Nations Born And Reborn
: Winning A Cause World War Stories
In America, and in many other countries, people have listened with
wonder and enjoyment to strangely beautiful music played by, probably
the greatest of all pianists of today, Ignace Jan Paderewski. For
years he has traveled from country to country and from city to city,
playing the piano in a manner no other has been able to imitate,
although Chopin's playing, it is said, had much the same effect upon
In Paderewski's playing as in his composition there is
always an undercurrent deeply sad and weird. No one but a genius from
the martyred land of Poland, or from some other that had equally
suffered, could play as Chopin and Paderewski played or could compose
music such as they composed. All the old glory of Poland in the
ancient centuries, her grievous losses, the terrible wrongs done her,
and the long-treasured dreams of a new and happier day for her people,
live in the soul of Paderewski, and vibrate through his very finger
tips as they move over the keys of his loved instrument.
Today the dreams of the Polish people are coming true. Hopes cherished
since about the twelfth century are through the World War being
realized in a new Poland.
The tenth century saw the formation of the first kingdom of Poland in
central Europe to the east of the Germans. The country grew and
prospered for two hundred years. Then, lacking kingly leadership, it
became weak, and was finally divided into many principalities. At that
time came the terrible Tartar invasion across Russia and into Poland,
resulting in shocking desolation and ruin.
When complete destruction was threatened from hostile peoples, on the
north and east, the Poles summoned aid from the Teutonic Knights, a
German crusading order.
The Germans drove out the hostile neighbors, promptly taking control of
their lands. Then Poland learned that she had even worse enemies to
fear in those she had called to help her. She watched them build up
military power to conquer her own lands. But by joining with the
Lithuanians, she managed at length to defeat the Germans at the famous
battle of Tannenberg in 1410.
For over three hundred years the kingdom possessed great power. But at
last it again began to weaken, and the year 1772 saw the beginning of
the end. The three great nations, Russia, Prussia, and Austria, then
joined against Poland and began to divide the kingdom among themselves.
By 1795 Poland had ceased to exist as a nation.
The terrible misfortunes of the Polish people under these hostile
foreign powers served really to bind them together with one common
purpose--to win back the kingdom and to reestablish a free country.
This was their dream.
When the World War came, the Polish people in many lands, especially in
the United States, volunteered for service on the French front. On
June 22, 1918, the first division of Polish troops in France was
presented with flags at a solemn ceremony, and listened to an address
by the French president. Soon large numbers of Poles were fighting the
Austrians and Germans in Italy and in Russia, although they knew that
capture meant court-martial and death, since Austria and Germany
considered them deserters, as they indeed were. The supreme commander
of Polish forces, General Josef Haller, had been a colonel in the
Austrian army. But he decided to desert the Austrian army to lead an
Iron Brigade of Poles against the enemies of freedom.
Eighty-eight officers and twenty-six privates in his regiment were
captured by the Austrians, court-martialed, and sentenced to death.
When offered pardon by the Emperor Karl, they refused, saying, We are
soldiers of the Polish Nation. The Austrian government has no right to
grant us pardon even as it has no more right to inflict punishment upon
us than upon the soldiers of France and England.
Facing death, these men wrote to the Polish Parliamentary Club in
Vienna, their reasons for desertion,--namely, the unfair treatment at
the hands of the Austrians and their love for Poland. They had heard a
rumor that the Polish organization was about to secure a more liberal
sentence for them by agreeing to the cession of certain provinces of
Poland. So the prisoners further wrote:--
We value greatly the love of our countrymen and we were touched deeply
by the generosity with which they thought of us, but we desire to
protest most energetically against relief and concessions secured for
us to the detriment of our country and the ancient rights of our nation.
Do not permit our personal lot to weaken the united Polish front, for
the death penalty can affect us only physically. The sufferings
undergone by our grandfathers and fathers, we will continue to endure
and with the sincere conviction that we are serving a free, united, and
A few days after they were condemned, the Polish National Committee
sent a message to Italy declaring that representatives from all classes
of the Polish people had met at Warsaw and proclaimed the union of all
Italy, France, and Great Britain formally recognized the Polish
national army as independent and Allied, and on November 4, 1918,
Secretary Lansing, in a letter, to a representative of the Polish
National Committee, stated that the United States Government also
wished to recognize officially the independence of the Polish army as a
part of the Allied forces.
