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No Americans = No Czech Republic / Zadni Americane = zadne Cechy

President Woodrow Wilson may not be  the most famous president on the domestic soil but he is a celebrity in the Czech Republic. The main Prague station together with some parks and streets was named after him and now a new statue of him was unveiled in Vrchlicke Sady in Prague (the original statue from 1924 was taken down by the Nazis). The unveiling ceremony was attended by the highest Czech state officials such as the president Vaclav Klaus, the former president Vaclav Havel (it was also his 75th birthday on that day). The former secretary of state Madaleine Albright was also present.

Why such fame? Wilson was considered the foster father of Czechoslovakia for championing (together with T.G. Masaryk) its independence after World War I. The Czechs lost their independence to the Habsburg Empire in 1620 in the infamous Battle of White Mountain. For the next 300 years we were ruled  by the Austrian Monarchy until the end of World War I.

"The liberators of the Czechoslovak nation"

‘During World War I, Wilson, a scholarly son of Staunton, Va., recognized Masaryk’s government in exile. Masaryk had lobbied for the recognition, pointing out to Wilson, a former history professor, the influence of the Declaration of Independence on Czechoslovakia’s founding document. When the war ended, Wilson advocated for the establishment of “small states” from the defeated Austro-Hungarian Empire.(taken from Washington Post)

In 19 1018 T.G. Masaryk  traveled to the USA where he convinced president Wilson of the rightness of building an autonomic Czechoslovak state. On October 26th 1918 he spoke from the steps of Independent Hall in Philadelphia, as a head of the Mid-European Union. Masaryk challenged the crowd for the independence of the Czecho-Slovaks and other oppressed nations in Central Europe.

On May 5, 1918 more than 150,000 Chicagoans filled the streets to give a triumphant welcome to Professor Thomas Garrigue Masaryk, the future President of Czechoslovakia. Masaryk was coming from Russia where he helped to organize the Czechoslovak Legion from former P.O.Ws. to fight for an independent Czechoslovak State. Chicago was then the center of Czech and Slovak immigration in the United States and gave Masaryk an enthusiastic reception, echoing Masaryk’s earlier visits to the city and his visiting professorship at the University of Chicago in 1902. Prior to 1918 T. G. Masaryk had lectured at the University of Chicago in 1902 and 1907. He also had strong personal links with the U.S. since 1878 through his marriage with an American citizen Charlotte Garrigue and friendship with Charles Crane. Thanks to Crane, a Chicago industrialist, Masaryk was invited to the University of Chicago and introduced into highest political circles, including to Woodrow Wilson.’ (taken from Wikipedia)

 

T. G. Masaryk once said:”The admiration of the people for him (W. Wilson) amounts almost to a hero worship”.

After working on this post it is finally completely clear to me that without Americans there would be no Czech Republic or Slovakia.

CZ: Byvaly americky president Woodrow Wilson neni v USA zrovna tim nejznamnejsim presidentem, ale v Cechach si tuto nedostatecnou popularitu vynahradil. Neunavne totiz podporoval sveho pritele T.G. Masaryka v utvoreni samostatneho ceskoslovenskeho statu a za to od ceskeho a slovenskeho lidu dostal prezdivky jako ‘obrance demokracie’ nebo ‘apostol svobody’. Za jeho zasluhy v transformaci rakouske monarchie do autonomnich evropskych statu  mu Karlova Universita udelila v roce 1919 cestny doktorat, jeho fotografie se nachazely na uradech , ve skolach a take po nem dokonce byly pojmenovany parky a zeleznicni nadrazi.

Neni tedy divu, ze nedavne slavnostni odhaleni jeho sochy ve Vrchlickych Sadech bylo velkou udalosti. Slavnosti se zucastnila rada osobnosti jako prezident Vaclav Klaus, Vaclav Havel (ktery v ten den mimochodem slavil sve 75. narozeniny) nebo Madeleine Albrigtova.

Puvodni Wilsonuv pomnik z roku 1928  byval u tehdy Wilsonova nadrazi, sochu ale v roce 1941 ho znicili Naciste. “To, ze se sem pomnik W. Wilsona vratil je symbolicky velmi dulezite,” zduraznil Vaclav Klaus. Vztah obou statu prirovnal k “pratelstvi dvou lidi”.

Kratce receno, bez neho by zadne Ceskoslovensko (a pozdeji take Ceska Republika) nebylo.

Sources:

http://magazin.ceskenoviny.cz/zajimavosti/zpravy/ve-vrchlickeho-sadech-byla-po-letech-odhalena-socha-wilsona/696419

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/3237.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom%C3%A1%C5%A1_Garrigue_Masaryk

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/prague-to-honor-woodrow-wilson-with-new-statue-at-main-train-station/2011/09/29/gIQAeghoLL_story.html

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21 comments… add one
  • Matthew Parker October 11, 2011, 1:33 pm

    Thanks for your excellent blog! I’m an American husband of a Czech national and we both live in NYC, but go back to CR often (just last month in fact we were in Brno, Cesky Krumlov, Prague and Hluboka nad Vlatavou).

    I think that Czechs and Americans have mutual love and respect for each other and as an American with a Czech wife and Czech in-laws, have a lot of admiration for the Czech people and Czech culture.

    Keep up the good work with your posts!

  • Tanja October 11, 2011, 10:18 pm

    Yes, no matter what anyone says, Americans and Czechs are very fond of each other.
    PS: Congrats on your Czech wife, couldn’t find a better one 😉

  • Matthew Parker October 11, 2011, 10:38 pm

    České holky jsou nejlepší!

  • Tom Blaha October 12, 2011, 5:44 am

    The parallels between our two countries run deep, and we are all very proud of them.

