Capek on the Czech Legion

Excerpt from ``At the Crossroads of Europe'' (introduction to a book of the same title, published by the PEN club of Prague, 1938), as reprinted in Peter Kussi (ed.), Towards the Radical Center: A Karel Capek Reader (Highland Park, New Jersey: Catbird Press, 1990), p. 404.
In substance, Czechoslovakia is a nation of stay-at-homes, not favored by nature with adequate opportunities to go forth as adventurers and conquerors. And yet was it not these stay-at-homes, these mild and sedentary people, who fought in the Great War for the freedom of their country on the battlefields of Serbia and the Dobrudja, in Lombardy and in the Argonnes, in the Urals, and in Siberia as far as Vladivostok? Was it not they who waged war for their native Czechoslovakia in the French, Italian, Serbian and Russian armies? Was it not they who, when taken prisoner, asked for arms to fight against the Habsburg Empire --- men condemned in advance to die as rebels on the scaffold if the Allies should not win a decisive victory? Seventy thousand ill-armed volunteer soldiers had to cut their way through the Siberian tundra in order once again to reach the battlefields of Europe, and although throughout all this more than 8,000 kilometer journey they had to make their way through an alien and hostile land with their weapons in their hands, as they went along they founded their own printing press, they printed books and newspapers, they established a bank of their own and a theater, wrote down from memory the plays and musical compositions of their faraway homeland, arranged sports and athletics, used the old linoleum which covered the floors of the cars of the Trans-Siberian Railway to make blocks for the illustrations in their comic paper, carried their workshops with them, hunted up their forage in Turkestan, in Mongolia, in China; maintained communications, order and public services over a line thousands of kilometers in length; and after two years of this self-conducted adventurous journey from West to East round the world, returned on board Japanese ships to their native country as disciplined regiments, capable of taking the field again the very next day. Those of you who know something of the War from your own experiences can judge the moral and physical achievement of these seventy thousand young men and aging fathers led by thirty-year-old generals.