Recreating a homeland: Czechoslovak diplomats in Canada during the Second World War

by Jan Raska PhD, Researcher

In the 1920s, a large influx of immigrants from Czechoslovakia came to Canada in search of industrial work and available land for agriculture. Interwar ethnic associations were predominantly led by individuals of Slovak origin. Czechoslovakia maintained contact with its nationals in Canada through its diplomatic officials. Their consular offices promoted loyalty to Czechoslovakia’s policies in the hopes that Slovaks and Czechs would adopt their home government’s pro-“Czechoslovak” ideology, and eventually defend their homeland in the event of a war. The Czechoslovak Consulate General in Montreal oversaw all diplomatic activity between Prague and its nationals in Canada. With Slovakia’s declaration of independence and Germany’s occupation of the Czech lands in March 1939, the Czechoslovak Consulate General in Montreal used its local diplomatic discretion in an attempt to unite Slovaks and Czechs as a “Czechoslovak” national community. However, although nationalist Slovaks supported Canada’s war effort, they opposed the Czechoslovak Consulate General’s pro-Czechoslovak agenda. Czechoslovak diplomats lobbied the Canadian government for political recognition of the Edvard Beneš-led Czechoslovak government-in-exile in London to legitimize their efforts to re-establish a postwar Czechoslovak Republic. After British recognition, Canada became the last Dominion to recognize the London government-in-exile.

Intrigued? Read Jan Raska’s article, Recreating a homeland: Czechoslovak diplomats in Canada during the Second World War, published in Canadian Slavonic Papers.