(The aged mister Cernovski from Cernova (1898-1987) speaks about Slovak history and father Hlinka)


   It was almost ten o'clock. In Cernova, before the entrance of the village, there was already a crowd of people. Before them, the Hungarian armed gendarmes were standing still. I remember that they had green cock's feathers on their hats, which were ominously gleaming in the morning sun.
   At last, my father came. He said: I won't walk, today I won't drive my flock.
   And I went to the meadows, beyond the fields and through the fences of Demko, down to the school. And there, bingo, they were already standing, just south of the place. Like little scoundrels, we slipped through everything until we came upon the village road before the crowd.
   They are already coming! - cried somebody. And really, two coached showed up on the public dyke.
   They are coming!, screamed the crowd, and the more they yelled, the more the crowd increased. The whole road was already full of people.
   They are coming! - it was sounding like an echo.
   There were about one thousand people. The gendarmes tried to create rows at the sides of the roads of access, whereupon the coaches were approaching, straight against the wall of people. Underofficer Pereszlényi was advancing in the first coach. He had been born in Hungary and didn't know a single word of Slovak. He had been serving in Ruzomberok for only three months. His servant Veverica was coming along with him. This man had been born in Cernova, but he was an alcoholic, and he could only maintain himself in the favour of the lords by using brutality. In the second coach were approaching deacon Pazurik of Liskova, administrator Fischer of Ruzomberok, and furthermore administrator Hanzelyi of Ludrova and catechist Kalocsny of Ruzomberok. Upon the coach, the man with the whip was hobbling forward. But the little konik horses were so wise as to suddenly stop closely before the crowd, as if they were planted into the ground. The coachman began to beat them, and they reared. They pressed against the crowd and stopped again. The crowd began crying and moving. There was panic. One gendarme seized me by the collar. thinking that I asked for a kick against my bottom, and threw me like a kitten through the hedge in a little garden. The gendarmes began pushing the people out of the village. But everone, whom they pushed away, ran around behind the houses, came back on the road, and grasped the coaches from behind. Thus there came a situation that the coaches were enclosed from all sides, they couldn't move forward or backward. They still had to climb a little hill to reach the church. The crowd was waving to and fro, and they cried: Why have you come? We haven't called for you! We don't want the consecration!
   Pereszlényi rised up in the coach and thundered: Czak elöre! - that is: go ahead! The coachman beat the konik horses and they began turning sideward. The coachman rised backward, so that the coach wouldn't tilt. Pereszlényi was still standing on his feet, and swinging around with a stick. Then Jozef Demko grabbed the stick and pulled it down to the ground. Ondrej Sliacan seized the frightened horses by the reins to calm them down. But the men on the coaches continued shouting:
    Czak elöre! Czak elöre!
   This inspired the servant of the chief magistrate, and he began using his whip against the people instead of the horses. He jumped even off his seat, threw himself at Jozef Demko and knocked him to the ground. The pain made Jozef cry. At that moment, stones whizzed above the heads of these men. Both boys and girls began to throw them, buth they kept distance, so that they weren't being pressed into the crowd and could disperse themselves.
   In this hutchpotch, gendarme Ján Ladiczky gave the fatal command:
   Löni! - that is: shoot!
   The gendarme was perhaps only hesitating whether they should really press the trigger, but they didn't immediately react. In the pause one could hear people shouting: Come on, you have blank cartridges!
   But the pause was short. A salvo thundered from the guns of the gendarmes, and in no time they fired again. The tragedy was complete.
   Jozef Demko, a thirtyfive year old man with seven children, went down to the ground. He did some more faltering steps in the crowd. Go away! - the gendarme cried to him. Man, I didn't do nothing at all! - Demko lisped over his shoulder. The gendarme shot at his back, run to him again, and hacked the dead man in his side. I had run away over the land of Prielozka, like a robot without a soul, and heared in the fields how they were screaming to ask me: where I was, how I was, and if I was alive.
   In faith, this is the truth. And it was such a beautiful day. First there was a fog, that passed by, and then there remained only those who had been killed. These people had been mowed down like in a nightmare. My mother gave me a bit of money, and I went back to the scene.
   There was the moan of the dying, the tears and laments, and then the harsh and rude shouting of the gendarmes, who didn't admit anybody to approach the dead and the dying.
    The coaches turned round and ran back to the town. There came a warm rain. And they went back to the Honved company in Ruzomberok. A certain Ondrej Uhrina was also lying in the mess of his own blood. He had come back to Cernova from the Honved barracks only yesterday, as a veteran. He had cursed a captain who knew him and who bumped into him at once. One gendarme was near. The captain went to that gendarme and ordered the gendarme to slap Uhrina in the face on behalf of himself. But properly, the gendarme hit Uhrina one-two-three on the mouth, and that's why Uhrina cursed. The army occupied Cernova.
