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My Century And My Many Lives, by Frank Munk
Memoirs, 1993
Postscript, 1994

Frank Munk, my grandfather, wrote this autobiography to record his memories from 1901 onwards. This history and its postscript are available on our family website in his memory as they tell a complete story of the 20th century. These memoirs may be referenced as long as proper attribution is made; our family retains ownership and copyright. We have one request: if you reference this material in any way, please send us email at and a copy of the paper, if possible, as we would like to know when this material is of interest and we are curious as to how it is being used. We'd like to hear from you.
© Copyright 1993, 1994, The Munk/Ragen Families


The day was October 28, 1918 -- the day that Czechoslovakia was created out of the rubble of what had been for hundreds of years Austria-Hungary, the day that the Central Powers accepted President Wilson's 14 points. The main point was self-determination. The Czech people rose spontaneously on that day and our lives changed, never again to be the same.

I learned about it when I came home from school about noon. The next thing I saw were a group of Sokols in their Garibaldi-red shirts running through town and shouting "We are free." The Sokol was a patriotic-gymnastic society which had at once taken over the maintenance of public order from the police. On the same day we students organized a Student Guard to reinforce the Sokols. There was not much time to lose: next to our school (and to the 14th century cathedral of Saint Barbara) were the barracks of the Austrian army, formerly a 17th century Jesuit monastery. As was the custom under Austria, soldiers were always kept away from their place of origin. At the time, there was stationed in Kutná Hora a regiment of Magyars from Hungary. The Guard was ordered to circle the barracks. I ought to mention that we all were given some pre-military training during the war--had it gone on my class would have been called up.

We expected the worst, but it did not happen. The Hungarian garrison was coming out properly scared, with their hands behind their heads--one man at a time. There must have been about 2,000 of them. It was a great experience for a 17-year old, as you can imagine.

My streetside service came to an abrupt end when I was called to the Sokol headquarters, soon joined by returning Czech officers, to serve as telephone operator. The reason was that I was able to speak German. I talked frequently to the Austrian Ministry of War in Vienna to arrange the transport of the garrison to their native Hungary and in a few days it happened. The last assignment of the Student Guards was to accompany the regiment on its way to the railway station to the applause of the populace. That was the end of my first and only military duty.

But it was the beginning of a marvelous time in my life. The nineteen twenties in Czechoslovakia, as the republic was named, was very exciting. It was unusually creative, utterly optimistic, constructive to the utmost and--above all--successful. During the twenty years that followed, from 1918 till 1938, it was stable, democratic, tolerant to minorities and reasonably prosperous -- certainly the most successful of the succession states of Austria-Hungary. It ultimately remained the only democracy in that part of the world, until it succumbed to Hitler and his Nazis.

I had one more experience which may have shaped my destiny. Shortly after Independence Day there was held a celebratory meeting in the courtyard of Vlassky Dvur, the 13th century castle of the Kings of Bohemia. It was originally built to accommodate the experts who came from Florence, Italy, to teach the Czechs how to mint money, Kutná Hora being one of the largest sources of silver in all of medieval Europe. That is where the name, meaning Italian Court, comes from. I was chosen by the students to be their speaker, for reasons unknown to me. As I spoke from the balcony to the assembled population, something came over me: I found it easy to arouse their enthusiasm--something I never suspected. If I can occasionally still open my mouth in public today -- that's where it started. 

Unfortunately the happy period in the life of Czechoslovakia gave way to a time of troubles, first in the so-called Second Republic, shorn of the so-called Sudetens, then under the Nazi Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. This was followed, after a brief interval, by 40 years of communist domination, during which Czechoslovakia was invaded by the Soviet Union. Seventy four years have passed since that day in October 1918. Czechoslovakia is now on the verge of dissolution and everything points to its division into two separate state entities. I am one of those who, after a visit to Prague in the summer of 1992, believe the divorce had better come fast, before the quarrelling gets even more aggressive.

Having been present at the birth of Czechoslovakia, I now expect to witness the funeral. Even worse, a country that was born with great expectations and greater promises will disappear from the scene with barely a squeak.


The books listed below provide additional background on this period of history to help illustrate this portion of my grandfather's memoirs.


The Spirit of Thomas G. Masaryk 1850-1937: An Anthology; George J. Kovtun


Tomas Masaryk: President of Czechoslovakia; Gavin Lewis


Talks With T.G. Masaryk; T. G. Masaryk, et al


Defender of Democracy: Masaryk of Czechoslovakia; T. G. Masaryk, Emil Ludwig


The Ideals of Humanity and How to Work; Thomas Masaryk



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