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


   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 foreign politics.
   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 autonomy.
   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 - emigration."
   "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, but also 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 against Germany!
   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 you?
   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. Laco Cernovsky.