Speaking to My Countryby Jan Masaryk
Written and delivered by the then Foreign Minister of the Czechoslovak government-in-exile, they were broadcast over BBC radio as part of the Allied media campaign against the Nazis during the
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Speaking to My Country by Jan Masaryk was published in 1944 but these speeches deserve study by contemporary students of leadership, media, and international relations.
Written and delivered by the then Foreign Minister of the Czechoslovak government-in-exile, they were broadcast over BBC radio as part of the Allied media campaign against the Nazis during the Second World War. Listening to them was punishable by death under Hitler’s regime. Yet untold thousands of Czechoslovak citizens regularly risked their lives on Wednesday evenings to hear Jan Masaryk.
From September 1939 through the end of the war, Masaryk was one of the wittiest and most popular voices on the air, hosting a program called Volá Londýn (London Calling). He evoked Jan Hus and the Good Soldier Švejk, recited poetry, told jokes, provided eyewitness reports of the bombing of London, news of battles in Europe and Africa, and of public opinion in the United States.
His extraordinary broadcast marking the Jewish New Year 5704, in September of 1943, includes one of the first explicit references by an international leader to the extermination of the Jews.
Masaryk’s broadcasts were so treasured that after the war, a Czech collection of the talks sold out its 60,000-copy printing, followed by similar success in London.
“Seven decades have come and gone since these speeches were first aired, but the fundamental message of respect and caring for one another – and of living in freedom – remains both timeless and timely.” – Madeleine K. Albright, U.S. Secretary of State, 1997-2001
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Meet the Author
Starting in September 1939, Jan Masaryk, Foreign Minister of the Czechoslovak government-in-exile, broadcast several hundred 15-minute talks over the BBC’s program Volá Londýn (London Calling).
Jan Garrigue Masaryk was born in 1886. His father, Tomáš Masaryk would become President-Founder of the First Czechoslovak Republic. His mother, Charlotte Garrigue, was an American Unitarian who traced her maternal ancestry to the Mayflower.
Jan was an exuberant, gregarious child, who liked to have a good time, play soccer, tennis, and the piano but with no interest in formal education. In 1904, his parents sent Jan to America. He worked at menial jobs until his father’s friend Charles Crane, a wealthy manufacturer, hired him in one of his factories.
Just before World War I, Jan returned to Europe and was drafted in the Austro-Hungarian army. At the end of the war, through the efforts of Tomáš Masaryk, influential American supporters and President Woodrow Wilson, the First Republic of Czechoslovakia came into being. Jan, then 32, was sent to Washington, D.C. as Chargé d’Affaires of the new Czechoslovak Embassy. In 1920, he was assigned to the London Embassy for two years. He then returned to Prague, where he became close to Minister of Foreign Affairs Eduard Beneš, Tomáš Masaryk’s right-hand man and former pupil.
In 1924, Jan Masaryk married for the only time. His bride was Charles Crane's daughter. The marriage lasted five years. In 1925, Jan was named Minister to the Court of St. James and became the most popular diplomat in London: he was Ambassador until 1938. Tomáš Masaryk retired as President in 1935 and died in 1937. Jan transferred his allegiance to the new President, Eduard Beneš.
In 1938, Hitler annexed Austria and then the “Sudetenland” following the “Munich” agreement. In London, a Czechoslovak government-in-exile was in place by 1940, with Beneš as President and Jan Masaryk as foreign minister.
Masaryk returned to Prague in 1945 as Foreign Minister in a government with a strong Communist Party. In 1947, Masaryk received a parcel bomb in the mail. In 1948, following a putsch, the Communist Party consolidated its control. On March 10, 1948, Jan Masaryk, 62, was found dead in the courtyard below his bathroom window in the Černín Palace.
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