Not far from the cathedral of Saints Cyril and Methodius, in the heart of Prague’s new town, stands a granite column.
Surrounded by bronze figures of soldiers, it stands on Namesti Pod Emauzy as a memorial to the Czech contribution to the Allied effort in the First World War.
In addition to serving alongside the Army of Imperial Russia, Czechoslovaks served in the armies of France and Italy with distinction with many eventually returning home to form the army of the newly independent Czechoslovakia.
Their service in Russia is the most famous, though. Cut off from a route to their homeland because of the Russian Revolution, they fought across Russia following the route of the Trans-Siberian railway in order to return home by sea.
Their effectiveness in battle was such that by September of 1919, the entirety of the railway was clear of anti-Czech forces and all of Siberia’s major cities were under Czech control.
Their legend continued with the capture of part of the Russian royal family’s gold reserve and the capture of the most effective anti-Bolshevik leader of the entire war, Admiral Alexander Kolchak. While they were forced to hand over both the admiral and the gold in order to reach Vladivostok and return to their newly-independent home, their place in history is assured.
A daredevil dash through a country in turmoil, stolen royal gold and captured generals – the stuff of legend.