ears and my shoes were like a pair of sleighs—just to hitch up a horse and pull along.
My poor mother had a tough time of it. My older brother was already back from the front for the second time with a wound in the hand, now I was gone and two younger brothers were waiting for a call from our “gracious” emperor any day. Later on, in 1917, I heard that my two younger brothers who were fourteen when I saw them last were already serving in the Austrian army, and so was my father who was fifty-five years old when he was drafted. So there were seven of us in the army from one family.
My father was a great Czech patriot, and when I was going back to Hungary after my furlough he said to me as I was leaving: “Frank, you know what to do.” And I said: “Don’t worry father, in a month’s time I will be writing you from Russia.”
And it turned out to be the truth. After I got back to the regiment, I heard that my chum was attached to a marching company, just because he had been home to his mother’s funeral. I made up my mind right away to go with him instead of waiting until it was my turn to go a month later. So I left in a week. But I forgot to tell you about our oath to old Franz Joseph. They took us recruits to a large court, and there a German officer, who could talk a little Bohemian made a speech, to us. He said: “We smashed Belgium and Serbia, in two weeks we will be in Kiev.” That was at the time of the great Russian retreat from the Carpathians; and then he added that our good ally would be in Paris in a few days and in six months the war would be over. So after that beautiful speech we had to repeat the oath read to us. Well, we could not keep our mouth shut, so we Czechs all numbled and twisted our lips, while the Germans swore aloud. It was a very different oath, when we swore obediance to our father Masaryk in March 1917. We all shouted the words of the oath with so much heartiness that the Russians flocked around from the neighborhood and wanted to know what the noise was about.
We got to the front near Luck and there we heard that the Russians licked our crowd at Rovno. So they rushed us over there to stuff the holes in the front, but it did not work. At night we saw villages burning on all sides and by this light we could see the Austrian Army marching back in great confusion. Later at night it was the turn of our regiment, and we ran back that night and all day without anything to eat, until we got back to Luck and started to entrench ourselves. I
Demitry Chaloupka thought the Russians would not catch us so soon, but before we had the trenches dug, there was Russian shrapnel flying over our heads. We crowded into the holes that we dug each for himself and waited for the Russians. The evening was quiet, but about two o’clock in the morning we heard cries of hurrah on the right wing. We did not know whether it was the Russians or the Austrians. No orders came, until about half an hour later, I heard somebody call out to me in a mixture of Russian and Polish: “Just come out of there.”
And there I saw my first Russian, a very impressive one. He had a beard down to his belt, his head was wrapped in a kerchief and he had a rifle with that long bayonet that the Russians have; I thought that if he stuck that bayonet into my stomach I should never digest it. So we crawled out and we heard them say “Magyars.” We started to tell them that we were Czechs, but there was no chance for establishing friendly relations, because Austrian machine guns began to spray us. That is the way I took my leave of Austria—amid a shower of bullets.
We were taken back of the front, and there they counted us. The whole wood was full of prisoners. Here we had our first quarrel with the Germans, for they said that the Czechs were responsible for the defeat of the Austrian Army and promised that we would all be hanged when we got back. Then the Russians lined us up and led us into the interior of Russia. We did not get anything to eat, although we had been hungry for two days before our capture. In Rovno we received our first meal. Ten of us ate of one bowl, and one man could have swallowed all that was in that bowl, for we were awfully hungry. Then they led us into barns where our predecessors left many souvenirs for our benefit, little animals of whom we found many in the Austrian trenches, but in Russia we found ten times as many.
Then we were marched to Kiev, about 350 versts (about 250 miles). We got few eats, but many versts a day—only one meal each day and on that we had to march as much as 50 versts. The Russian people were good, they brought us bread, but the Magyars, who were at the head of the column got most of it and we Czechs in the rear went hungry. Here also I heard for the first time the word "Austriak"; I never knew there was such a term. We marched about three weeks and then we came to Darnica, a notorious prison camp near Kiev. We hoped that here at least we would be put in barracks, for on the march we had to sleep in the open near rivers, but in the camp it was the same thing—just a big plain wih barbed wire all around and fire tree to sleep under. The first night each found a tree for himself and soon fell asleep, because we were all hungry, and made a long march that day. But when we woke up in the morning, we found that somebody stole our last possession, a loaf of bread that we got at Kiev, and here was no one to appeal to, for the Magyars in he camp did as they pleased and woe to him who complained. He was so beaten that he could hardly crawl. I remember that one morning when I woke up I saw my neighbor lying dead with cut throat; the poor fellow was without his uniform and the murderers left him lying in his underwear, because it was so torn and dirty. I know that all of us who passed through Darnica will never forget the experiences.
