Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk is a leading personality in European history. He wrote himself into history, in fact, as a man who fought for the truth, a humanist, a philosopher and primarily a democratic politician and the first president of the Czechoslovak Republic.
Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk became president in 1918 after four years spent abroad, where he actively fought for Czechoslovak independence. Although he was sixty-eight years old in 1918, he immediately involved himself in the building of state policy. Masaryk’s main objective was to create a functioning democratic state. Working in the young republic was not easy and Masaryk expended a lot of his own energy on this, ensuring that within five years of its creation the Czechoslovak Republic had become a prosperous democratic state with a strong currency and a functioning economy. T. G. Masaryk won renown in a number of foreign countries and it was in large part thanks to him that Czechoslovakia was seen as being the “most organised state in Central Europe”.
“If I had to tell you the high point of my life, then not that I became president, as great an honour as it is a great responsibility. My personal satisfaction, if I can call it that, is deeper: that I relinquished nothing as head of state that I believed in and loved as a penniless student, as a reform teacher of young people, as a troublesome critic, as a reformist politician; that even in power I do not find for myself any other moral codes or relationships to family, the nation and the world than those which governed me beforehand.” T. G. Masaryk
Prague Castle became President T. G. Masaryk’s main residence after his return to his homeland in 1918. The poor technical condition of the Castle, which had not been overly-much used as a residence for monarchs or aristocrats for some considerable time, required overall reconstruction and modifications to the apartment for the president and his family. Masaryk’s health was very poor after the First World War, meaning that the only answer to the question of where the president would live proved to be finding a suitable, representative place not far from Prague to become the summer residence of the president of the republic. Chateau Lány, a mere 40 km from Prague, was eventually chosen after consideration of a number of factors, primarily technical condition, how representative it was, the layout and the financial costs of the building.
The state bought Chateau Lány and its chateau park, game reserve and adjacent crop land and forests for 25 million crowns from the original owners, the Fürstenberg family of aristocrats.
T. G. Masaryk visited Lány for the first time on 1st May 1920 and liked the place immediately. He stayed here more often that at Prague Castle, in fact, where he only stayed two or three days a week. T. G. Masaryk mainly devoted his time in Lány to political matters and specialised publication work. He also received domestic politicians and prominent state visits here.
Notable people from the world of culture, science and art were also frequently invited to Lány. Lány was popular with the entire Masaryk family. Masaryk’s wife Charlotte stayed here until her death in 1923. His daughter Alice lived here, taking up the role of first lady of the state after her mother's death, and his son Jan visited the place often, as did Masaryk's daughter Olga and her husband Dr. Revilliod and sons Herbert and Leonard.
We mainly have Masaryk’s secretary Dr. Antonín Schenk to thank for a more detailed description of the “household in Lány”. It is thanks to him, for example, that we know exactly what Masaryk's working day at Lány was like. “His official day began at 9 a.m. By this time President Masaryk had read the newspapers and studied information about happenings in the world, before moving from his apartment to his office. It was there that a secretary brought him reports and news from the Presidential Office. Then came the visits, mainly by politicians, writers and economists, but artists and well-known personalities as well. As soon as the visits were over, President Masaryk would usually devote himself to his literary work. At one o’clock exactly the butler would announce lunch. In addition to Masaryk’s family, lunch was usually attended by a guest. After lunch, there was plenty of time for discussion over Masaryk’s favourite black coffee. The president then rested, usually until around three o’clock, sitting down in his office again at three on the dot. He went horse-riding regularly between five and six. Then from six to eight he spent more time in his office.”
T. G. Masaryk was elected to the head of the Czechoslovak Republic a total of four times. In spite of his advanced years, he was able to overcome frequent illness. Unfortunately, his health declined rapidly from May 1934 onwards and he decided to stand down on 14th December 1935. As his successor in the office of president he recommended Edvard Beneš. After standing down, Masaryk spent all of his time at the chateau in Lány, in the place that had become his second home during his time as president and the place that would become his final resting place. He died on 14th September 1937 and was buried at the cemetery in Lány, where his beloved wife Charlotte had been at rest for fourteen years.
Karel Čapek wrote the following in Lidové noviny newspaper on 14th September 1937: “Today, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, Liberator, spiritual creator and first president of the Czechoslovak Republic, took his final breath. This is a peaceful end to his three-year battle with death, a battle that the human body can never win in the end. We must accept even this death with resignation and humility. An old man died in the fullness of life, a man in the fullness of honour and a ruler in the fullness of love. Such a death is nothing other than completion. Even at this moment of mourning we believe and hope, people of the Czechoslovak Republic, with all of Masaryk's faith in the immortality of the human soul and the divine order of things, that T. G. Masaryk will continue to look down on us."
Organizer — Muzeum T. G. Masaryka v Lánech
Curator — Magdalena Elznicová Mikesková
Coordinators — Petra Pulawski, Barbora Bednářová Šafránková
Translation — Alfa cz