(The aged mister Cernovski from Cernova (1898-1987) speaks about Slovak history and
But that wasn't enough. Prague began breaking the staff over us, instead
of seeing in the Nitra festival a sign of unchanged determination of the Slovak people.
Then Benes came to Slovakia as well, and he gave a lecture on the idea of
Czechoslovak national unity from the standpoint of international politics. He proved that
Czechoslovak unity was the only way of rescue for the Czechoslovak republic in the difficult
international situation that was taking form in Europe primarily because of the fact that in
neighbouring Germany the nationalsocialistic party with its leader Hitler had managed to seize power.
That new problem implied for the Slovaks a bloody cruel choice, because
they had emphasized from the beginning quite the opposite, namely that legalization of Slovak
autonomy would give the republic not only more inner strength but also more strength in
What happened? In 1935, Masaryk resigned because of his age and
the increasing international problems, and Benes became president. For the first time there
came a Slovak prime minister, namely doctor Milan Hodza. He was really one of the most capable
Slovak politicians, but his political activities had no steady orientation. He was an advocate
of Czechoslovak unity, and at the same time he wished to remain a Slovak. Finally, neither the
Czechs nor the Slovaks did trust him any more. Nevertheless, the Slovaks were expecting that
he would work for the removal of all injustice done to them. But doctor Hodza was already
worrying about other things. The republic came in such a situation that there could change quite
a lot, if not everything.
Benes went to Slovakia again, as a president this time, and he came round
in Cernova too. It was in the days that Hlinka's popular party condemned Prague foreign politics
in a big demonstration at Piestany, because Prague had entered last year in a treaty with the
Soviet union. Read this!"
We break the cooperation with international representatives of the
materialistic ideology and Jewish or Bolshevist anarchy! We join the anticommunistic bloc!
"But let us return to our main story. A triumphal arch had been erected
for the important visitor at the entrance of Cernova. The first to welcome mister president and
his wife Hana was burgomaster Hancik, who gave to president Benes a present - a photograph book.
All over Cernova, welcome trees had been planted. People formed rows along the road to conduct
the guests to the church. Andrej Hlinka was waiting there, and from his welcome words I remember
the following words:
Esteemed mister president! You are standing on historical soil. The
first foundation of the Czechoslovak republic has been laid right here! Here fifteen people
have fallen dead, because they opposed Hungarization!
Benes answered with his own oration, and after that the program continued
in the city. The people in the city welcomed him with as much esteem, because that was suitable
with his high position. He even got a document that appointed him as a honorary citizen of
Ruzomberok. But Benes didn't find his way in his pleading. He just didn't catch the right note.
Anyhow, whenever I am talking about Czech statesmen, or, which amounts
to the same, about the practice of national Czecho-Slovak reciprocity, it doesn't make headway.
Slovakia was a dangerous ground for Czech politicians. Especially Ruzomberok. Masaryk once
descended from the train, and went back almost immediately. Benes stayed longer, and yet he
didn't find understanding."
"But Benes was a democrat like Masaryk, wasn't he?"
"Democrat? Maybe in Prague, but not in Slovakia. Benes was rather an
aristocrat and an egoist, and he valued the workmen as good dogs. Hlinka's popular party
would vote for Benes, only because it wished to support his promises. Benes answered
the greetings of the inhabitants in several places, he took a child in his arms here in
Ruzomberok. But he did nothing for the fulfilment of Slovak demands. The situation of the
Slovak people was indeed worse than the situation of the ethnic minorities, because the
constitution was guaranteeing to these minorities certain linguistic rights and the possibility
of cultural development. According to the same constitution of the Czechoslovak republic,
however, the Slovaks were neither a nation nor an ethnic minority. The official statistics were
accounting only for Czechoslovak people, nationality and language.