I was there nearly a week, and then they picked us out for various employments. I was anxious to work, if that would get away from the prison camp. First they took us to the forts of Kiev, where conditions were no better, for the commander was a German sympathizer. We were almost naked and winter was at hand. But I had hopes that I would be sent to work in a bakery, for they were looking for bakers and confectioners. Finally they sent me out, but instead of a bakery, I was sent to a farm. There were a hundred of us who were sent to this great landed estate and none of us had ever worked in the fields. The boss told us, in place of a welcome, that we must work. . if we would not, he would have us whipped. The second day we were sent out to work and had to drive oxen, although none of us knew how. I remember bringing home with me several times sections of the fence and once I guided a load of straw into the pond. Fortunately my oxen could swim, and the wagon with the team got safely across. . only the straw was lost.
There I was seven months, before I got hold of the newspaper “Czechoslovak.” And there I read that Czech and Slovak prisoners of war were being organized for service with the Russians. That interested me very much, and next Sunday I went to a nearby village which was settled by Czech farmers from Bohemia to get further information. I was awfully anxious to get into this army, but it was right before the harvest and I knew that the boss would not let me go. The only thing to do was to run away. So I sold the remaining parts of my Austrian uniform and bought a peasant’s outfit, hoping that I would not be recognized.
Next Sunday I skipped and walked to the nearest town of Kazatin, where I wanted to take train, but they would not sell me a ticket. There was nothing left for me to do, but to walk, since I knew that they would look for me, and if I were caught I would get 50 strokes of the knout. I was held up the second day, but luck was with me, for the people who caught me were good Slavs. They gave me a square meal, and when a military train came along they put me aboard, and so I got to Kiev in three days.
I walked along the streets and met our own people, prisoners of war, who were delivering bread. I asked them about our army, but they said that I should be in no hurry to join. I hanged around the city for a week and then I heard that a company of volunteers was going to the front. I went to see them off and at that moment I felt that it was my duty to join them. It was so touching to see Czech soldiers marching through Kiev under the Czech flag, and when at the depot a band was playing “Kde Domov Můj,” I could hardly keep from crying. As the boys got into the cars, they said “au revoir in Prague.” Next day I went back to Darnica and asked to be sent out to fight for the Russians. When I was drafted into the Austrian Army I almost cried, but now I was hoping to get to the front against Austria and I was sure that if my mother saw me she would be glad of it. That was August 20, 1916.
We were taken to the city of Borispol where we went into training. We sang our national songs as we marched to the parade grounds and back to the barracks, and nobody grumbled at the strict discipline. After nearly a month I was sent to the front to join the First Regiment. It was a quiet time all through that winter and we had an excellent time, especially at Christmas of 1916. All were impatient for spring to come and with it the great Russian offensive which was to crush Austria.
But in March came the Russian overturn. About three days after the Petrograd revolution we swore loyalty to the provisional Russian Government, and also for the first time we swore in Czech an oath of obedience to Masaryk. At the end of April we heard that delegates of soldiers from the South western Russian front would have a convention at which decision would be taken whether to at tack or not. The first Czechoslovak Brigade also sent a delegate, Major Šípek, who was very popular both with the men and the officers. When he got there, the Russians would not let him talk, because they looked upon him as the delegate of a national army. He went to General Brusiloff who helped him to be admitted into the convention. Major Šípek made them a fine speech, got a lot of applause and his remarks were published in Russian papers. There he had our brigade entered for the offensive as storming troops. Up to now we did duty in smaller detachments as scouts.
When Major Šípek returned, the whole brigade was told at once that we would take part in the spring offensive. Everybody was so glad that we would finally meet our enemies face to face. We had rifles, but no cartridges. Brusiloff promised that we would get everything at the front. When we were starting for the front, the people all cried and brought us flowers of which we made wreaths for our rifles. We went by train to Zbaraz, then we marched to Jezerna where German airplanes welcomed us with bombs, and two days later we started out at night and marched all night to the front trenches. We relieved Finnish regiments who had fraternized with the Germans.
