The Czechoslovak Review/Volume 1/Italy, the Friend of Bohemia

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2921922The Bohemian Review, volume 1, no. 10 — Italy, the Friend of Bohemia1917Jaroslav František Smetánka

Italy, the Friend of Bohemia.

The nation whose exploits have aroused so much admiration in the last two years, the nation of mountain-climbing soldiers, the nation of great engineers, the cradle of western culture, is passing through her hour of trial. Austria alone she was able to defeat, but a combined Austro-German attack overwhelmed her for the moment. The whole world, outside of the German alliance, watches with bated breath the greated struggle now going on in the plains of Venetia and prays that once more the descendants of the Romans, aided by their western allies, may stop the descent of the northern barbarians, the modern Huns. But no people watches the struggle more anxiously and with such intense sympathy as the Czechs, whether those living in their native land or those scattered throughout Europe and America.

There are many ties that bind the people of Bohemia to the sons of Italy, but none so strong. at this time as the consciousness that they both have the same deadly enemy—the empire of the Hapsburgs. For three centuries the Czechs have suffered under the yoke of the foreigner; for nearly two centuries the same haughty, cruel foreigner held down Italy, a mere geographical expression, as he called it, and laughed at her aspirations to lead her own, free, national life. The great epic of modern Italy is its successful fight to throw off the domination of the hated Tedescos; the heroes Italy worships are the men who were leaders in the long drawn out fight against Austria. And still the obstable to Italy’s complete unification is the same dynastic, monstrous survival from the Middle Ages, the Austro-Hungarian empire. The present situation in Venetia is a demonstration of the constant danger which Austria constitutes to the very existence of a strong Italy. Others, France. England, United States, look upon Germany as their dangerous antagonist; Italy knows that her inveterate enemy is Austria.

One would expect that a rapprochement would have occurred long ago between the great people of Italy and the smaller Czech nation. But before the war, and even for a time after Italy joined the Allies, there was little contact between the two peoples. Of course, Bohemia owes much to the genius of Italy. Bohemian art, her learning, her literature, received its inspiration from beyond the Alps. And even in politics the influence of the greater nation made itself felt in the affairs of the far-off Slavs. In 1848 young Rieger, who was destined to be the leader of the Czechs for many decades, rushed to Vienna from Rome inspired by the ideals of Young Italy to direct the struggles of his newly awakened nation on the same lines. Garibaldi has been a name to swear by in Bohemia, and the Sokols, the great national institution of the Czech nation adopted the red shirts of the Garibaldians for their uniforms. But as international relations came to shape themselves after 1878, Bohemia necessarily ceased to look to Italy as a possible ally; the French and Russians became the hope of the Slavs in their never-ending fight against German violence.

This unfortunate state of affairs made its influence felt even after the war had shaken up all Europe and created an entirely new situation. The wonderful campaign conducted abroad by escaped Czech leaders, supported by emigrants in Europe and America, for the purpose of breaking for good the Austrian fetters was directed principally at the gaining of the good will of France, England, and Russia. Italy did not at first receive the attention due to her, and not being sufficiently informed of the sentiments of the Czechs did not champion their claims. It is due principally to the labors of Dr. Edward Beneš, general secretary of the Czechoslovak National Council of Paris, who made several trips to Rome and indefatigably wrote, interviewed, beseeched the officials and the leaders of public opinion ,that today Bohemia’s claim to independence has no warmer friend and champion than the Italian nation.

During the year just past Italian journals and reviews have paid much attention to the situation in Bohemia; through their enterprise much came out that the Austrian censor would have liked to keep to himself, and the opinions they expressed editorially were very favorable to the aspirations of the Czechoslovaks. It was the Italian minister Bissolati who first of the responsible states men of the Allied countries demanded in October 1916 the dissolution of Austria-Hungary and the liberation of its subject races, among whom he named the Czechs. Even today, when Bohemia has so many warm sympathizers in France, England, Russia and the United States, Italy is the only country in which friends of Bohemia have created their own organization for the express purpose of aiding the fight for Czechoslovak liberation. The recent culmination of these flourishing Italo-Bohemian relations was a dinner tendered to Dr. Beneš in Rome, September 30, by the Italian friends of Bohemia.

