Mucha chose to start his history of the Slavic people in the 4th to 6th centuries. At this time, the Slavic tribes were agricultural folk who dwelled in the marshes between the Vistula River, the Dnepr River, the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea. With no political structure to support them, their villages were under constant attack by Germanic tribes from the West who would burn their houses and steal their livestock.
The couple hiding in the bushes in the foreground as their village burns on the horizon are the survivors of one of these attacks. The fear and vulnerability expressed in their faces beseeches the help of the viewer. A pagan priest flanked by two youths symbolising war and peace floats in the top right of the composition. These figures foretell the peace and freedom that will come to the Slav people when independence is gained through war.