About the Association Exulant

Were the "Dark Ages" really dark? If we are only interested in culture then probably not. I argue that the majority of listeners prefer Baroque music to contemporary composers. However, if we think of Psalm 119: "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light to my path" (Ps. 119:105), we realize where the inspiration for the name "Dark Ages" came from.

After the Battle of White Mountain in November 1620, it became possible to lead our country back into the “greater European world” and to end the so called “Czech heresy” that had angered the official hierarchy since the end of the 14th century, since the time of the predecessors of the Bohemian Reformation. It starts an epoch of forced re-catholization, secret Protestants and emigration. Many think back to these times as events that affected their own families, as their ancestors preferred to “move out into the world”, where they hoped to be able to listen to Protestant sermons. Although Joseph II issued the Patent of Tolerance in 1781, the emigrants remained mostly in exile. The reason for issuing the patent was actually the quest to avoid the further departure of Protestants and the associated weakening of the Austrian economical system. According to some estimates, about 500 000 people left the country between 1620 and 1781. Large re-emigration waves, during which the descendants of the emigrants returned to the "Land of the Fathers", only came during the period of the First Republic and especially after the Second World War.

The first meeting of descendants of those who chose exile after the Battle of White Mountain took place in September 1993 in the ECCB parish “Salvator”, Prague, on the subject of “Returning to the Land of the Fathers”. The then President Vaclav Havel received representatives of that meeting at Prague Castle. The following month an excursion with several busses to the Polish town Zelow, an important refuge for emigrants, took place. All this preceded the official formation of the association Exultant in 1995, its task is to maintain and improve the cooperation between the re-emigrants and those places their ancestors fled to and where their descendants still live to this day. In June 2003, on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the founding of Zelow, an international congress was held by the descendants of those emigrants. Ten years ago the clergy couple Jelinkovi, who have been working in Ratiboř and Kateřinice in the Vsetín region since the fall of 2010, worked in Zelow. Therefore they belong to the last re-emigrants.

The association Exultant currently has 400 members. Its first chairman was Prof. Ing. Karel Matějka, Csc., Professor for nuclear physics and physical engineering at the CTU (Czech Technical University in Prague). From 2004 to 2012 Moderator Emeritus Mgr Pavel Smetana was the chairman and the current one is Mgr Jan Bistranin, a lawyer who was a Baptist preacher in Liberec from 1992 to 1999.

Exulant mainly publishes books about the exile after the Battle of White Mountain and its “main author” is PhD. Edita Štěříková. Furthermore, Exulant systematically processes genealogical data and organizes trips within our Republic and abroad. Recent trips were to Constance, Geneva, Lešná, Naarden and to the Ukraine. Conferences are held in various places in the Republic, most recently in the fall of last year in Teplitz. On the 8th June of this year an event called "The Bible in the Life of the Church" took place in the Salvator parish, Prague – just like 20 years ago.

If you read one of the great books on the Czech and Moravian emigrants, you will realize that what they wanted was just to have their own community, an income and a minister who preferably would preach in Czech. The reality of course was different, ranging from contempt by the local population (even if they all sat in the same Protestant boat) to the empty promises of the sovereigns. Many emigrants lived in poverty and didn't have a preacher. Was it worth it to leave ones country, part of one’s family, friends and possessions for this? This is a question that can only be credibly answered when one is in a similar situation. Now we can only add that the experience of the harsh persecution of some Christians has reinforced in others the essential concept of tolerance, which, fortunately, our atheistic society also mimics.

Pavel Čáp