   Finally, there came doctors to Cernova. First of all came doctor Srobar. One of the wounded, young Fulla, had called for him. This young man had been arrested. Doctor Polgar, a prison doctor, had presented himself to Fulla, but he wanted another doctor. Legend says that the doctors had a bloody lot of work, because all wounded called on them. Anyway, this was no lie, because, meanwhile, many wounded introduced themselves in the houses along the streets. These were the people with minor wounds. They hid themselves where they could, in barns and sheds, for they were afraid that they would be arrested.
   In the town there were nine dead people. Besides Demko and Uhrina, these were the following: Pavol Janci, Miso Polievka, Katarina Demkova, Jozef Lejko, Jozef Hlinka, young Ruzenka Fagova and Tonka Lejkova, who just came back from the nightshift in Rybarpoli. Among the heavily wounded, four passed away within a couple of days: Ignac Jancek, Karol Otiepka, Jozef Lajciak and Teresia Demkova. Several people had been transported to Saint Rochus' hospital in Pest, where they underwent operations. The doctors could save some of them, but there were two more victims: Jozef Fulla and Ondrej Sulik-Kucera.
   So, the consecration of the church in Cernova was bloodstained indeed. What need I say more? The infantry came in Kosice and in Levice. The gendarmes began to arrest people - allegedly to free the village from rebels - and they used manacles. The quick wept for the dead. And below Cernova, they drove the shackled people in the Ruzomberok prison.
   After the arresting, the day of the funeral came. They buried them who died in the bloody massacre. Cernova was surrounded by the army and gendarmes. Allegedly to prevent the outbreak of a rebellion. But a rebellion couldn't easily break out. The village was plunged in misery and sorrow, people couldn't think of a rebellion at that moment. I don't know when they could. It seemed that Cernova had to drink the chalice of bitterness until the last drop, and up to this day there is still a bit of gall left for us to swallow.
   When the families were saying farewell to the dead, who were beautifully dressed, and honored with garlands on the coffins, there came orders to perform a forensic autopsy. The families had to bring everything into barns in front of the churchyard: the corpses outside the coffins, clothes and shirts under the coffins. And they began to cut up the corpses. We of Cernova paid two horrible vagabonds, Jan and Jozef Cibulka, for assisting the doctors with this awful work. One of these two did the lungs in a bag. You won't believe that people have to do such tricks, but these two didn't mind. When the clerk had written how many bullets there were in the corpses, and where, and what kind of bullets, they drew the ripped and sliced corpses into the coffins and smashed the clothes on top of them. At last there came a request on behalf of chaplain Orav, who had to do the funeral, that they dress the dead again and lay them properly in their coffins.
   A big cordon of the army was standing at a considerable distance around the churchyard. Outside the cordon, till high upon the hills, there was a sea of thousands of silent people dressed in black. The army admitted nobody to the funeral, except the very next of kin. The chaplain asked why. Because there might be some fight again, they answered. It was also for his own benefit. This way, absolutely nothing could happen to him. Don't fight for me - the chaplain said, and he went to the commander to introduce himself. He asked him to guarantee that nothing would happen to him indeed. And if there would really be any fighting, then please order the army and the gendarmes to draw up themselves before the church and opposite the churchyard in two lines so as to form an open triangle. If there would happen anything, you can give a salvo from two sides and shoot us down - said the chaplain. In the end, the commander consented that he would let the people approach.
   The army gave a trumpet signal, and the crowd trembled with fear. What could that mean? People were afraid about what the army was going to do now. But nothing. The soldiers and gendarmes only moved in the direction of the church, so the people could freely come nearer too. They came in silence, however, and during the first moments they didn't even dare to come. But at last, when the chaplain invited them, the black sea of people began to move. It looked just like a colony of ants. Within a couple of minutes, the churchyard was full at all sides, except at the side of the church, which had to stay under control of the weapons. They carried the dead to the open graves. Everywhere, people began weeping and lamenting. Tense moments came when the Pater noster sounded, and above all in this prayer the words and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. At that moment, they gave to gendarmes the order Imahoz!, and to the army Zum Gebet!. They gave this order to soldiers who were attentive and uninterested at the same time. Nevertheless, these soldiers, mostly Rumanians, stayed standing like salt pillars, but with tears in the eyes."
   "And where was Hlinka at that moment?"
   "Well, I told you, he was not in Cernova. The Hungarian and Hungary-minded newspaper readily wrote that Hlinka himself had effectuated the whole bloody massacre. Eyewitnesses allegedly had seen him, disguised in women's clothes for this purpose. But the most important mistake that the papers made, was that they couldn't come with this news immediately and properly. The truth was that Hlinka spoke during those days in several places: Ugrian Hradiste, Kromeriz, Prostejov, Olemouc, Prerov, and on the eve of the Cernova events in Napajedluch. Next morning, he went to Hodonin, and there he got the following telegram: IN CERNOVA THEY SHOT PEOPLE BEFORE CONSECRATION. The telegram made him go knock-out, and his first thought was that he should go to Cernova. But his friends persuaded him that he'd better continue with the announced lectures exactly following the plan that they had agreed upon beforehand. He had only one more month of freedom before him, because at the end of November he had to go to the Segedin prison for the execution of his sentence. For two years indeed? We will see.
