(The aged mister Cernovski from Cernova (1898-1987) speaks about Slovak history and father Hlinka)
"I almost forgot something important. In the Moscow magazine Knowledge, a certain Svetozar Hurban Vajansky was writing under a pseudonym about the troublesome situation of the Slovak people. If I am not mistaken, it were forty letters. One can find in them many detailed reports about Cernova. Vajansky considered the trials against the Cernova citizens both from a moral and a judicial standpoint as a major crime, and characterised them with the following words: It is a deliberate extinction of a nation, a denial of its right to exist. And if this people moves from its place, a bullet is waiting or a trial, a prison or a life in poverty.
That trial ended in the early spring of the next year. Forty inhabitants of Cernova were condemned to a total of thirty-seven years of imprisonment. And that in spite of the fact that they didn't prove malice forethought or organised rebellion, but only clamour of people who were screaming and requesting that the consecration of the church should not be carried out. In their conclusions about the final verdict over the accused inhabitants of Cernova, the governmental newspapers wrote at length about Hlinka as a criminal personality, an egoist, an ambitious and choleric troublemaker. Björnson wrote an ironical polemic about it, with the following sentence: They should skin Hlinka alive, and then burn his stripped meat with boiling oil.
That could easily happen! - he ascertained. Such a man as Hlinka doesn't deserve anything better. The people of Cernova were of course wondering, where Hlinka was, and they got the answer at once from Björnson: For you he is like a saint, perhaps even like God, for whom you fall on your knees. For us, Hlinka is a wild beast, and one has to shoot him down. He speaks about himself as if he had been sent by God to redeem the Slovaks. However, as a son of God he is only an ordinary bad boy. Money! That is his only target. He went to Morovia and Czechia and there he presented himself as an Ugrian bear, hoping that people would throw the more money at his head. He is an insatiable pinchfist. And now, in Segedin, he is sitting in a warm room on a soft sofa, bathing in wine and wiping the fat of roasted beef from his mouth.
Meanwhile, Rome was discussing about Hlinka as well. The first time, they didn't come to a decision. That was already a good result. An important Slovak weekly magazine ascertained:" In Rome, there was the first trial in the Hlinka case. Did they judge of Hlinka? Ah, it is not about Hlinka alone. It is a question of right and of proper conduct. A modest parish priest is virtually standing in front of his bishop, and a congress of most reverend ecclesiastical dignitaries cannot simply judge at random!
"In the second meeting, the council of the congregation came with a verdict: Ad mentem (Latin for In spirit)! In this verdict, they didn't confirm the suspension of Hlinka from his rights and duties as a priest. The pope himself ratified this verdict. Bishop Parvy still defended himself and explained that he had suspended Hlinka on the request of the Hungarian government, and particularly two ministers, those of education and of interior affairs. He warned that Hlinka could become a martyr in the eyes of the people, and that the verdict of Rome in the case was already an acknowledgement of this martyrdom. But Rome had spoken, so the case was closed. Parvy had no other choice than to inform Hlinka in the Segedin prison that he would free him from the punishment of suspension.
Before Hlinka, only one Slovak had been sitting in Segedin: Svetozar Hurban Vajansky. After his meeting with Hlinka, however, Vajansky made more visits . He went to all in Ruzomberok, for instance Srobar. I told you before about what Hlinka himself wrote concerning his stay in prison:"
Most of the time, I am studying. Sometimes I am reading Hviezdoslav's slavonic-biblical literature. With Christmas, Svätopluk Cech sent me his handwritten Slave Songs. Many people write letters to me. Fifty selected letters are waiting for answer on my table. Today there came one hundred and fifty new letters. But I really can't answer them all.
Hlinka could leave Segedin before the end of his punishment, and he was invited to the trials of the press in Bratislava. There he got new penalties. For his links with the press, they inflicted on him one year and a half of imprisonment and a penal sum of two hundred crowns. The royal court decided to put the punishments of the two legal sentences together. So they really remitted something of the prison time, and at Saint Peter and Paul's day in the end of June 1910, he did the consecration of the church in Cernova as a delegate of bishop Parvy himself, and as a free man and rehabilitated priest. He was then, if I count well, fortysix years of age. A mature man, a personality hardened by trials and tests, who soon would have to stand as a strong character in the Slovak political arena.
You see, life is full of traps. That is always and everywhere true. And in all that confusion there is only one truth. But why don't you fill your glass again? Then I'll tell you about politics."
When he was saying this, his wife knocked at the door of the room, and, to our surprise, we saw her with the hands in her sides.
"Man! I would think that you could finish by now, or are you still beginning?"
"What do you think?" - said mr Cernovsky, quasi indignant. "You see that we have not one drop left."
"I see. But if you have had no time as yet to tell about them politics, then I think that you should not begin with it. Tomorrow is another day. And don't walk away, mister Kuniak. You could sleep with us."
"No. I go home."
"And who would take you home? Our children have left our house long time ago."
