Serbians Marching Home:
Minister Pasitch On The New Era
By Stanley Naylor
[The Living Age, November 30, 1918; from The London Chronicle]
'The Franco-Serbian forces, marching on Nish!' This gratifying news had just reached Mr. Pasitch, the veteran Serbian Minister, when he received me in London.
Appropriately enough, the last time I had talked with this seventy-seven-year-old statesman was in Nish, nearly three years ago, shortly before the Serbs evacuated that city. 'Trample on our bodies our enemies may, but crush our spirits they never will,' was the message 'The Grand Old Man of Serbia' then telegraphed to the world— a message summing up in two short sentences the unflinching courage and fortitude with which the whole Serbian nation faced the tragedy of their subsequent retreat. 'What is your message, to-day?' I now asked Mr. Pasitch.
'Let our English friends know that, to-day, thanks to the loyal help of Britain and our other Allies, Serbia is marching home in that same spirit in which she retreated,' he promptly replied. 'She is fired by the same ideals, the same spiritual aims as have always been hers. Centuries of oppression have never crushed the dauntless Serb spirit. Nor will it ever be crushed. Even the long-drawn-out agony of our recent past, those hundred and one days when our cup of national sorrow was full to overflowing, failed to make it quail. How different this from the spirit of the Bulgars!
'At the time of the Serbian retreat, three years ago, things looked black against us, and it seemed almost as though the Central Powers might win. German overtures were then repeatedly made to me through certain channels in Greece and Rumania whereby we Serbs could have sued for an armistice or a separate peace, had we wished, in much the same way as the Bulgarians have done to-day. With these innuendos we refused to hold truck, because to have deserted our Allies would have been to run counter to our national spirit.
''Bulgaria, guided solely by avarice, took the other line. She threw in her lot with Germany and perceives too late her mistake. The Bulgarians are now suffering from what you English call "cold feet," and the thought of ever regaining their support must yield cold comfort to the Kaiser.... Serbia has suffered more than any other enemy-ridden country in this war, and her feeling against Bulgaria is, naturally, intense, because Bulgaria has treated her so badly. The enmity shown to us by this most unneighborly of neighbors has been infinitely worse than that of our hereditary enemy, Austria.
'Serbia's aim, however, is not to annihilate Bulgaria, but simply to hold her in check; to keep her within her right and proper boundaries, and by strengthening our frontiers, to prevent her encroaching on Serbian soil, as in the past. Early Byzantine records show that the Bulgars are Turcanian in origin, whereas the Serbs are pure Slavs. But even so, to harbor hatred for long is not Serbians way. We Serbs know too well the bitter injustice meted out to small nations living under an alien yoke. Our peoples have been scattered in so many different countries and under so many foreign rules that now, when there is every hope of our being united under the Jugo-Slav scheme into one Serbian-speaking whole, you may be quite sure that we shall be burningly eager to see that justice is done to others as well as to ourselves. Serbia wants justice for all the nations of the earth. President Wilson's war aims are our war aims to-day.
'International justice and liberty are the sole guiding principles of the "Corfu Pact," drawn up and signed in July, 1917, by myself and Dr. Trumbritch, President of the Jugo-Slav Committee which represents the 7,000,000 Jugo-Slav peoples at present under Austrian rule. By this pact, the peoples of Bosnia, Herzegovina, Croatia, Dalmatia, Istria, Carniola, etc., will be free to unite in one national whole with their brothers in Serbia, if they wish. But do not think that any one of these nations will be pressed into an alliance with us unless they show a real desire for it.
'The realization of this Jugo-Slav ideal will mean the dawn of a new era for our harassed Serbian race. The silver lining in the black cloud of our terrible national sufferings will then be discovered. One highly practical benefit from it will be that it will give us that much-needed seaboard on the Adriatic whence those raw materials, in which Serbia is so rich, can be shipped to all parts of the world. Thus Austria will no longer be able to seize all the plums of Balkan commerce as she has hitherto done. Let me say, too, that those British business men who are in at the start of these commercial developments will stand to reap considerable profit.
'If you ask me to name the great force which has held the Serbian race together spiritually in the midst of the physical disruption of these last dark years, I would say it is faith—that faith which, even though it be as small as a grain of mustard seed, can still remove mountains.
'And now, having talked of the past and future,' Mr. Pasitch concluded, 'let me say something of the immediate present. That good may prevail, evil must be punished. "Kaiserism"—the devil let loose on the world—is a disease that must at all costs be crushed. For that reason the Allies are agreed that until Germany is brought to her senses the war must go on. To prevent "Kaiserism" taking root again, the world at large will need a vast international police system to prevent the malicious from indulging in their malice. The only hope of establishing this police system is, I firmly believe, to establish a League of Nations, as advocated by Lord Grey. But it must be a League of Free Nations, mind! The establishment of such a league will play a salutary part in the governance of the world, and through its medium every nation will have more individual liberty than before to work out her own salvation in the best possible way.'
© J. Fred MacDonald, 2013
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THE HEADLONG FURY
A Novel of World War One
By J. Fred MacDonald