The year 1937 began with the launching of a new clear slogan: In Slovakia
we want only Slovak language. Hlinka's popular party proposed in the Prague parliament a
new law, that Slovak would be the exclusive standard of language in Slovakia. In the
nineteenth year of Czechoslovak cooperation, this was the only way to claim a right that the
Pittsburgh agreement had been guaranteeing to the Slovak people all the time. Prague, however,
didn't understand the idea even now, and that worked like oil on a fire in the movement for
Let us say it with other words. In Slovak politics, people would tell
very often about an event in the days of that famous Slovak member of the Hungarian parliament,
Ludovit Stur. When Stur asked for Slovak rights in the parliament, representative Kazimir Tarnoczy
from Nitra stood up and said:
If the chosen representative is talking about Slovak affairs on behalf
of himself alone, I can accept that. But if he talks on behalf of the Slovak people, I declare
that I myself can speak on behalf of more Slovaks than he can. As far as I know, they want to
become Hungarian. They want to melt away with us, so that they will become perfect Hungarians.
That is the desire of those Slovaks who granted me the happiness of representing them.
In Slovak life, people would often depict that story in many colours and
shades, even after 1918. In the Prague parliament too, a representative of the government could
always ascend the pulpit while pretending to be a sort of representative of Hlinka's popular
party. He could repeat the words of Tarnoczy, only substituting the word 'Czech' for 'Hungarian'.
For the Czechs, that was the so-called good truth. That representative would usually
distort statistics in such a way that apparently most Slovaks were centralistic. Then he would
proclaim his devotion to Czechoslovak national unity on behalf of the Slovaks, and thank for
all benefits that the Slovaks were receiving from Prague.
However, if the Czechs had been better psychologists, and more favouring
toward the Slovaks, they certainly would have gained more in the final settlement. Just because
they wished everything for themselves, and saw in every Slovak who would defend Slovak interest
an enemy of the state, the room for the opponents became much larger. The popular party with its
rather imperfect organism and apparatus, and its modest financial funds, probably
wouldn't have given to the Slovaks such a belief in autonomy as did the wrongs and the untactical
acts of the Czechs.
If you don't believe me, look at this! The bare figures say it all.
Unemployment benefits, subsidies for building houses, money for watersupply, for correction of
criminals, for roads and aqueducts, canals, schools ... do you see? Figures all around,
showing an abyss of difference. In technical schools, 94 percent of the students were Czechs,
only 6 percent were Slovaks. The Slovaks could equal the Czechs in only one discipline -
"But why did the Czechs do it that way?"
"They believed that the Slovaks had no choice. Benes said to Razus the
following: We must come to terms with the Germans, because they can choose their own way.
The Slovaks can't. And the Czechs didn't conceal their own colonial politics. Read what it
says in these Czech newspapers:" In Slovakia we have obtained not only our Czech culture,
our Czech trade .. "And in these other newspapers they write about the reason why the
Czechs should have profits in Slovakia. They also write that nobody should oppose this ...
or else" a lot of employees would come back from Slovakia to Czechia. There would be no work
for them, so poverty and discontent would increase, and that would bring many consequences.
"The Czechs didn't mind that poverty and discontent were increasing in Slovakia. That could
be a never-ending care for a region that wasn't viable anyway. But I wouldn't want that care
either. We didn't need it any more. However, in that time these wrongs were very painful and
gave to the movement for autonomy the organisational readiness that it was still missing.
All Slovakia woke up.
Alas, we have to admit that the Czechs could only commit this injustice wherever
they had Slovak collaborators. To say it straight, the Slovaks were more guilty than the Czechs.
The Czechs did what the Slovak dogs in the government allowed them to do - and these Slovak
dogs were helping because of the bones that the Czechs gave them for obedience.
Now we get to 1938. The Czecho-Slovak republic intended to celebrate its
twentieth anniversary. But the evolution of events that were leading toward the war which was
already so close at hand, took such a course that the republic had to prepare for defending its
integrity instead of celebrating its independence.
'Reichskanzler' Adolf Hitler proclaimed his decision that the Germans who
were living at the frontiers of the German empire, would belong to both states. The president of
the Czechoslovak government, Hodza, refused that claim with the argument that his government
alone should take care that all requirements of the German inhabitants would be met. Hitler growled
at Austria, which was very weak at that time. The German army entered that poor state and seized
it without any shot. The German pincers then squeezed the Czech borders, which were already
shaken by unsolved ethnic questions. It suddenly appeared that we had here also a German party
of Sudetes. Even the devil didn't want that this party should come as a thunderbolt to join
the family as a fellow member. This party soon presented to the government its own claims.
