A Soldier Remembers Jan Masaryk and Marsha Davenport
As a villager from Moravia, I was called up for army service in Olomouc. Those of us who had finished grammar school were sent to the Pohorelec barracks in Prague. Because of our proximity to Prague Castle and Cernin Palace [the location of the Foreign Ministry], we were rather better kitted out than other army units in Prague. When Yugoslav leader Marshal Tito visited Prague in spring 1946, I had a dislocated knee and was unable to take part in the parade. They shut us up so that we could not look out of the windows of the barracks when Tito went past. However, in the evening the captain responsible for security needed one more soldier. Although I was limping, he gave me a pistol, which I put in my pocket, led me off to Cernin Palace, and stationed me on the main stairs, by which Tito was to ascend to the reception held for him. Tito arrived in a uniform covered in medals. While he was ascending, we stood there like candles without moving lest we arouse the impression that we were pulling a gun out. Tito looked each of us in the eyes and greeted us "Hi". Jan Masaryk was waiting upstairs and greeted Tito in Serbo-Croat. It is possible that Jan Masaryk's friend, the American writer Marsha Davenport, also attended the reception. After the reception, which included a concert, was over, the captain breathed a sigh of relief. He told us that three companies had been stationed in the basement of the Cernin Palace since 6 a.m. that morning. No one guessed that less than three years later Jan Masaryk would be dead.
Marsha Davenport first visited Czechoslovakia in 1930. She loved and admired the Czech nation and wrote several books about the country, including Valley of Decision. She described her friendship with Jan Masaryk in Too Strong for Fantasy. Jan Masaryk and Marsha Davenport first met in 1941 in New York. Davenport, then in his 60s, was tired by his onerous diplomatic duties and found the company of the lively 42-year-old journalist with her impressive knowledge of Czechoslovakia refreshing. Marsha Davenport was a strong and sensitive woman who gave Masaryk support during the difficult post-war period. She was in Prague with Masaryk in February 1948 when a psychologically broken President Benes left Prague Castle for the town of Sezimova Usti. On March 7, 1948, Masaryk visited Benes. The visit sealed Masaryk's fate. Either Masaryk did not realize that Benes's house had been bugged or he no longer cared. Masaryk told Benes that he was no longer able to continue in the government, but added that he was nevertheless determined to fulfill the promise he had made to his father T.G. Masaryk --that he would never desert Dr. Benes as long as Benes remained president. Dr. Benes told Masaryk that the decision was up to him [Masaryk], and Masaryk replied that he was considering emigration.
Marsha Davenport flew from Prague to London the next day -- March 7. Jan Masaryk wished her to be in safety and was relieved when she flew out. However, he planned to meet up with her again at the next opportunity as a member of the Czechoslovak government traveling to a session of the United Nations. Unfortunately, on March 10 he was found dead outside the window of his flat. In the post-war years, Jan suffered from depression caused by his concerns over the future of his country. However, when Marsha, received the news of Jan's death, she was in no doubt that Jan had not taken his own life but had been murdered. (A new expert study confirms that Masaryk was murdered by Communist thugs.) Both Jan Masaryk and his father T.G. Masaryk were very pious Christians, even though they did not belong to one specific church. They regarded the bible as the holy word, through which God speaks to us, and not only about the heavenly kingdom but also about how to protect us from danger. During World War One T.G. Masaryk escaped from many life-threatening situations. In her book Marsha Davenport mentions that when T.G. Masaryk died, a bible open at Galatians, chapter 5, was found with verses 22 and 23 underlined. Both Masaryks were personifications of the values of love, patience, good will, loyalty, calm, and self-discipline mentioned in those verses.
Jaroslav s. Kubicek, USA (translated and edited by Ian Stone)
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