From the Early History of the Washington DC Chapter | by Miloslav Rechcigl, Jr.
I have lived in Washington, DC since 1958 and thus remember well how the Washington, DC Chapter started. During 1960-1962 I also served as the Chapter’s Secretary and was responsible for the Minutes keeping. This narration can thus be considered authentic and authoritative.
The Chapter was officially established in November 1959 and was initially known as “Pracovni skupina” which would be translated as a working group. It grew out of the “Study Section of the Washington Branch of the Czechoslovak National Council” (Studijni odbor washingtonske odbocky Ceskoslovenske narodni rady americke), under the chairmanship of Dr. Jaroslav Nemec. The Section was initially charged with the responsibility for laying down the groundwork for the future Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences (SVU) which was officially established in New York on October 24, 1958.
Following the election of Dr. Jaroslav Nemec as the new SVU Secretary-General, the Washington DC-based Study Section fell under the chairmanship of Dr. Jaroslav G. Polach. Through his initiative, starting in November 27, 1959, the newly established Washington, DC Chapter began organizing a series of lectures, “Contributions to the Development of the Idea of the Czechoslovak State in the Years 1938-1948″.
In the 1959-60 period the following lectures were delivered:
- November 27, 1959 – Dr. Ladislav K. Feierabend: “Between Munich and March 15, 1939″. Chaired by Jaroslav G. Polach
- January 8, 1960 – Dr. Juraj L. Slavik: “President Benes’ Letter to President Mosczicki during the 1938 Munich Crisis”. Chaired by Jaroslav Nemec
- February 12, 1960 – Dr. Stefan Osusky: “The Soviet Stand during the Czechoslovak Crisis”. Chaired by Josef K. Hasek.
- March 4, 1960 – Dr. Jozef Lettrich: “The Idea of the Czechoslovak State and Slovakia”. Chaired by Cestmir Jesina
- April 8, 1960 – Dr. Arnost Heidrich: “Foreign Political Causes of Our Tragedy in 1938 and 1948″. Chaired by Dr. Frantisek Kase.
- May 7, 1960 – Prof.Dr. Vratislav Busek: “Importance of Czechoslovak Universities during 1938/39 and 1948″. Chaired by Jaroslav A. Drabek, Jr. With banquet and reception.
In addition to the above, on December 1, 1959, there was a special lecture by Prof. Vaclav Hlavaty, the newly elected SVU President, about “Problems of Space and Time”
During the Annual Meeting on June 1, 1960, it was generally expected that Jaroslav Polach would remain the Chapter’s chairman. He, however, decided against it because of pressure of his job. The members therefore proceeded to elect a five-member working group, with the responsibility of coming up with the slate of candidates for various offices. Jasa Drabek initially expressed interest in the post but then changed his mind. The chairmanship was therefore offered to Dr. Ladislav Feierabend who accepted. Miloslav Rechcigl, Jr.was elected Secretary, Milos Jansa Treasurer and Vojtech Nevlud Vice Chairman and Press Officer. Jasa Drabek and Josef Kucera were elected members of the Board without specific functions.
My main job as Secretary was to write minutes, send out the invitations and also keep track of the membership. My responsibilities were, however, soon augmented to also include the responsibility for correspondence and in addition became a member of the program committee.
Josef Kucera, a kind old man who lived with his wife on Park Road, not too far from Jaroslav Nemec, usually helped me with the printing of the announcements. He was a journalist by background who published regularly, in monthly intervals, the newsletter, Zpravodajstvi z Washingtonu. As such, he had access and knew how to operate a somewhat primitive mimeo-graphic machine.
In our activities, we essentially continued in the lecture series to preserve historical documents and memoirs relating to the “Development of the Idea of Czechoslovak State in 1938-1948″. The meetings were held in monthly intervals, usually at 7:30 PM, second Friday of the month, in the Alliance Room of the All Souls Church on 16th & Harvard Sts., N.W., Washington, DC.
We customarily invited prominent politicians of the 1938-1948 period to give us personal and authoritative accounts of their activities and experiences, accompanied with explanations and documentary evidence. In addition to oral presentation, which was tape-recorded, each participant also had to present his contribution in writing.
The presentations usually were followed by intensive discussions and commentary from the audience. Because of the frequently controversial nature of the topics some of these discussions were quite lively and even confrontational. The meetings were run with iron hand so that they never got out of hand.
It should be noted that the referenced series of lectures were actually the first occurrence in the Czechoslovak post-World War ll exile of having politicians of opposing views talking from the same platform. Until SVU came up with this lecture series, they would hardly ever speak to one another.
To get more people interested and involved, we followed the practice of having each speaker introduced by a different person and have him moderate the discussion. This required some preparation and the person also gained invaluable experience in speaking in public.
To make the meetings more sociable my wife, Eva, came up with one innovation, namely to have every meeting followed by refreshments, as was customary among Americans. This practice, which has been kept to date, gave each meeting a friendlier and more sociable atmosphere conducive to opening up and talking to one another.