It was a weighty assemblage that gathered on that day in the halls of the “Unione Economica Nazionale per le Nuove Provincie d’ltalia.” The government was represented by minister U. Comandini, a statesman who had on many occasions manifested his friendly sentiments for the Czech people and who is an outright champion of free Bohemia. Parliament had several of its prominent members there: senators Esterle and Wollemberg, deputies Torre, di Cesaro, Federzoni, Murri, Zanella, Ghilianovic; there was the vice-president of the Italian Committee for Bohemian Independence, Counsellor Scodnik, with the secretaries of the Committee, Dr. Scarpa and Dr. Russo; there was Col. Marchetti of the General Staff, Franzetti of the Rome City Council, counsellors Delia Vida, Segre, Rosmini, Palermi, Scalabrini, Bruno, Ravasini, Bellini, Sella, professors Palin, Valenti, Grassi and Tolomei, attorneys Callegari, Marcocchia, Persico and Riccaboni, eng. Fazia a Lanino, Count San Miniatelli, captains Mastellove, Dirilio and Orlando, lieutenants Cappeletti, Galvan, Scampicchio and Dadone, doctors Ricci, Mazzoleni, Megozzi, Scala, Bellen, Muratti, chevalier Liebman and chev. Rubliani, eng. Luzzatti, eng. Fogolin, prof. Bonfante. Newspapers were represented by Berganini for the Giornale d’Italia, Pascazio for the Fronte Interno, Petrai for the Messagero, Tato for the Agenzia Stefani, Ravasini for the Agenzia Volta, Chiarapa for the Agenzia Nazionale della Stampa, Poloni for the Popolo d’Italia, Among authors present were Mantica, Hodnig, Premuti, Maria Rygier, etc. Telegrams of greeting were sent by Baron Sonnino, minister of foreign affairs, and by ministers and under-secretaries Orlando, Carcano, Foscari, Pasqualino, Mentaneri, Morpurgo, former minster Barzilai, deputies Area, Sandrini, Salv. Orlando, Somaini, prof. Costa and others.

The first speaker at the dinner, deputy Andrea Torre, said in part: “The Czechs wrought a real miracle, when they established outside of the Bohemian territory a well-governed organization that brings together all Czechoslovaks, escaped, emigrated and captured in war. Here are two millions following of their own will their leaders. Through this organization they actually erected a kind of a Czechoslovak state beyond the boundaries of their fatherland. The Allies recognize the authority of this wonderful institution. It is an admirable demonstration of national consciousness and political energy, compelling the respect of all the world.”

Ugo Danone, on behalf of the Italian Committee for Bohemian Independence, enumerated in his speech Czech regiments that rose against the tyrant: 2nd, smashed at Valjevo by Magyar artillery; 36th, shot up in the barracks of Mladá Boleslav, and 88th, in the Carpathians; 28th, 13th, 72nd from Pressburg, 35th, 11th, 8th and 72nd from Prague surrendered, unwilling to fight for their oppressors.

The last speaker, Duke Colonna di Cesaro, emphasized Italy’s special interest in Bohemia. “In England and France there still are people who dream about Austria, as it used to be before 1866, an Austria that would be a rival of Germany and might be attached to the anti-German alliance. And so they would preserve Austria and would not hesitate to sacrifice to it the sacred national rights of subject races. In Italy there are no such illusions. Italy knows Austria, as the Czechs know it. Italy knows, how much hope one may place in the reformation of a dynasty and a ruling class that do not know what liberty, independence and democracy mean.”

Members of the Bohemian National Alliance of America, like all Bohemians in every land, are profoundly grateful to the people of Italy for the sentiments of friendship expressed by these great sons of Italy. They impatiently await the moment, when the Czechoslovak army of the west, which is now being formed, will be thrown into the fight on the same side on which the Italian soldiers struggle so valiantly.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1929.

The longest-living author of this work died in 1937, so this work is in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 86 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.

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