28 February 2018

The Czech Legion

The Cuter and Shorter Half is half Czech by descent. Her Mother was 100% Czech, born in a Czech town (here in Wilber). Wilber has a Czech Museum, a Czech Outdoor Theatre, the assisted living housing is called the Czech Village, the stores on the main street have Czech signs, they are gradually converting all the street name signs to Czech/English, the grocery store is called the Food Mesto ('mesto' being 'city' in Czech), We have a PA system along the main street that plays Czech polka music all day, and which is used during the largest Czech Festival in the country every year, where the National Czech Queen is selected. Several decades ago, Wilber was declared the 'Czech Capital of the United States' by a joint resolution of Congress.

When our second son was born, my Mum wanted the 'details' to put in our hometown newspaper. When I told her that one set of his Great Grandparents were named 'Crha', she said there weren't enough letters in the name!

When I used to visit here 30 years ago, it was not unusual to hear Czech spoken on the streets and in the bars, and many of the older people, who had been born here, spoke English with a heavy Czech accent. Even now, you still hear it occasionally. Just recently, I was at the Monday night community supper, sitting at a table with friends who make me look young! A fellow walked in and my friend, Leonard, a very young 91, greeted him in Czech. They chattered away for a bit in the language they had learnt before starting school in English.

As a result, I have a personal interest in Czech history and culture. One part of Czech history that is pretty much forgotten outside Czechia itself, is the story of the Czech Legion. Patriotic Czechs who were fighting on the Eastern Front when the Bolsheviki betrayed their Allies by signing the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, they wanted to go home and fight the Germans. The tale of their journey across Siberia to Vladivostok is epic! Here are two videos from one of my favourite Youtube channels that encapsulate the story.

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