Page:The Bohemian Review, vol1, 1917.djvu/117

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The Bohemian Review

Jaroslav F. Smetanka, Editor, 2324 S. Central Park Ave, Chicago.
Published by the Bohemian Review Co., 2627 S. Ridgeway Ave., Chicago, Ill.

Vol. I, No. 7. AUGUST 1917

10 cents a Copy
$1.00 per Year

The Iron Brigade.

Short was the career of the Czecho-Slovak brigade, the first unit of the new Bohemian army in Russia. July witnessed its splendid success in the brief Russian offensive, and the same month saw its total annihilation.

Cable reports give but a brief skeleton of facts, but from it the stirring tragedy of a body of nine thousand patriotic rebels can be constructed.

July 3rd, when all America was heartened by the unexpected news of the powerful Russian offensive near Zborov, the Russian official report stated: “Yesterday afternoon after a severe stubborn battle the Zorafsky regiment occupied the village of Presovce, while the gallant troops of the fourth Finnish division and the Cheshsko-Slovatsky brigade occupied the strongly fortified enemy positions on the heights west and southwest of the village of Zboroff and the fortified village of Korshiduv. Three lines of enemy trenches were penetrated. . . . The Cheshsko-Slovatsky brigade captured 62 officers and 3,150 soldiers, fifteen guns and many machine guns. Many of the captured guns were turned against the enemy.”

Very little came from Russia after that about the Czech heroes of the Russian offensive. Complimentary mention was made a few days later of the work of a Czech regiment of cavalry and the news came that Minister Kerensky publicly acknowledged the great debt owed by Russia to the brave men of the Czecho-Slovak army.

And then the bright outlook changed; Job’s news came from Galicia day after day. No longer was Lemberg threatened, but Tarnopol, which had been in Russian hands for nearly three years, was lost and the last foothold of the Slavs on Galician soil was slowly abandoned. A time of much disappointment and great anxiety to all Americans, to Bohemians in the United States it was a time of dread, of waiting for horrible news. For all who knew aught of fighters of the Czecho-Slovak brigade were certain that surrender they could not and flee with the others they would not. The expected blow fell Saturday night, July 28th. A few lines, almost hidden in the columns of war stuff and speculations about the opening of the fourth year of the war; but what a tragedy they portrayed to some half a million people in the United States. This is the brief message: “The Vecherne Vremya reports that in the fighting at Tarnopol, Galicia, three regiments of Czech volunteers, abandoned by Russian troops and fearing execution for treason, resisted until the last, the officers blowing out their brains and the soldiers rushing where shells were bursting the thickest. The enemy, the newspapers say, captured three Czechs and hanged them summarily. Later, Czech soldiers took three German prisoners and after forcing them to cut down the bodies hanged the Teutons with the same rope.”

One is reminded of Waterloo and Napoleon’s guard that dies, but does not surrender. The Czechs have not the keen sense of the dramatic that a Frenchman possesses even at the threshold of death, but they died like the old guard.

The great war has been so crowded with slaughter and heroism for three years that perhaps the brief history of the Iron Brigade of Czecho-Slovaks will receive but a bare mention. But by Bohemians and Slovaks, wherever they may live, regardless even of the fact, whether the dream of free Bohemia for which these men fought will be realized, the men who died at Tarnopol in July, 1917, will be honored for ever as patriots and heroes. To the Bohemian knights who fell at Crecy in 1348 defending their blind King John, to the democratic peasants who fought the nobility to the last man at Lipany in 1434, to the Moravian heroes who were cut to pieces on the