In the trenches we found neither cartridges nor bombs. Machine guns were so dirty that we could not use them; but the second day the general sent us munitions and pretty soon we had everything.
It was seven days before we got our chance. All that time the Germans were anxious to find out who was in the opposite trenches, and they had an announcement that the man who would bring a prisoner would get 50 crowns and fourteen days leave. But they did not get a single one of our boys. The night before our attack we did not sleep, but sang our Czech songs. Everybody had bombs all around his waist. We were all as pleased as if we were going to a wedding. First Lt. Vašátko started out with a company of bomb throwers, whose business it was to smash the barbed wire. Few of them returned and Vasatko himself had his head smashed and is still going with his head bandaged, until there will be a chance to put in a gold plate in his skull.
Then we started out in small groups, like Indians, and in five minutes the first line was captured. We got a lot of prisoners, and they all cried that they were Czechs, though they were not. In twenty minutes we got through the fifth line, a veritable fortress. I am sure the Germans who managed to get away did not call us cowards any more, as they used to do in the Austrian Army. From now on they called us the “white-red devils.”
But our victory did not do much good, for a few days later the Russian soldiers made up their minds to run away. When I asked those fellows why they would not fight, they always answered: “To h—— with fighting, now we got liberty.” You could see Russian soldiers everywhere, like clouds of flies, but none on the front. And so they switched our brigade from army corps to army corps; as soon as the line started to give, they rushed us there to stuff the hole. We had to cover the retreat of eleven armies. We were the last to go and picked up what the Russians left behind, so that the Germans did not find much booty after us.
Finally, General Brusiloff ordered that we should go to winter quarters to be re-formed. We were to take trains, but after waiting seven days we decided to march. It was about 300 versts, and there we found quarters in villages. Then the Bolshevik revolution came and there was fighting in the Ukraine, but we kept out of it. Finally the Ukrainian government invited the Germans to help them against the Bolsheviki, and we had to leave the country, for otherwise the Germans would catch us.
We were retreating to Kiev’ and pretty fast, for the Germans were right behind us. At Zitomir our first regiment had a brush with German armored automobiles, but we got to Kiev without a fight. Right the next day the Germans got there and attempted to capture the bridge across the Dnieper. The second regiment held the bridge and the rest of us retreated further. It was a sad sight—everywhere you could see rifles, machine guns and even cannon lying around, but without breech-locks.
Then all the regiments concentrated at Piratin where they were to entrain one after the other. That was very good news, for we were all dead tired. And then the report came that the Germans were marching on Bachmach to get in the rear of us. That was in the middle of March. Our Sixth Regiment held Bachmach and the Fourth Regiment was rushed there to its help. There was quite a battle, for the Germans were far stronger. But our boys were not scared and licked the Germans good and plenty. The Jews told us that the Germans carried away dozens of wagon loads of dead soldiers, and when the Jews said it, we could believe it, for the Jews in the Ukraine are all with the Germans. The German general had to conclude an armistice with us and later we read in the Ukraine papers that he was punished for it, because he had no business to deal with “Czechoslovak bands,” since the Germans did not recognize us as an army. That way all our trains got through Bachmach. From Kursk an armored train with twenty men rode back to reconnoiter. They went too far and the Germans pulled up the rails both in front and in rear of them. Our boys stayed there the whole day and kept shooting at the Germans, whenever the Germans tried to atack When night came, our boys started the engine and in the darkness jumped out of it. The Germans kept shooting at the running engine and a couple of versts further the train fell into the river, where the bridge was blown up. How the Germans must have been surprised, when they looked for our dead in the river and found none.
Our boys all caught up with at Kursk. Then we went on, but so slowly that we could have walked more in one day than riding in the train in two days; most of the time we stood still. Finally, we got to Penza, where we had to turn over our arms. That was a tough thing for our boys, for our boys, for each one valued his gun more than anything else. We had to obey our leaders, but we were sure that there would be trouble. Here, too, the Bolsheviki tried to recruit our fellows for a Czech Red Guard. They stuck to us everywhere and tried to talk us over. Now we were all impatient with all the long delays, and most of the time we did not have anything to eat, while the Czech communists were promising us high pay and good living. They took us to their barracks where they slept in white feather beds and had everything to eat they wanted, while the ordinary people were hungry. The Czech communists promised the Penza Soviet that they would gain 30,000 of us, but they hardly got 300, and these were fellows we did not want, men who were afraid to go to France or who were too keen after money.