"I will, for I am such a young fellow!", said old mr Cernovsky, and I had to accept that as the end of our talk.
Mrs Cernovsky accomponied us to the dooryard. There was snow everywhere and it was freezing a stinger.
"Be careful!", she said, when we left.
The way out of the village went aloft and became ever steeper. We were walking arm in arm. I realised that I was smaller than mr Cernovsky, but I am still one hundred and eightytwo centimeter.
Just at that moment, I slipped away in the snow, and mr Cernovsky took hold of me.
(LATER ON, KUNIAK HAD A SECOND TALK WITH MR CERNOVSKI:)
"When I was twelve years old, I stopped slaving away in school, and in the age of thirteen I was a shepherd. After that, I was a bricklayer's apprentice. When I was fifteen, and I had my certificate, the world seemed no threat to me, and I wished to leave our home. And I went away to explore the world. I joined my brother Adolf, who was a construction worker in New Pest."
"Adolf?" - I asked.
"Today you won't easily find that name. Since Hitler, the number of Adolfs will never be the same. But in those times, the name Adolf was not exceptional. Our family name was worse."
"I don't understand that."
"Hogy hivnak magat? What's your name?" - asked my master, in Hungarian.
"Maga Laszlo" - I tried, knowing little Hungarian. Then he jumped up and answered with an angry voice:
"Nebejszej te taknyos! Don't talk that way, snotnose! You offended me because maga means 'you'. Maga is 'you' in Hungarian, understand? So you say that my name is Laszlo. My name was Maga indeed, not Cernovsky. My name is now Cernovsky, but then it was Maga. My father was called Maga and my brothers and sisters are called Magovci, but I have a different name now. In those years, however, I still had my old name. When I would present myself to a new boss, away from home, he suddenly got angry with me. But not only the masters. Whenever I said my name to somebody, that person would always get angry with me. This made me so furious that I could bite them, beat them and choke them because of that lack of linguistic understanding. I didn't tolerate that everybody hopped into my neck so shamelessly. But it was my own life, wasn't it? My eyes began to open themselves in other ways as well. I really was only a snotnose and I didn't understand anything. For instance, it occurred to me that the Hungarians had nothing to do with church utensils. I was expecting that they would interfere, but nothing happened. I understand now that they interfered every moment, but my feeling was true in some degree. Because, in the outcome, there wasn't happening much. All things Hungarian dispersed, and in the life of the nations, the Hungarian elements were slowly disappearing."
"Last time, you were about to tell me, how it was with the politics."
"Of course. But where shall I begin? Hlinka founded a society for the cooperation of enterprises. He advised the people, how they could get free from the material shortages that were appearing because of their own carelessness and because of Jewish usury. The Jews were at the vanguard of Hungarianisation and economic oppression, by their own manners. In the elections they were always standing at the Hungarian side. That was understandable. The awakening of social and moral Slovak politics was a great danger for their usurious business. The corporations in the domains of food and money were becoming a very important political instrument in the hands of the Slovaks. They were crushing Jewish power in the villages. In the Ruzomberok area there were Jewish men of business like Vilhelm Kuffler, Jakob Fuchs, Moritz Fisch, Jozef Kohn, Ignatz Kohn, Samuel Eichel, Albert Hexner, Sali Immerblum, Max Singer ,,, They were all merchants. They were not directly admitted to political life, but I remember their names because they heavily influenced politics by their own pursuit of gain."
"And were they active with politics in the narrow sense of the word?"
"But I told you already that they were not! It was our fault that there could easily flame up a fire in Slovakia that would quickly burn everything. The parties had no adequate organisation. They used to manifest themselves only with their enthusiasm during patricular events. Even then, however, there was discord and fragmentation! Just before the outbreak of the first world war, there were more parties here than in world politics. There was for instance the stagnant national popular party, represented by the national newspapers, which had only one new thing, namely that they got Hlinka as their leader. Furthermore, there were the Slovak liberals with Hodza. Srobar pulled the cart of the Masaryk party, who were presenting themselves as social democrats. Each party tried to reach some goal, but failed again and again. Princeroyal Franz Ferdinand went to Serajevo, and then a student named Gavrilo Princip suddenly shot him down without speaking two words. Then the war came. In that time, such a thing as a war was only a weak sign of hope for Slovak national life. The war desperately tried to suppress and extinguish any sporadic sparklet of nationalism, caused by people who weren't banished or sentenced yet."
"You want to say that there came a pause in national life?"
"What national life! In the coffin of princeroyal Franz Ferdinand d'Este there was lying, among many other things, a garland with a label on which it said: To the lost and afflicted infelt hope of the Slovaks. The agents of that garland knew that the successor to the throne of Austria-Hungary was not Hungary-minded, and they realized that he would have been a strong supporter of the Slovaks and able to shake the foundations of the Ugrian empire. Therefore, the Serajevo attempt and the beginning of the war seemed to them the very end of all hope. That's why I said 'what national life'. It was a misery. It was nothing. Nobody furnished tickets for this national life. Every man had to collect some of it all alone.