The people of the United States with those of other countries are
hoping that Paderewski's great national family shall become united in
one free and independent state. They now applaud this master of music
as the first leader of free Poland. He will help destroy Bolshevism
with its cry, Death to the educated, which has resulted already in
the death of hundreds of doctors, professors, engineers, and in one
case, the extermination of all the pupils in a single high school. He
will join the other great leaders in their belief that Economic
development, patriotism, and the ennobling of all human souls alone can
lead to freedom.
To the south of Poland in the very heart of Europe is another new
country, which already has set up a democratic government and elected
as its president,--Thomas G. Masaryk, a former professor in the
University of Prague, now the capital of Czecho-Slovakia.
Professor Masaryk spent some time in the United States conferring with
officials at Washington. He was here when he received word that he had
been elected first president of his newly formed country by a
convention held in Geneva, Switzerland.
Great preparations for his return were made by the people. When at one
o'clock on December 22, the booming of cannon told that the president's
train was drawing in at the station, the hundred thousand people who
had poured into the city of Prague were massed on every side to welcome
him and sang, as only the Slavs can sing, their national song.
Soon President Masaryk's train, with its engine elaborately decorated,
steamed in through the silent crowd. In complete silence, Masaryk,
gray-haired and distinguished appearing, left the train and entered the
station. There he saw groups of Czecho-Slovaks in French uniforms,
some wearing the war cross, and groups who had been fighting in the
Italian Alps. He saw also a group of university professors who had
come to honor him.
In the tense silence, one of the leaders of the new republic came
forward. He had for years conspired and worked with Masaryk for the
freedom of their country, and now he greeted him by throwing his arms
about him. After a further greeting from the government officials, and
from the nation's aged and honored poet, Masaryk gave a brief speech
telling of his hopes for the republic. He then passed out to the crowd
who hailed him in a tumult of joy. One who witnessed Masaryk's return
pictures the scenes on the way to the government buildings.
There began a triumphal procession which took two hours to arrive at
the Parliament house. Every window, every balcony and every roof was
filled to overflowing, and every street lined on either side, twenty
deep. All this multitude, most of whom had been standing for hours,
had such joy written on their faces as has never before been seen and
cannot possibly be described. Elders were holding children on their
shoulders, all eyes were full of tears, all eyes smiling. The people
kissed the flags of the Allies as they would kiss their babies.
Since the proclamation, all the young ladies of Prague have taken to
the fashion of peasant costumes, and several members of Parliament wore
the old national dress. Searchlights playing on the spires and
steeples of this most beautiful Slav city now again touch the great
castle, henceforth the seat of government, where hundreds of windows
are ablaze with lights, the first rejoicing it has known for three
For three hundred years the peasants of Bohemia together with Slovakia
which, with some smaller provinces, is now called Czecho-Slovakia, had
tried every means to free themselves from Austria. On the north and
west were the Germans and on the south the Austrians, both enemies,
seeking only to get what they could for themselves out of the little
In their Declaration of Independence, given in Paris, October 18, 1918,
the people have told the story of their past, as well as their purposes
for the future.
We make this declaration on the basis of our historic and natural
right. We have been an independent State since the seventh century,
and in 1526, as an independent State, consisting of Bohemia, Moravia,
and Silesia, we joined with Austria and Hungary in a defensive union
against the Turkish danger. We have never voluntarily surrendered our
rights as an independent State in this confederation. The Hapsburgs
broke their compact with our nation by illegally transgressing our
rights and violating the Constitution of our State, which they had
pledged themselves to uphold, and we therefore refuse longer to remain
a part of Austria-Hungary in any form.
We claim the right of Bohemia to be reunited with her Slovak brethren
of Slovakia, once a part of our national State, later torn from our
national body, and fifty years ago incorporated in the Hungarian State
of the Magyars, who, by their unspeakable violence and ruthless
oppression of their subject races have lost all moral and human right
to rule anybody but themselves.