Finally we got to Vertunovka, where we were sorted out into trains and in these trains we were to go as far as Vladivostok. Here we wainted a whole month, and since we had little to do we ornamented our cars; every platoon wanted to have the finest looking car.
Those cars were really nice to look at, and every car had something on it relating to the Hussite days. Hus, Žižka, Masaryk and other great men of our nation were on every car. There were inscriptions like: “Long live our little father, Masaryk, France and all the Allies.” Most of the inscriptions had some references to our long fight with Germany and Rome.
Most of our boys were against the Catholic church. Even before the Russian revolution our first three regiments in a body abandoned the Catholic church and joined the Russian church, and that was the time when my original name Frank was changed to Demitrij. We had flags with the Hussite chalice and all over Siberia we sang that glorious Hussite hymn: “Ye who are God’s soldiers.”
Our first regiment is called after John Hus, the second after King George Podebrad, the third after John Žižka, the fourth after the orphans of Procopius, and the whole first division is known as the Hussite Division. We got to Cheljabinsk on the
|Gen. Rudolf Čeček,
Commander of First Division in charge of operation on the Volga
|Gen. John Syrový,
Chief Commander of Czechoslovak troops.
|Gen. J. Gajda,|
Commanding Second Division in charge of operations on northern front.
|Cheliabinsk Convention of the Czechoslovak Army, at which decision was taken to march to Vladivostok regardless of opposition. Corporal (now Lieut.) Karel Zmrhal, now in this country, sits at table on the left as chairman of convention. The woman in the center is Katherine Breshkovskaya, grandmother of the Russian Revolution.|
We got here at the end of May and were greatly surprised at what we saw there. In Russia we heard that there was better order in Siberia, but soon we found out that in the cities everything was in the hands of the Germans and Magyars. They looked on us as on murderers, and if you went to the movies in the evening or out for a walk, you were not sure of getting back alive, for if the Red Guards met our soldier alone, they beat him up mercilessly. So we had to go in groups and each was armed with a knife and had a rock in his pocket. The girls did not dare to walk with us; if a Red Guard met a Russian girl with our soldiers, he arrested her at once.
If we wanted to buy something in the stores, the storekeeper did not want to sell anything. If we dropped into a cafe, we heard only Magyar speech. It made you feel as if you were in Budapest or Berlin. It was hard to bear all this, and finally a break came. On May 16th a train was going through Cheljabinsk to Europe with returning prisoners of war. A Magyar from that train threw a chunk of iron at one of our boys who was so badly wounded that our men thought he was dead. Then the boys of the Sixth Regiment caught up with the train and pulled the Magyars out. The Magyars did not want to give away the man who threw the iron, but finally somebody told on him and he was killed. The next day the local soviet started to investigate this trouble, called in our men as witnesses and arrested them. We got sore and sent a deputation to demand the release of our men, but the soviet arrested the officer who headed the delegation. Then our patience gave out. Order came to march into the city, the band started to play and the boys danced to the tune, those that had a rifle hidden dug it out, the others picked up rocks and we marched singing into Cheljabinsk. When we got to the Soviet buildings, the bolsheviki were gone, but we found some rifles there. Every one was anxious to grab one. That put us into better humor; some of our boys even carried two rifles and a sabre. Then order came to go back to the trains, because the arrested men had been released.
Everything was quiet again until May 24th, when a convention of our entire army decided that we would go on to Vladivostok regardless of what the Bolsheviki said. And soon after fighting started in earnest. Two trains with men of the Sixth Regiment left Cheljabinsk and were surprised by the Red Guards at Marijonoska; about 20 Czech soldiers were killed and many were wounded. We heard it in Chiljabinsk the next morning, but at first our boys did not know what would be done. Then when I got up on May 28th, I heard that the town was in our hands. The Russians were very pleased about it, and whenever they met a Czechoslovak soldier, they said: “We greet you on this holiday;” for the took the occupation of the city by us as a great event that made them free. We did not have to fire a shot, when we took over Cheljabinsk. In the morning we gathered rifles, ammunition and cannon, and everybody was smiling, because we got such a big lot. From then on we had a fighting front toward Zlatoust, Troick and Ekaterinburg; the third regiment with which I was serving and a part of the second regiment fought here. The Bolsheviki made atacks, but were always thrown back with great losses. I fought at Argass, Troick, Zlatoust, then later on with our boys from Penza I fought near Ufa and Knazopavlovsk.