I remained secretary for two terms (June 1, 1960-June 22, 1962). Subsequently I had to relinquish this function in order that I could devote attention to publications and other SVU matters at the national level.
During the two-year period, we had the following program:
- October 7 – Vaclav Majer: “Trip to Moscow and the Beginnings of the Kosice Program”.
Chaired by Miloslav Rechcigl, Jr.
- November 8 – Dr. Ladislav Feierabend: “Hacha and Experiences in the Government of the Protectorate”.
Chaired by Jaroslav Drabek, Jr.
- December 9 – Dr. Jaroslav Drabek: “Beginnings of Czechoslovak Resistance during the WW II”.
Chaired by Vojtech Nevlud.
- January 13 – Dr. Theodor Prochazka: “Berlin 1938-1944. My Reminiscences”.
Chaired by Dr. Jaroslav Nemec.
- February 10 – Dr. Jozef Lettrich: “Recollections from the Czechoslovak
Domestic Resistance and Slovakia in 1939-1943″ Chaired by Dr. Jaroslav G. Polach.
- March 10 – Gen. Josef Schejbal: “Czechoslovak Air Force during the World War II”
Chaired by Dr. Milos A. Jansa.
- April 4 – Dr. Arnost Heidrich: “International Political Causes of Our National Tragedy – February 1948″.
Chaired by Ladislav K. Feierabend.
- May 2 – Banquet and Reception – Dr. Ladislav Radimsky: “Commentary at the Margin of Contemporary Czech Literature”.
Chaired by Dr. Ladislav K. Feierabend.
- September 8 – A Discussion Panel: “Goals and Aims of the Czechoslovak society of Arts and Sciences in America” Panelists: Dr. Jaroslav Nemec, Jan Hajda, Cestmir Jesina, Dr. Frank Meissner, Dr. J. Polach, Ivan Herben and Dr. Jozef Lettrich
- October 16 – Dr. Karel Steinbach: “Karel Capek and His Times”
- November 10 – Mikulas Ferjencik: “Recollections from and Experiences in Moscow and the Slovak National Uprising “
- January 12 – Ivan Herben: “Brother Josef – Memories of the Capek Brothers from Lidove Noviny and Josef Capek from Concentration Camp”
- February 15 – Marie Provaznikova: “The Sokol Contributions to the Origin, Development and Democracy of the Czechoslovak State”
- April 1962 – “First Congress of the Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences in America”
- June 22 – Annual Meeting – Discussion Panel: “Comments on the First SVU Congress” Panelists: Dr. Jaroslav Drabek, Dr. Zorka Cerna, Fr. Josef Hasek, Vojtech Nevlud, Dr. Zora Prochazkova, Arch Emil Royco.. Moderated by Dr. Ladislav K. Feierabend.
Upon leaving, as I reported in my report to the Assembly, the Chapter had 83 members, in comparison to 74 in September 1961. The list of members of the Washington DC Chapter (as of June 22, 1962) is reproduced below.
List of Members – Washington DC Chapter (as of June 22, 1962)
Boehmer, Alois, Dr.
Borkovec, Alexej, Dr.
Brecher, George, Dr.
Cerna, Zora, Dr.
Drabek, Jaroslav, Dr.
Drabek, Jaroslav A., Jr.
Eret, Josef P., Gen.
Feierabend, Ladislav K., Dr.
Fiala, Jri, Dr.
Fischmeister, Ladislav, Dr.
Friedrich, W. G., Dr.
Halkova, Jirina M.
Hasal, Milan J.
Hasek, Josef, Dr.
Heidrich, Arnost, Dr.
Jansa, Milos, Dr.
Jarolim, John S.
Jesina, Cestmir Jira, Jaroslav, Dr.
Kase, Frantisek, Dr.
Kase, Karel, Dr.
Kaspar-Party, Jaroslav, Col.
Klimek, Adolf, Dr.
Kocvara, Stefan, Dr.
Kolafa, Josef, Ing.
Koeppl, Evzen C.
Kreysa, Frank J., Dr.
Kybal, Milic, Dr.
Lejkova, Milada, Dr.
Lettrich, Jozef, Dr.
Michal, Jaroslav J.
Mladek, Jan V., Dr.
Munz, Otto John, Dr. Naylor, Herbert
Nemec, Jaroslav, Dr.
Nosek, Jindrich, Dr.
Palic, Vladimir, Dr.
Polach, Jaroslav, Dr.
Prochazka, Theodor, Dr.
Prochazka, Zora, Dr.
Rechcigl, Miloslav, Jr.
Royco, Emil, Arch
Sadlik, Josef, Dr.
Schneider, Joseph Z., Dr.
Schlosberg, Kveta S.
Sladek, Jaromil, Dr.
Sladkova, Gertrdude, Dr.
Slavik, Juraj, L.J., Jr.
Sturc, Ernest, Dr.
Svestka, Miroslav J.
Zenkl, Petr, Dr.
See also the HISTORICAL OVERVIEW