The world knows the history of our struggle against the Hapsburg
oppression. The world knows the justice of our claims, which the
Hapsburgs themselves dared not deny. Francis Joseph in the most solemn
manner repeatedly recognized the sovereign rights of our nation. The
Germans and Magyars opposed this recognition, and Austria-Hungary,
bowing before the Pan-Germans, became a colony of Germany, and, as her
vanguard, to the East, provoked the last Balkan conflict, as well as
the present world war, which was begun by the Hapsburgs alone without
the consent of the representatives of the people.
We cannot and will not continue to live under the direct or indirect
rule of the violators of Belgium, France, and Serbia, and would-be
murderers of Russia and Rumania, the murderers of tens of thousands of
civilians and soldiers of our blood, and the accomplices in numberless
unspeakable crimes committed in this war against humanity by the two
degenerate and irresponsible dynasties. We will not remain a part of a
State which has no justification for existence.
We refuse to recognize the divine right of kings. Our nation elected
the Hapsburgs to the throne of Bohemia of its own free will, and by the
same right deposes them. We hereby declare the Hapsburg dynasty
unworthy of leading our nation, and deny all of their claims to rule in
the Czecho-Slovak land, which we here and now declare shall henceforth
be a free and independent people and nation.
We accept and shall adhere to the ideals of modern democracy, as they
have been the ideals of our nation for centuries. We accept the
American principles as laid down by President Wilson; the principles of
liberated mankind--of the actual equality of nations--and of
Governments deriving all their just power from the consent of the
governed. We, the nation of Comenius, cannot but accept these
principles expressed in the American Declaration of Independence, the
principles of Lincoln, and of the declaration of the rights of man and
of the citizen. For these principles our nation shed its blood in the
memorable Hussite Wars, 500 years ago; and for these same principles,
beside her Allies, our nation is shedding its blood today in Russia,
Italy, and France.
It is said that the Czech soldiers fighting on the French front
received the news of the declaration with wild enthusiasm, rushed
forward, and wrested from the enemy one of the most difficult positions
on the Aisne.
The Czechs were also fighting in Italy, and in Russia, although they
had been first forced into the Austrian army. One Czech battalion
commanded by Austrians and ordered against the Russians, rushed
forward, but killed their officers on the way and surrendered in a body
to the Russians, asking to fight with them against the Austro-Germans.
If the Russian soldiers had held together and followed the invincible
Czechs, Germany would have been driven completely out of Russia.
But the Czechs did not deceive the Austrians. Their hopes and plans
were not secret. They openly warned Austria of their desertion. They
wrote in chalk on the outside of the cars: With us the Monarchy will
Upon seeing this declaration, it is reported, the German and Austrian
officers ordered the trainload of men to stand in line, and then shot
every tenth man.
But the rest went on, through terrible and thrilling experiences,
fighting and dying by the hundreds for the sake of the new republic
which at last was born.
The story of the passage through Russia and Siberia of the
Czecho-Slovak troops, who were fighting with Russia against Austria and
Germany, is one of the most remarkable and exciting stories of history.
These troops probably saved Siberia for the Allies and were at last
able to join in the fighting on the western front.
Still another new nation now called Jugo-Slavia, although it may
finally be called Serbia or some other name, has risen south of
Austria-Hungary and east of the Adriatic Sea. It lies across from
Italy and is nearly the same size as the mainland of that country. Its
story, too, is one of conquest by northern enemies, followed by the
crushing out of all freedom. But since the beginning of the World War,
the people of Jugo-Slavia, on July 20, 1917, have set up a new republic
based upon the ideas of justice and democracy, united under one flag,
and granting its three different races equal rights and privileges.
Across the sea, in Arabia, the country of Hedjaz has been freed from
Germany's allies, the Turks. The people of Hedjaz also once enjoyed
freedom and glory, their power in early history reaching all the way
from France to China. Backed by the British in Egypt and Mesopotamia,
the Arabs revolted from the Turks, drove them out of the holy cities of
Mecca and Medina, and at length broke their power completely.
Mohammedans have always recognized the Mohammedan ruler who controlled
Mecca and Medina, the birthplace and the burial place of the prophet,
as their Kalif. If this custom is followed, the King of Hedjaz becomes
the Kalif in place of the Sultan of Turkey.
Hedjaz has already arisen from the ruins of the Turks as an independent
and separate state. Armenia, it is to be hoped, will do the same.