Once upon a time, believe it or not, my late lamented mother, may God save her soul, surprised us as if she had been mad as a cucumber. She did a bit of make-up on her face, put on a beautiful traditional Slovak dress, and placed one bowl on the middle of the table. We got no dishes for dinner that day, we all had to eat out of that bowl.
We also had one little cow. When we milked her, the milk was soon turbid and became butter. O, that was delicious! But we couldn't use it. God forbid! Mum said: Children, I have no butter for you today. She grabbed the butter and brought it to the Jew Rosenzweig. She got beans for it, one or sometimes two kilograms, and she had some food to cook again.
In the middle of the war, I commenced my military service at the Italian front with Janos Urban, a son of the man who would later on become mayor Urban. We belonged to the youngest draft, we were only eighteen. At the Russian front there were fighting Cernova boys as well, but when the revolution broke out, they all moved to the Italian front.
And just then, during the war, in the times of the worst misery, came the waking up of the Slovaks, who were living at the borders of the Ugrian state. The time was quickly becoming ripe, and if they wished to fight for the good cause of freeing themselves from Hungarian domination, they had to act now. Quite naturally, they allied themselves from the very beginning with the Czechs, who had a similar goal and began an uprising against Austria, guided by Masaryk. In the cooperation of the Slovaks with the Czechs, it was agreed upon that the Slovaks would secure their own national development. Thus there came several foreign centers into existence for the support of the uprising.
In the first years of the war, the Slovaks who were living in Russia went to Czar Nicholas for a visit. They talked with him about an independent Czecho-Slovak kingdom. Some member of the Romanov royal family should stand at the head of this kingdom. But that was nothing yet. Another foreign center of resistance came into being in France, where doctor Milan Ratislav Stefanik insisted upon the formation of a National Council. That was important! Masaryk became the president of this National Council, Benes became the secretary, and the promotor of the idea, Stefanik, became vice-president. Stefanik got this important job because he had been living in France in the years before the war, among his own friends. This enabled the representatives of the council to live in an atmosphere of total freedom. It was very important to have a free entrance to contemporary political life ... But the most important center of resistance was in America. Representatives of the Slovak league and representatives of the Czech national association wrote down ideas for a federal state. At Cleveland they signed a contract that was to become the base of a sincere cooperation between Czechs and Slovaks abroad. I can truly say that, because, in fact, this contract was running up against the difficulties all alone. The Slovaks didn't believe that the Czechs would stick to the contract, and the Czechs were only corroborating this distrust by their ways of expressing themselves. Masaryk assured the Slovaks again and again that they would be allowed to decide on their own destiny in the future state. Stefanik too tried to patch up any possible quarrel beforehand, and he was using all his energy to prevent that the mistrust would block every progress of resistance against Ugria in foreign country.
As the war came closer to the end, the American Slovaks emphasized ever more that the relation between both nations should be clear, and that the Slovak position in the future state had to be guaranteed beforehand. Now it fell so out that Masaryk was a Slovak from the male side of the family. That's why he came to the American Slovaks in May 1918, where he assured them at the great Pittsburgh assembly that in Slovakia everything would be Slovak."
"Those were clear words in that time."
"Sure! The clouds of uncertainty dispersed at once. But the Slovaks wished a written warrant anyhow, so that these promises would not turn out to be airbubbles. So a contract was set up in Pittsburgh, which Masaryk phrased and signed all alone. It said that Slovakia would have its own government, parliament and court of justice, that the Slovak language would be the official one, and that Czechoslovakia would be a democratic republic.
Around that time, the Slovaks at home began talking about the organization of postwar Slovakia as well. Hlinka made a lot of initiations. He founded the printing house 'the Lion' in Ruzomberok. In a contribution to the collection articles under redaction of Alois Koliska, with the title The Slovaks in the Czecho-Slovak state, he wrote:
Remember the years 1906-1907, when I came among you to speak. Then I expressed myself already definitely and clearly enough about the relationship between Czechs and Slovaks. The schools and churches were then being Hungarianized at full speed ... Were we not forced to ask for freedom, in those circumstances? Our relationship with the Czechs has to be as between brothers, free and unconstrained, because we are tied with the links of our hearts and our blood.
"At the same time, however, Hlinka unambiguously warned Koliska, that the Slovaks were sticking to their right of selfgovernment, and they were asking the Czechs for warrants in that direction.
On the occasion of a conference of the National Party under presidency of Matus Dula on the day of Saint Martin of Tours, during which several groups of nationalists visited the Ruzomberok parish house, Hlinka expressed himself even more resolutely:"
We are not going to do half work when we finally arrive at our destination. This is the right moment for action. We have to say clearly, whether we are going ahead with the Hungarians or with the Czechs. We cannot evade that question. We must answer it frankly. We choose the Czecho-Slovak orientation. The thousand year old marriage with Hungary was no success. We have to divorce.