At Argass the fight was started early in the morning. Our commander was Colonel Vojtechovsky and I was in the third battalion of the Third Regiment which was commanded by Lt. Gajda. We had an armored train under Lt. Malek. We marched against the Bolshevik trenches, while the armored train went along the tracks. There was a great force of Bolsheviki here, and most of them were on the railroad tracks, where our machine guns shot down large numbers of them. There was quite a fight here and my commander Gajda was wounded, but we went at them very fast and licked them in a little while. The commander of the Red Guards was killed and the regimental flag captured, although the inscription on it said that nobody could capture it. The trenches were filled with dead Red Guards, and the Tartars stole there uniforms because the Bolsheviki had previously taken everything from the Tartars. The next day the battlefield looked al white because of the naked bodies and the stench was awful.
We returned to Cheljabinsk and a week later marched on to Troick. Here it was not so easy. The country was as level as a table and the Red Army was well entrenched. We attacked in the morning, but the Bolsheviki had many times more men than we. At that, we would have got the city, if the Cossacks had attacked in time. My company attacked the depot and there were only about 20 of us left, when we got to the railroad cars from behind which the Red Guards were shooting at us. They killed five our men, but we managed to drive them away. And then order came to retreat, be cause they got reenforcements and we were so few. We took back our dead and wounded, so that they would not get into the hands of those savages. But the third day Colonel Vojtechovsky concentrated our forces and the fourth day we attacked again. This time they got what was coming to them. They sent against us two armored automobiles, but the storming company of our regiment went at them with bombs and captured one auto immediately, while the other got stuck in the sand. The crews of both automobiles were killed.
After the capture of Troick we were taken by trains to the towns of Mnas, and from there we marched forward across the Urals against Zlatousk. In the Urals we only met scouting parties of the enemy; they ran, as soon as the armored automobile began to shoot at them. We captured Zlatoust without a fight, although the Bolsheviki had very strong positions here. But the fact is that as soon as our enemies heard that the Czechoslovaks were near, they ran away, because there were among them many whom we had licked at Troick. All they did was to try to block the road by having two locomotives collide together on the bridge; but we had the bridge repaired the second day.
The next fight we had with the Red Guards was near Ekaterinburg. I saw a spectacular fight there of two armed locomotives. Theirs came on with a white flag, until it was only one thousand paces away, and then it opened fire, and put out the red flag. Our boys were surprised, but jumped quickly to the gun. There they were shooting at each other with field guns at a distance of only 300 paces. Their locomotive was protected by iron plates, while our boys were shooting from an open platform. In a few seconds both our officers were wounded, as well as four boys, and one of the boys had his head neatly shot off. Only three boys were able to serve the gun, but they had luck with them, for they managed to hit the mouth of the Bolsheviki gun, and their shell burst the bolshevik shell just loaded in the gun, so that the whole barrel blew away. The red guard locomotive then turned back but we heard later from railroad workmen that the bolsheviki threw out from the armored car twenty bodies and that they had many wounded. We heard also that these Reds were sailors from Petrograd.
From there we marched toward Ufa to meet our trains coming from the direction of Penza. Here we met with no great opposition, except that there was a brush at a large factory; we found there many rifles and machine guns in a river, where the Bolsheviki threw them. The people in all the towns welcomed us and gave us everything they had—milk and eggs, bread and meat, and they called us their liberators. At one of the stations on this expedition toward Ufa we were told that there was great confusion among our enemies and that they were ordered to scatter because the Czechoslovaks were coming from all sides. And in fact an hour later we got our Penza comrades on the wire. We pushed forward with great energy and saw a number of Bolshevik trains burning on the tracks. Armored cars went ahead and in a little while our two groups met the one from the Urals and the other from the Volga. We jumped from the cars and ran to meet each other, there was a lot of embracing and some of the boys actually cried. Everybody was asking: “How was the fighting,” and both sides said: “Fine.” We were all jolly, the bands played and the boys were singing.
