Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Time is ticking out. In a few days, young Gavrilo Princip will take a gun and murder Archduke Franz Ferdinand, thus lighting a spark which in turn will ignite the European political fuel that has built up in the last years. The world will never be the same again.
But in this road to nowhere, some other things are going on. Some of them will have some effect in the ensuing events. Some will have influence even in decades to come. Some will travel all along the 20th Century. But everything will be erased when the roar of guns begin.
January 1st. The first regular commercial airline starts services between St.Petesburg and Tampa in Florida, USA. In some months, airplanes and zeppelins will be the only moving pieces in the clockwork of war. While mud and lice command the trench warfare, a sort of new chivalry is going to take the skies by force; a tale of individual courage, of future technology, of aces and also of villains. Even a tale of (slightly disturbing) fans: the Red Baron’s machine was ransacked whilst he was still dying inside… On a darker note, the new ways of taking the fight to the civilians, far away from battlefields, will transform the impact of war had in the commoners.
January 5th: Ford Motor Company announces new work conditions: eight-hour workday and a minimum daily wage of five dollars. -just to put these figures into proper context, in present day Spain that will be more than a hundred euros over the actual minimum wage. But Mr. Ford, however, had his own dark side. In a tragically near future he will support, both through funding and public recognition, the Nazi regime, chiefly because of its anti-Semitic ideology. In just twenty-five years, new horrors will afflict the world in the second round of what some historians would consider a European civil war, and Mr.Ford money is going to help it happen.
February 2nd: In a lighter tone, a young comedian named Charlie Chaplin makes his film debut. Soon thereafter he will take theaters by storm and, with an ever-increasing popularity, his films will explore the great matters of his time: love, work, war, hate. The Great Dictator will show the world the real face of totalitarianism in a time when appeasement was the word of the day. Making a living was the premonitory name of the motion picture.
March 27th: Albert Hustin, a Belgian doctor, is going to perform the first non-direct blood transfusion, with a diluted solution which will we improved later that year by doctor Agote from Argentina. This new method was developed through the use of anticoagulant and refrigeration. Soon the carnage in Europe’s battlefields will push the limits of this life-saving technique: a British surgeon named G.Keynes will develop a portable machine that could store blood to enable transfusions to be carried out more easily, thus saving thousands of lives in the war to come. Next step will be taken with the establishment of the first blood bank by U.S army Officer Oswald H. Robertson.
Ironically, little Belgium, neutral Belgium, doctor Hustin’s native land, will be bled by the invading German armies and the never-ending fight in Flanders during the oncoming years.
April 21st: 2300 U.S. Navy sailors and Marines occupy Veracruz, in Mexico as a way to enforce an arms embargo decreed to curtail the raging civil war which had been devastating the country for the last two years. Worried about their “backyard”, the Americans will cling to their isolationist policy for another three years. Nobody could tell what would have been the impact of an earlier American intervention. In 1916 Pancho Villa forces will enter American territory and George S. Patton, still a young officer, will gain first fame in the retaliation. War was all around.
May 25th: The United Kingdom House of Commons passes Irish Home Rule. This legislation, designed to ensure Irish Nationalist support to Liberal Government by devolving government for the first time in any part of the United Kingdom, was nonetheless short-lived. Well, in fact, it never took effect. First postponed because of the outbreak of war, subsequent developments of the Irish situation, mainly the Easter Rising which was broadly considered a stab in the back, led to ever further postponement.
June 28th: Good morning Gavrilo. Good morning, you Highness. You both haven’t met yet. In fact, your meeting is going to be brief, but momentous. Hello, there, Gavrilo, nice sandwich you have bought, but, wait a minute… Is not that Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s car? Hey, Gavrilo, what is that you are hiding in your jacket? Hey, wait…Bang, bang! War…
**(Jacinto Anton in an article published for El Pais Semanal, mention how apparently he (Gavrilo) actually came out from getting a sandwich when it all happened!)
June 29th: Bychory, Bohemia, Austria-Hungary. A son is born to Czech violinist Jan Kubelik and Hungarian Countess Anna Julie Marie Széll von Bessenyö. The world is still at peace, if uneasy. But yesterday’s events at Sarajevo will be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Before leaving his childhood, young Rafael will be living in a new country, Czechoslovakia, old Austria-Hungary defeated and broken in a terrible war that she started and brought death to millions throughout the world.
In a couple of decades, still a young musician, he will have to suffer his country invaded and its annexation by Austria-Hungary’s old ally,-and Czechoslovakia bitter enemy-: Germany. Young but brilliant, he became music director of the Brno opera,and then the Czech Philarmonic principal conductor, until he decided it was wiser to get out-of-the-way following some public incidents with Nazi authorities. After another bloody war and with the German defeat, he left his country in 1948, not willing to live under a new tyranny, and began a wandering life, conducting for some of the best orchestras in the world (between them, ironically, the Bavarian Radio Symphony orchestra for more than fifteen years), therefore becoming a reputed advocate for modern composers and one of the best conductors of the century.
In 1967 he became a Swiss citizen and lived to see his native country free of the communist tyranny, but not before its name was changed again in 1969 to Czech Socialist Republic. Finally, after a friendly beak up with Slovakia, the Czech Republic was born. Retired since 1985, in 1990, after the fall of Communism, Rafael Kubelik, son of the Century, returned to Prague to conduct once again the Czech Philarmonic Orchestra during the Prague Spring Festival he himself had founded in 1946.
All throughout his lifetime voyage from decaying Empires to newly formed democracies, through war, hate, terror, tyranny and peace, music, one of those great achievements of Human Spirit was with him. Fortunately, in 1914 almost everyone was running in the road to nowhere, but new borns like Rafael Kubelik where coming to Earth to find new roads, in his case a musical one, to lead us to a better future.