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CENTENARY OF THE DEATH OF MILAN RATISLAV ŠTEFÁNIK
Milan Ratislav ŠTEFÁNIK studied astronomy at the Charles Ferdinand University in Prague, where he was a student of T. G. MASARYK and spoke openly against pro-hungarian politics. Wanting to continue his studies in astronomy, he left for Paris. He then worked at the Meudon observatory and took part in several expeditions on Mont Blanc. In his field of research, he focuses on observing the sun and meteorites. For his achievements in the field of meteorology and telegraphy, the French government awarded him the cross of the Legion of Honour.

It is in this approach that ŠTEFÁNIK will leave its mark in Polynesia by observing the passage of the Halley comet from Tahiti after the construction of the Wooden Observatory on the heights of Mont Faiere.

The Observatory was accidentally burned on 9 September 1948. The arrival of ŠTEFÁNIK prompted several Czech and Slovak families to settle in Tahiti from 1926, particularly through its photographic activities. These families created a Czech settlement society, supported by a bank in Prague. Some will try to colonize the Papenoo valley, others, the Toovi plateau in Nuku Hiva. Among them we can mention: Jaroslav Otcenasek, Jean Duchek, Rudolph Panek, François Cap, Rudolph Klima, and Milos Rivnac. Others, less well-known, went on to work in Makatea.

When the First World War broke out, having the French nationality, he enlisted in the French army, which put to use his qualities as a scientist. He then supported the project to create an independent Czechoslovak state led by MASARYK. In 1916, he took part in the creation of the Czechoslovak National Council, a representative body of the future state. It also assists in the training of the Czechoslovak Legions in Italy, Serbia, Romania and Russia. Among his most outstanding diplomatic successes was the Decree of the Constitution of a Czechoslovak Army in France, issued in December 1917 by the French government. As a renowned specialist and for his excellent relations with the political elite of the great powers of the time, ŠTEFÁNIK decided to engage in resistance abroad. In his trio with MASARYK and BENEŠ, he is charged with an important task: negotiating with the major representatives of the Triple Entente, although his opinions differ widely from those of MASARYK on certain points. The shape of the future Czechoslovak State, for example, is one of the sensitive issues, as ŠTEFÁNIK has serious reservations about the organisation of the Republic. However, he will seek and always find compromise.

When the Czechoslovak Government was created, he was appointed Minister of Armed Forces. He took charge of foreign troops, especially the Legions. This led him to take part in the Paris peace conference.

In the spring of 1919, ŠTEFÁNIK finally returned to his homeland, but died tragically on 4 May of the same year in a plane crash near Bratislava. This plane, a caproni Ca.3, took off in the morning from the airport of Campoformido in Italy but during its approach to Bratislava it crashes 4 km from the airfield with 4 people on board. None of them survived the crash, so Bratislava Airport will later be renamed Milan Ratislav ŠTEFÁNIK in memory of this great figure.

The French Polynesia Post “Fare rata” honours this exceptional man appreciated by the Polynesians who nicknamed him "Taata Hi'o Feti'a", "the man who looks at the stars".

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