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III

Dr. Masaryk is often spoken of as the actual creator of the Czecho-Slovakian Republic. One of the most remarkable men in the world to-day, his career may be described as truly dramatic, a career of striving and adventure. His father was a Slovak serf whose work was a combination of ostler and coachman; his wife was a cook. The father was quite uneducated, and


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when the boy was a few years old his mother taught him and her husband the rudiments of letters. At an early age young Masaryk conceived an intense desire for learning. He yearned to be a teacher, and loved books. He was apprenticed to a locksmith and then to a blacksmith, but through abject poverty and frequent hunger he struggled on, hoping that some day he would attain his ambition. Finally he broke away from his employment, was able to get to school, found his way into the University of Vienna, and later became a professor at the University of Prague. He entered Parliament, was leader of the Opposition, and endeavoured to unite hostile forces in opposition to German dominance. When war broke out he saw in it an opportunity to secure the political freedom of his country, and urged his followers not to fight for Germany and Austria, but against them. He had, of course, to quit the country, as the authorities regarded him as a traitor, and in his flight to Switzerland he narrowly escaped capture. He sought refuge in England, where he was appointed by the University of London to a professorship in the then new Slavonic Department of King's College. He worked with Britain and her Allies during the war.

An army of over a hundred thousand Czechs fought with the Russians in the early part of the war, and later Czech armies fought on the Western Front against the Germans. When Czech prisoners were taken by the Allies an organisation controlled by Masaryk endeavoured to get them to fight with the French army. When Czecho-Slovakia was made a republic in 1918 he became its first President, and was later re-elected more than once. The constitution provides


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that no President who has been elected twice in succession can be elected for a third time, but this provision did not apply to the first President.

When we were presented to President Masaryk in the magnificent gold and white reception chamber known as the Spanish Hall at the Palace of Prague, we found him alert of mind and body. He is tall and graceful, was dressed in a perfectly fitting morning suit of the latest London fashion, and although over eighty years of age, yet he walked with the firm, springing step of a young man. He speaks half a dozen languages perfectly, and in the course of conversation with the two Australian delegates he said: “I have read much about your wonderful country. Just now you have your financial troubles; you are about to make efforts to honestly pay all you owe. You will, of course, be successful. Your difficulties are but inevitable incidents in the development of a new country.”

Dr. Masaryk married an American lady, who died some years ago, and English has been the language of his home.

He has an impressive and dignified personality. He is trusted and respected by all parties. The work he did in the formation of the new republic has been almost equalled by the wisdom with which he guided its infant steps. The question often arose: Who was to succeed him?

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