In these circumstances, Hlinka's popular party organised an enormous
celebration at the twentieth anniversary of the Pittsburgh agreement. This way it was demonstrating
that it wouldn't at any price give up its own rights. American delegates brought the original
Pittsburgh document to Bratislava and handed it over to Andrej Hlinka - the man who in the
final twenty years of his life had actually laid so many sacrifices on the altar of the nation
for the legalisation of the one and only document, with which the Slovaks climbed as partners
next the Czechs. That was perhaps in the beginning of July. Hlinka was already very old and his
health was very poor.
The sixteenth of August 1938 was his last day. People felt that his end was
near and they assembled in the space between the church and the parish house. In the evening,
the voice of the big bell was sounding far and wide from the church. We heared it in Cernova
as well. And that bell, you know, that voice ... if I say that it was greeting a giant
personality in Slovak society, that would only be an understatement.
After Hlinka's decease, people made limericks about Benes and described him
as the man with a large project: his wife Hana. He robbed the national bank, bought an aeroplane,
and flew away to the ocean. Then the Slovak state came into existence. I don't know why we have
so many doubts about that. Was the origin of Slovakia like this, or wasn't it? Let us not bite
our nails: it was. The Russians were among the first who acknowledged our independence. I know
that you hear already like a siren that word in your mind: clerofascism. However, we
shouldn't allow that word. Historical research is still inquiring what we actually have to think
about it. I can now only say this: you must realize that the war began. And in times of war,
history is exceptionally indoctrinating, much more so than in times of peace. A war always
develops quickly, doesn't it? In Ruzomberok, of all places, began the 1944 Slovak National Uprising
But take the time to think it over. I won't run away. I want to tell you
something else to conclude with. In the Slovak state during the war,
a certain Alexander Mach was chief of the
propaganda office and, later on, minister of interior affairs. He was this Sano Mag, that was his
wellknown nickname. I saw him lately on television, a few years ago. They showed him in that
tv program of Leopold. But I can tell without lying, that I have seen him in more shameful
situations as well. I had the habit of asking certain people how they were thinking about
career men like him. And suddenly, I saw it all clearly. You know, I was acquainted with quite a lot high level
functionaries, although I am only a common worker. I have been working in Rybarpolis for
thirtyfive years, but I was also an active member of worker's organisations.
I would talk easily with ministers and priests and all other people.
During the war, we had in Cernova Andrej Cizmar as a parish priest. Cizmar
didn't understand workman's things, but he did understand other things. Once upon a time, I asked
him: Do you have some guest?. He answered: Sure, I have room for everybody.
And his guest in those days was general Ludvik Svoboda of the army. On his way from Buzuluk to
Prague, he was in Cernova at the fifth of April 1945. He stayed in the parish house indeed, and
here he suddenly was charged for that minister's function. General Klapalek got his function
in the Cernova parish house as well. Svoboda went to the government in Kosic, and Klapalek
took the command of the first staff for the Czechoslovak army. But this is something different.
We should go back to that Mag.
Sano Mag: what's in a name? He made propaganda as if he were a Sana Mag,
a dragonish magician. And at the same time, my own name was Maga, remember? That means 'you' in
Hungarian. Once upon another time, I came home and said to my wife: Listen, Marka, that
parish priest of ours is so fussy. He is cutting jokes with me, about my name. He says that
my name is like that of Sano Mag. According to him, people are saying that I want to change
my name. And she answered: Do it, Lacko, you don't want to keep worrying about it, do
Okay, said I to myself, I'll do it. I went to the office of the
municipality. For only five crowns, I easily changed my name.
So, my darling, that's all. I have to say no more. It's only a little
fragment of our history, but it is a sacred fragment. That's as true as my name is Cernovsky.
END OF THE STORY OF MR CERNOVSKY