Milan Rastislav Stefanik: Traveling Abroad, but at Home in Czechoslovakia
By: Casey Conniff
Milan Rastislav Stefanik was born in 1880 in Austria-Hungary, in what is now Slovakia. He had a great love of his country which translated into him becoming an integral part of the founding of Czechoslovakia with Tomas Masaryk and Edvard Benes. Before moving into the political sphere and becoming a general, Stefanik was a scientist. He studied many things at the University of Prague including astronomy and philosophy and was even Tomas Masaryk’s student in his younger days.
After studying in Prague, Stefanik traveled to Paris where he was put on the staff at Meudon Observatory for scientific research. His trip to Paris was only the beginning of his international travels as his research position afforded him the opportunity to travel to many countries. Stefanik traveled to Spain, North Africa, Tahiti, Brazil, Ecuador, and many more countries. In Tahiti, he built his own observatory.
As a result of all of his travels and World War I breaking out, Stefanik began traveling in a much more diplomatic nature rather than scientific. Despite all of his worldwide traveling, Stefanik’s love of his country had not faded and he helped create the Czechoslovak army, Legions, (click here for a link to information on the Legions) abroad in various countries. He worked on diplomatic missions to bring the Legions to France, Italy, and Russia and traveled all over the world to gather Czechoslovak volunteers for the army.
The formation of the Czechoslovak National Council and its recognition by the allies was a direct result of the Legions’ international involvement. Stefanik became the representative of Slovakia on the Czechoslovak National Council and continued to influence the creation of Czechoslovakia as a nation up until his death.
After all of his travels abroad on both scientific and diplomatic missions, Stefanik decided to return home. His love for his country never diminished over the years and he was excited to finally return to his homeland after so many years gone. In 1919, Stefanik got on a plane heading to Czechoslovakia. Unfortunately, Stefanik never lived to return to his country as the plane crashed and he died.
While most of his efforts for his country were made abroad and he was never able to return, Stefanik’s love for his nation never wavered. The idea of Czechoslovakia as a nation worked as his guiding light throughout his missions and helped him achieve his many successes for the Czechoslovak movement.