   So he stayed where he was, giving lectures. He was a significant speaker, and his lectures drew large Czech audiences. He would say with a loud and angry voice that the Slovaks didn't want anything else than to live like all other nations, but wouldn't timidly ask for it like a humble and meek people.
   In Brno, under the direct impression of the bloodshed in Cernova, the large parlour in Besedn house was packed with people. Likewise in Prague, in the large hall on Zofinsky island, where he spoke two whole hours about the sufferings of the Slovaks in the Ugrian empire. I have come - he said - to open eyes that are blind and ears that are deaf, so that any Czech may know what is happening there in the Lower Tatra mountains under the Tartars, who are weighing their chances like a Libra behind the river Waag that is coloured with Slovak blood. He ended with ardent words on the solidarity and fraternity between Czechs and Slovaks. Crowds of people were singing the song 'It is lightening on the Tatra mountains', and when Hlinka departed from the Zofinsky hall in his own coach, the academicians spanned out the konik horses, and pulled the coach themselves to the hotel 'In the black horse' just over the castle moat Jeleni Prikop.
   Before long, the members of the Vienna parliament began lending their ears to Hlinka as well. The president of the parliament plainly expressed his sorrow about the tragical events in Cernova.
   We must not waste many words when talking about the parliament in Budapest. Milan Hodza interpellated there concerning Cernova, but the parliament finished the case in its own characteristic way: with laughter, noise, screams. It was lucky enough that there was no fighting. When the big noise stopped, member Hodza of parliament declared that, in view of the emotions, he didn't insist on further dispute about his interpellation, which was reading as follows:"
   Is the minister of domestic affairs willing to influence things in such a way that the investigations concerning the bloody events in Cernova will be expanded to the conduct of the local proper organs as well? Is the minister willing now, in support of the forthcoming situation, to create in his office proper organs which will cooperate to guide the aftermath of these bloody events? Is the minister willing to take measures for calling back the troops which are camped in Cernova?
   "But the minister for internal affairs, count Julius Andrassy, was not willing. He made short work with everything. He talked at length about order and discipline in the empire, about rebellion and fanatics. And his answer influenced the consciences of all voters and blocked the voice of this one reprentative of an ethnic minority.
   In fact, it was a young Slovak politician, redactor and member of parliament, namely Milan Hodza. His ambition was to get closer to the Vienna Court. Then he would be able to directly promote the cases of Hlinka and Cernova. For Cernova, he had been received in audience with princeroyal Franz Ferdinand up to three times. The successor to the Austrian throne was angry with the Hungarians because of Cernova. He was interested in Hlinka, and, on request of Hodza, he intervened in favour of Hlinka, first with the papal nuncio and then with the pope himself. Franz Ferdinand wrote a letter of his own to speak up for Hlinka, and sent it to Rome. And, through Cernova, Hodza got what he wanted. Since those days, the socalled 'higher politics' began influencing everything. Hodza believed that he could incite Franz Ferdinand with his anti-Hungarian feelings to 'walk away' (in a positive sense) with the throne of a newly created monarchy for the Slovak people. Therefore, Hodza tried to maintain himself in the favour of the princeroyal.
   In the Vienna parliament, the representatives dr TG Masaryk and dr Karol Kramar spoke about Slovak questions as well, and particularly about Cernova. But that was not all.
   Because the shooting before the consecration was not an everyday subject, the Cernova events attracted much attention in the whole civilized world. In their own parliaments, writers like Björnson and Tolstoj spoke about it as well (they got direct information from the very learned Ruzomberok physician Dusan Makovicka). Inspired by Cernova, the English scholar and publicist Seaton Watson (alias Scotus Viator), wrote a whole book, called 'About racial problems in Ugria'. Norge even offered the Slovaks an island, whereupon they could settle themselves. And I do still know myself, how the Poles and Czechs showed their sympathy again and again. The Czechs organised numerous huge protest meetings in support of the Slovak right to be free from Ugria - one teacher of physical education, named Sokol, organised more than six hundred meetings all alone. Czechs who didn't have much understanding for the Slovaks before, began being interested in them now. The 'Slovak Horizont' wrote:" The Cernova events did in one night, what Kalal, Masaryk, Heyduk couldn't accomplish during two years.
   "Eventually, the Hungarians were frightened by the crudeness of their own regime. Until the newspaper UJSAG wrote:" Björnson has a damned lot of luck, that the bloodshed in Cernova took place right now. Fifteen dead Slovaks and an innumerable quantity of wounded. Fifteen is much indeed. It is more than the number of killed people in the whole Banff elections tragedy, and we all remember how much crying there was about that. The killings are helping the Slovaks, not us!
   "And the NEPSZAVA said:" An island of freedom is rising again from blood ... an island with such a name as Caraffovia, Kolonicsovia, Franc-Kossuthovia or Apponyiovia (with its head upright) should by now see its chance to come into existence.