GENESIS CZECHOSLOVAK LEGION
The Czechoslovak legions arose during WWI in Italy, France and Russia. They were created by Czech and Slovaks who lived abroad or deserted. Abroad, they formed independent units fighting for their independence on the side of "Alliance".
The majority of men who fought in the Czechoslovak Legion in WWI had passed through their training in the Austro-Hungary Army. When they found themselves on the other side of the front (having deserted or being captured), they were imprisoned in camps.
Prison camps were founded immediately at the beginning of the war in Russia and there were thousands of them. An important one was the prison camp in Darnice, near Kiev. An organisation of Slavic prisoners started recruiting for Czechoslovakian units there.
In Italy, prison camps had been established since the summer of 1915 when Italy entered the war on the side of "Alliance". The largest concentration of Czech and Slovak prisoners was in the camp of Santa Maria Capua Vetere, later in the camps of Padula, Sulmona and Avezzano. Right there, in the camp Santa Maria Capua Vetere, a cornerstone of Czechoslovakian legions was laid.
Over 130 thousand Czechs and Slovaks were fighting in legions and allied armies for the independence of the Czechoslovakia. During the "Big War" they had become legendary troops that took part in difficult fights in the area stretching from the French coast and Italian Piava up to Vladivostok.
A difficult situation was with the Czechoslovak legions in Russia. There, against their will, they were involved in the raging and chaotic civil war. Yet at the beginning of 1920 they were fighting in Russia far away from their free country.
Czech and Slovak joining the legions was not affected by the fact that after their defection to the other side of the front they were still considered to be citizens of Austro-Hungary. There was a reward announced for these so-called deserters. Military court and execution were waiting for them immediately after their capture. Moreover, fear of eventual persecution in Austro-Hungary caused that legionnaires did not hear about their relatives till October 1918.
Czechoslovakian legionnaires spent years 1914 -1920 in waterlogged trenches or in carriages for coal or live stock. Through their behaviour and skills they reached distinguished acknowledgement of Allies. The Allies recognised the Czech armed forces even sooner than the independent Czechoslovak Republic arose.