Czech Legionaries discuss future

This year the Union of Czechoslovak Legionaries celebrates it's 80th anniversary. The Czechoslovak Legionaries were formed during the First World War, when Czechoslovak soldiers deserted from the Austro-Hungarian Army to fight alongside the Allies. Although none of the original Legionaries are alive today, their name and status has been bestowed upon Czechoslovak veterans from the Second World War. The Union of Czechoslovak Legionaries will be holding a regular meeting in Prague this week to discuss the organization's future. Pavla Navratilova has more.

Of the 70,000 Czechoslovak soldiers who served in the Second World War, only 3,500 Legionaries are still alive today. Due to old age, this number is falling by an estimated 15 people each day, so the issues facing the Union of Czechoslovak Legionaries at this year's conference are pressing.

I spoke to two Legionaries who will be involved in this year's conference, Antonin Spacek and Vaclav Straka.

Antonin Spacek: We are not united in different problems. For instance the problem whether we should stay in this central organization or to be independent. We are not united and different problems have to be solved at this congress. Most of us are around eigthy years, I am eight six for instance, and many of us are alone. We need some help in our old age and nobody cares about it. The ministry refused to take care of old veterens, to help them stay in different homes. And that's up to our organization to do everything to help those people that need our help.

The other thing is how to carry out the ideas of our tradition to the younger generation because the problem is that teachers don't know about it. They were educated during the Communist Regime, they never heard about it and now they should say something about it to their schoolchildren. So that's what we would discuss in our congress here.

Radio Prague: And the future of the organization?

AS: The future is in the stars. We are too old... soon we shall join the majority, as you call it in English, and who will take our post?

There some remarks, very often, that say the last time the Czech soldiers fought was at White Mountain, or they never fought, they were black cowards, and so on. They don't acknowledge us. We were the only army in the group of allied armies who were composed of voluntaries. The fight against the Nazis was fought here in the Czech lands. We have to persuade our young generations to keep in mind that the Czechs are not cowards; they know how to fight, when to fight for the independence and democracy. And that's what we would like to leave after our deaths to the young generation.

Author: Pavla Navrátilová
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