Each country needs only the will and the declaration of the people for
freedom in order to secure the sympathy, aid, and recognition of the
victorious Allied nations and the United States. As soon as they
declare their independence and choose their own government, the greater
nations at once rush to their relief. This was shown especially in the
case of Finland.
For centuries Finland's fate was uncertain, resting now in the hands of
Sweden, now in the power of Russia, and last, and worst of all, in the
hands of Germany. But the people rose united, expelled their new
rulers, who had been sent to them by the Germans, and declared their
At once the United States and the Allies, with Food Administrator
Hoover, planned a gigantic program for relief, which for Finland alone
provided 14,000 tons of food. They further promised aid to all Russian
provinces as fast as they should drive out the Bolsheviki, or at least
deprive them of power. This meant a shipment in three months of
200,000 tons of food, clothing, agricultural supplies, and railroad
The world expects Russia to regain her equilibrium and reach the
greatest heights of power ever known in her history. Her possessions
will not be as large as they were before the World War, because of the
loss of Finland, and of provinces in the west and south which are
likely to become independent states.
In America the boys and girls scarcely realize what the blessings of
freedom mean, as the children of the new countries do. But that
America is indeed blessed with liberty and happiness is shown by the
closeness with which the new nations have followed her as a pattern.
Their appreciation of this country was clearly expressed in the
Czecho-Slovak Declaration of Independence, and again when President
Masaryk at the Hague, on December 30, 1918, spoke as follows:--
Komensky's historic prayer has literally been fulfilled and our
people, free and independent, advances, respected and supported by
universal sympathy, into the community of European nations. Are we
living in a fairy tale? Politicians of all countries are asking this.
I put the same question to myself and yet it is all an actual reality.
When the German victories seemed about to realize the Pan-German plan
of the subjection of the whole of the Old World, America stepped out of
its reserve, replaced weary and betrayed Russia and within a short time
Marshal Foch dictated terms to beaten Germany and Austria-Hungary.
President Wilson formulated the leading principle of democracy which
is contained in the American Declaration of Independence, where, as in
the French Declaration of the Rights of Man, revolution triumphed and
established that all political power comes from the people. And as
Lincoln said, is of the people, by the people, and for the people.
President Wilson proclaimed as the object of the war the liberation of
all mankind. We Czechs and Slovaks could not stand aside in this world
war. We were obliged to decide against Austria-Hungary and Germany for
our whole history led us to democratic powers.
In May of last year I was obliged to go to Russia whence in the
beginning of March I went to Japan and from Japan to the United
States,--a remarkable and unexpected journey round the world,--verily a
propaganda journey, winning the whole world for our national cause.
After seven months I returned nominated by our government as the first
president of the Czecho-Slovak republic. I know not whom I ought to
thank first. It is natural that the recognition by England and the
United States, the greatest Allied Powers, has helped us greatly. The
United States guaranteed from their wealth abundant help, and we have
from them a definite promise for the future. President Wilson himself
has devoted sincere attention to our question and we are obliged to him
and the Allied Powers. They can always count on us.
The real object of the war and peace is the reorganization of eastern
Europe and the solution of the eastern question. The war was a
culmination of many struggles to solve the eastern question in the
broad sense of the word. German pressure eastwards was directed
against a zone of small nations between Germany and Russia, beginning
with the Finns and going as far down as Greece, making a series of
eighteen small nations. German, Austro-Hungarian, and Russian
imperialism suffered shipwreck. The small nations are freed. The
war's negative task is fulfilled. The positive task awaits--to
organize east Europe and this with mankind in general. We stand on the
threshold of a new time when all mankind feels in unity. Our people
will contribute with full consciousness its part in the realization of
this great and lofty task.
And for your country, boy, and for that flag, never dream a dream but
of serving her as she bids you, though the service carry you through a
thousand hells. No matter what happens to you, no matter who flatters
you or who abuses you, never look to another flag, never let a night
pass but you pray God to bless that flag. Remember, boy, that behind
all these men you have to do with, behind officers, and government, and
people even, there is the Country Herself, your Country, and that you
belong to Her as you belong to your own mother. Stand by Her, boy, as
you would stand by your mother.
EDWARD EVERETT HALE.