The Czechoslovak Review/Volume 2/With the Bohemian National Alliance (1)
WITH THE BOHEMIAN NATIONAL ALLIANCE
The most important event of the last month from the point of view of men of Bohemian descent was the declaration of war against Austria-Hungary. It was received in every settlement of Bohemians in this country with a tremendous enthusiasm, and mass meetings were held everywhere at which resolutions were adopted praising the President for his action. The White House must have been swamped with telegrams from Bohemian societies and mass meetings. Incidentally one may tell from the attitude of the former Austrian subjects toward this latest declaration of war what their real sentiments are. The Slavs of Austria-Hungary welcomed the open hostilities, the Germans and Magyars regretted them, while protesting volubly their attachment to the United States.
Naturally President Wilson’s reference to Austria-Hungary, temptying a hands-off attitude on the part of America, caused some disappointment and much argument about his motives and his real sentiments. At all events, the workers in the cause of Bohemian independence recognize that the concrete fact of hostilities between the United States and the Dual Empire far outweighs in importance a few words in the presidential address. On the other hand a great step forward in the campaign for independence was the official recognition by the French Government of the Czechoslovak National Council and a detailed announcement by the French embassy in Washington of the plans for the Czechoslovak army in France, a nucleus of which already exists. One can say truly now that independent Bohemia already exists, just as independent Belgium and Serbia exist. Though the soil of Bohemia is still subject to the enemy, Bohemia has its own revolutionary government, recognized by foreign powers, as well as its own revolutionary army, both on the eastern and the western front.
Russia, the center of interest for all the allied nations, is also in a narrower sense the center of interest for the Bohemians. What will become of the 60,000 Czechoslovak soldiers in Russia, is a question of unflagging concern to all members of the Bohemian National Alliance. When the Bolsheviki and the Germans get so far as to talk about prompt exchange of prisoners, the question becomes acute. Just at this time two delegates of this army, Captain Zdeňko Firlinger and John Janček, arrived in this country to tell the men here of the work done in Russia and to arouse interest in the new army in France. Captain Firlinger has been through three years of the war and commanded a battalion at Zborov in June, when the first Czechoslovak brigade gained so much glory. He has never been in America before, but it is of interest to his countrymen here that before the war he was in the employ of the International Harvester Company in Russia.