The Czechoslovak Review/Volume 1/New York World interviews Štefanik

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The first democratic newspaper of the United States, the New York World, gave a full page to the discussion of the issues of the war by Commandant Milan R. Štefanik. The interviewer, Mr. Rowland Thomas, arranged the article excellently and added Štefanik’s picture and two maps, one showing Central Europe, as the Germans plan it, the other drawing the boundaries as they will be after the Allies’ victory. Mr. Thomas says:

A day or two before that I had been talking with a youngish-looking, calm-eyed quiet-spoken man who wore the horizon-blue tunic of the French uniform. The end of the war was the topic, and this is what he had to say about it:

“If you want this war to be the last war, you must make it come to a perfectly definite end. Otherwise it is but a matter of time before the old questions will raise their heads and cause a new and probably a worse war.

“And the only way to reach that perfectly definite end, as President Wilson has said, is to establish the right of men of every nationality, great or small in numbers, to choose their rulers and their form of government.”

The speaker was emphatic about it, in a dispassionate way. Wings embroidered on his collar marked him as of the Aviation Service; golden bars and chevrons on his sleeves, denoted the high grade of Commandant. And the decorations on his breast—Cross of the Legion of Honor, Military Cross with Palm, Serbian Gold Medal and Cross of St. Vladimir with swords—showed that he had rendered particularly distinguished service on more than one front.

He seemed a good deal of a personage as he said it, this aviator-commandant, who before the war was Dr. Milan Štefanik of Paris, distinguished in quite another field, recognized as a leader among the younger astronomers of the world and crowned as a “laureate” by the French Academy for his work in science.

“And,” he added, “it will be stopped. The Polish people, the Bohemians, Slovaks, the Serbians and Roumanians will not be laid down as pawns on a peace-council chessboard. Neither justice nor common sense will permit any such farce.”

About the reconstruction of Central Europe Štefanik has this to say:

“To my mind the future of the whole world depends in no small degree on the peace dispositions which shall be made of the nations of Eastern Europe and the Balkans. Look at these two maps which I give you. One shows the Pan-German scheme—a Teutonic, imperialistic wedge driven straight through the center of the continent, cutting it into three sharply separated sections, providing a purely German trade route from the North Sea to the Persian Gulf, and constantly suggesting and favoring further encroachments on the non-Teutonic neighbors to the east and west. The other shows the anti-German scheme—a solution which would end Pan-Germanism once for all, and at the same time satisfy the historic rights and present-day desires of the smaller nations. A unified, organized and liberated Poland, a restored Bohemia or Czecho-Slovak State, another state erected out of the Serbs and other Jugoslavs who live there, the annexation of the Roumanians and Italians of Austria-Hungary to their ethnographic wholes—think what that would mean.

“It would mean the end of the Balkan question. It would mean a Germany, a Bulgaria and a Magyar state quite free to be as German, as Magyar, as Bulgarian as they chose within their natural and ethical boundaries. It would mean an Austria reduced to its proper dimensions as a Grand Duchy. It would mean, by a railway link from Trieste through Pressburg and Bohemia to Petrograd, free and unobstructed intercourse between the eastern and western non-Germans. It would build a permanent anti-German barrier across Europe, outside which small states could develop safely and freely.

“To my mind, those two maps show the only two possible solutions of the war. There can be no effective compromise between them. These are the days when the rest of the world must decide whether it can safely tolerate Pan-Germanism any longer. If it cannot, there is but one way to end it. That is by the carrying out of the project I have outlined to you, the project for which we Czecho-Slovaks have done and will continue to do our utmost. Fortunate it is that the project is not only impeccably logical and historically just, but that it also corresponds with the moral principles proclaimed by the Allies for which millions of men have already fallen—principles never put more tersely and clearly than by your own President. Shall this world be a safe place for democracy? Has a small nation as much rights as a large one to live a national life? This war must settle those two questions. And the place where it must settle them is in Central Europe.”

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1927. It may be copyrighted outside the U.S. (see Help:Public domain).