  • Romana Osborne October 12, 2011, 9:29 am

    Thanks for the insightful blog!

  • Tanja October 12, 2011, 2:12 pm

    Thanks guys. Tom, I am not very good at history but I am always eager to learn about it! Would you mind give us some more pointers on those parallels? That would be awesome!

  • Eva Z. October 12, 2011, 2:49 pm

    Tanja, thanks for this article, I didn’t know this! Also bad in history but happy to learn! 🙂

  • Leonard October 13, 2011, 1:50 am

    I like the article, but to say Wilson is a “celebrity” in the Czech Republic is a huge overstatement. I have asked around 15-20 Czechs of varying age about Wilson and his importance to their history, and only one person knew why he was considered significant. Several people didn’t know who he was at all, and were only familiar with his name from the road “Wilsonova”.

  • Tanja October 13, 2011, 1:50 pm

    Hi Leonard, I am glad you like the article. About the ‘celebrity’ word usage: I personally think if someone gets a train station and a street named after them, is impersonated into a sculpture, a picture of his mug hangs on the wall in the schools AND the Czech people call him the ‘apostle of freedom’, that is enough for him to be called a celebrity (regardless whether some teenagers remember what he did or not).

  • Ondra October 14, 2011, 12:12 pm

    Well, I must admin, I didnt know much about Willson ‘involvement’ in Czech history (no excuse at all, it’s shameful). The problem is, that it’s too far away from nowdays and young people tend to forget history (which is bad and dangerous as well). On the connection between both nations that some of you have mentioned, I defeinitely agree. I went on a short trip to NY couple months ago and was completely shocked, how geographicly literate some people were (no offence it just was a huge surprise after all I’d heard from people in England for last 3 yrs). Been talking to a handful of strangers I met there, and 90% of them knew where Czech was (considering its size and importance, pretty impresive). I even managed to bump into a guy (roughly aged 60), whose great grandmother came from Czech and who could still remember a few Czech words. And his dream? Going to Prague at least once before he dies.

  • Eva Z. October 14, 2011, 12:49 pm

    Well, not all celebrities are known to everyone, right?

  • Tanja October 14, 2011, 3:01 pm

    Very nice story, Ondro. Perhaps people in New York are more geographically savy. Here in California if I mentioned I am Czech I am very pleased if it rings a bell with someone and says: “Oh, you are from Czechoslovakia, right?” Other than that they throw us here in the same bag with the Polish and the Russians. I don’t mind too much, it’s not like it’s going to destroy my whole day.

    When the grandpa said he was part Czech, I am serious I hear that all the time from people! I would not be surprised if George’s Washington’s grandma was Czech ;))

  • Matthew Parker October 14, 2011, 3:18 pm

    Speaking of NYC, a relatively new Czech restaurant called Hospoda opened in the Bohemian National Hall. I’ve been there a few times with my wife. It’s not “traditional” food, but kind of nouvelle Czech cuisine, like you might see at Digustation in Prague. In fact, I think it’s owned by the same restaurant group.

    Here’s a link to a recent review: http://nymag.com/restaurants/reviews/hospoda-birreria-platt-review-2011-8/

  • Tanja October 15, 2011, 9:29 am

    Wow, that’s some fancy ‘hospoda’!!! Too bad that it got bad ratings…did you have a good experience, Mathew?

  • Matthew Parker October 15, 2011, 5:14 pm

    Hospoda is wonderful. The “pro” review is so off. I’ve been there 3x and can’t wait to go back again. Here’s some real people reviews on Yelp (including mine): http://www.yelp.com/biz/hospoda-new-york#hrid:Rm3JUZDpOJaFprK3Ni5WGA/src:self

  • Tanja October 15, 2011, 9:53 pm

    Ok, that’s good to know we know from first hand that it’s a good place. So many Czech restaurants just close down because of bad food? Bad service?? It’s a shame. I will definitely put it on the list. Thanks!

  • Jana V October 16, 2011, 12:45 am

    My grandmother as a young school girl remembers a portrait of President Masaryk and President Wilson in the classrooms.

  • Karen October 16, 2011, 5:45 pm

    As an American, this blog post touched me. Thank you, Tanja, for researching this and presenting this information. I went to the 65th annual liberation festival in Plsen last year. My friends could not believe that Americans were celebrated for five days straight. We have been used to our media telling us that everyone hates us (not true, by the way). We also have a famous conservative talk show host in America who constantly vilifies Woodrow Wilson. I can’t remember what he says about him, but he teaches Americans who listen to his show to hate him.

  • Tanja October 16, 2011, 10:05 pm

    Hi Karen! Good to hear from you again. I am glad you are touched 🙂 And yes, what is up with the media brainwashing Americans that they are hated by Europe???? I can’t even remember how MANY times I have been asked by them that same question. And I always assure them that it is not true. I personally think is the liberal media (especially CNN) that does that, not the conservative ones. Even my dad who lives in Czech Republic says that (he watches CNN news every night).

  • Jamie October 17, 2011, 5:44 pm

    Co myslíš frazí “zadní Američané”? Znamená to, že Američané byli nějak pozadu?

  • Jana V October 18, 2011, 3:38 pm

    Some of my family members do dislike the USA, it seems like they believe what is on the news and the sitcoms shown in the CR as being the absolute truth. They do not take the initiative to come a visit and see and meet actual Americans. I also believe that people in Europe and CR do not make the distinction of American politics, govt policy, and politicians and ordinary citizens. That is the problem I face within my own family. In Plzen it is different because the US Army made it there during WWII and the people saw for themselves the American soldiers. The rest of the country did not have that experience and believed communist propaganda.

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