The next day our group was sent to Ekaterinburg front, while the other group went back to Samara; only their artillery went with us, because we had so few guns. I am sure that not even Hindenburg threw his armies from one front to another as fast as the Czechoslovaks did in Siberia. As soon as we licked them in one spot, we rushed over in another direction to eat them up.
The last fight that I was in took place at Knazopavlosk, where the Bolsheviki threw up lines in defense of Ekaterinburg. The country was all hills and they had the high spots occupied. We got around them and caught them in the rear. There we tore up the tracks, so that their trains could not get away. The Bolsheviki set them afire; and in these trains was a car jammed with arrested people, mostly peasants and railroad employees. We found them all burned to cinders after the Bolsheviki ran away. Among other things we captured 70 machine guns here.
This battle settled the fate of Ekaterinburg and there we liberated an officer of our regiment, Major Šípek, who was kept there in jail by the Bolsheviki and expected to be hanged any day. Our regiment was awfully pleased when we found him alive. For he was a most popular officer and if he had not been selected by Masaryk to follow him to America he would have surely become commander of the Third Regiment, where he joined originally as a private. In the Austrian army he had been a lieutenant.
The first Sunday after capturing Ekaterinburg was Czechoslovak Day in the city. The whole town was decorated with Czech colors and a White-and-Red flag was flying from every house. The town hall was decorated with the Czecho-slovak coat-of-arms. The boys had free admission to everything, and in the restaurants they would not take any money from us. The Russians looked upon us as saviours and would do anything for us. After this holiday I left the army to accompany Major Šípek to America.
Before I close, I want to say a few things about our life in the army. The Czechoslovaks were like one big family, all called themselves brothers: discipline is very thorough, for without perfect discipline we would have all been killed there, but obedience is all voluntary, and there is no difference socially between officers and privates. It is a pleasure to serve in this army. We were jolly most of the time, singing when we marched and when we fought, and everybody talks about the day, when they get back to Bohemia. We love little father Masaryk and stand back of him like a wall. We talk about him when we go into battle and when we take things easy in camp. Everytime we lick those Bolsheviki, the boys say: “If our little father saw us, he would be surely pleased with us.”
Of course all the boys are anxious to get home, as soon as possible, and when they get there they will do what Masaryk says. Every one among the boys realizes what disorder in the state means, and when they get back they won’t stand for any nonsense. The army is determined to go back to Prague as an army, and however much everybody is anxious to get home to his parents or his wife, they are going to stand together under arms, until Masaryk says that they are no longer needed.
Now I have to tell you something about our “Uncles from America.” That is how we call the Y. M. C. A. workers from the United States. We will never forget what these men did for us. They lived with us like our own boys, and they kept us jolly in the most difficult times. They opened up movies for us and refreshment rooms. In my regiment we had “Uncle Miller” from New York; everyone of these uncles is kept on the roll of the regiment. Our uncle knows Bohemia quite well, he spent a year in the old country before the war, so that he knows what we like and he always tried to give it to us. So for instance this Mr. Miller opened in Cheljabinsk a factory for making Bohemian sausages and smoked meat. They were as good as those we used to get at home before the war. This uncle found customers for al he made; in fact the whole army wanted uncle’s sausages. Then we told him that with the sausages we wanted salted rolls, and uncle Miller rented a bakery and started to manufacture Bohemian rolls and “half-moons.” Why, he even got beer for us once, when we came near a Russian brewery. He was best pleased when the boys were having a good time and he liked to be right in the centre of them. We all told him that he must march with us to Bohemia, and then we will keep him there.
The uncle from the second regiment was another jolly fellow; his name was Atherton and he was also from New York. He learned to speak Bohemian pretty well. He was a fine musician and the boys in his regiment loved to crowd around the piano on which he played for them Czech songs. Mr. Atherton came with us to America.
I know that I speak for the whole regiment, when I thank that society for sending these uncles to us. The Czechoslovak soldiers will never forget what they did for us in Russia, and uncles from America will always be welcome in Bohemia.
I am going back to Bohemia with the first ship, and after I talk to my mother I will go to Russia to meet the boys and come back with them to Prague.
Long live our little father Masaryk!
Long live our free country!
Hurrah for our uncles from America!
This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1928.
The longest-living author of this work died in 1969, so this work is in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 53 years or less. This work may be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.