Rad Komna Lodge 356
Trenton Evening Times: 16 Dec 1919
In 1918, Frank Janecek and five other members of the Bohemian community of Trenton formed Rad Komna 356. Rad Komna is Czech, when translated it means “Order of the Chamber,” likely in reference to the Chambersburg neighborhood of Trenton in which many Bohemians lived. Rad Komna 356 was a fraternal lodge of the Czechoslovaks Society of America (CSA). The CSA was once the largest Czech Freethought fraternal organizations in the United States. During the course of his life, Frank would serve as treasurer of the lodge.
The timing of this event is significant.
Over the course of Frank’s life, Bohemia had experienced a renewed sense of national identity. The political landscape in Bohemia started to change after 1900. One political party known as the “Old Czechs” pushed for political reforms that would grant Bohemia more rights of self rule within the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Conversely, another political party known as the “Young Czechs” pushed for more; a free and independent Kingdom of Bohemia.
When World War I started, Bohemia was a reluctant participant in the Austrian Empire. Bohemians were forced to fight for an Austria who they considered an occupier that governed their country like a police state. As the war continued, Czechs fighting for the Austrians on the Russian front crossed lines nightly to join the fight against Austria. These soldiers later formed the Czech Legion and would execute an amazing military campaigns in recorded history. While this was occurring, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk and Edvard Beneš were operating a Czech government in exile that gained recognition when the war ended – resulting in the first Czechoslovak Republic.
As a community, Bohemians expressed their patriotism and defiance in similar ways:
- Many Bohemians, both in the United States and in Bohemia, publicly renounced their membership in the Roman Catholic Church. The Bohemian community saw the Roman Catholic Church as a religion thrust upon them 300 years earlier by the Austrian Empire. After the Thirty Year War, the Holy Roman Empire (the precursor to the Austrian Empire) replaced the protestant Bohemian nobles with pro-catholic nobles who supported the Holy Roman Emperor. The Roman Catholic Church, with the support of these nobles, started the counter Catholic reformation after the war was over. Nobles would force farmers off their land who did not accept Roman Catholicism, and wrote financial support for the church into each farmer’s land agreement. The Bohemian community saw renouncing their Roman Catholic faith as a patriotic political statement.
- The Roman Catholic Church found themselves at odds with Fraternal orders over their Freethought philosophy. Additionally, the church saw these fraternal orders as taking their role as a community support. Not surprisingly, Bohemians saw that role by the Church as yet another example of the Churches control, only pushing them out of the church quicker.
- The newspapers in the United States included stories about the treatment of the Bohemian people at the hands of the Austrians, and the stories Czechs defecting to the Russian army and later the exploits of the Czech Legion. In response, Bohemian communities across the United States raised money to aide the people of Bohemia and the Czech Legion.
Trenton Evening Times: 17 Sep 1918
Moreover, despite the official position of the United States Federal Governments that service in military of a foreign power is grounds for the revocation of citizenship, they allowed Czech forces (The Czech Legion to reside in the USA and train, and to have them recruit American Czechs to join their forces. The forces of the Czech Legion were stationed in Stamford CT, and would go to Czech communities to raise funds and men for the cause.
In September 1918, The Trenton Evening Times documents one such event in Trenton, where Frank and others spoke in support of the Legion. It was also documented in this article that the Union agreed to buy $150,000 (2.6 million in 2018 dollars) in Fourth Liberty Bonds to support the military.