This happened in Ukraine in 1935-36. In the village of Dolinskoye, not far from the city of Mariupol, Kirovogradsky Province, lived an elderly peasant, Gavriil Tikhonovich Pavliuk, who was 92 years of age. When the Bolsheviks found out that this old-timer had previously belonged to an anarchist group, they decided to “dekulakizeˮ him, i.e. they took away his last cow and calf – all the property that he possessed. The dekulakized Pavliuk was forced to leave his native village and move to Rostov-on-Don, where his eldest son Artem was living, in order to escape from government repression. But Artem was unable to “legalizeˮ his father by obtaining a false passport for him by means of a bribe, which would have allowed him to be entered in the house register. So Pavliuk decided to move on to his second son Ilarion, who lived in the North Caucasus city of Prokhladny.
Upon arriving at the home of his younger son, Pavliuk recounted everything that had happened to him in detail, and asked Ilarion to save him. Ilarion advised his father not to leave the house until he could bribe the head of the passport office, a Communist Party member. The old man waited in Ilarion’s home for two months until his son was able to purchase someone else’s personal certificate (spravka) and passport.
Pavliuk was semi-literate, but loved to read newspapers that had articles about the Stalin Constitution. This Constitution was so interesting to him that he never missed a single newspaper, and stood in line every morning to get his copy. Soon the Constitution was published in booklet form. Pavliuk purchased the booklet and began to study all the points of the Constitution. On the basis of one of the items he found there, Pavliuk decided he should return to his native village and demand the restitution of his requisitioned hut, built with his own hands. Then he could live out the rest of his days in his own home. For a long time the old man argued with his son Ilarion, who advised his father not to return to his native village. But Pavliuk persisted and finally convinced his son to let him go home.
Upon arriving in Dolinskoye, Pavliuk wrote a declaration to the selsoviet (village council) requesting that his hut be returned to him. The selsoviet referred the matter to the raikom (district party committee) which answered: “Return the hut.” Once he got the hut back, Pavliuk wanted his cow, too. But he was told that his cow had been consigned to the kolkhoz (collective farm) and, if he joined it, he would have access to milk and flour. Pavliuk agreed, since he really didn’t have a choice. But the Communist Party members had malicious plans for him.
After the old man had belonged to the kolkhoz for a while, the local cell of the Komsomol (Communist youth organization) decided to make short work of him. A search of the home of one of the kolkhoz peasants turned up a rusty bayonet. Communist Party members assembled in the centre of the village and began to report that nothing had been found except the bayonet. Then one of the Komsomol youths, sitting not far from Gavriil, suddenly cried out: “I asked Pavliuk why a peaceful kolkhoz member would need a bayonet? And he said: ‘In order in due course to rip open the stomachs of Komsomol members.’” A report about the case was immediately drawn up, Pavliuk’s hands were bound, and he was sent to the district centre, accompanied by two Komsomol members.
I met this old man in 1937 in the Mariupol prison. He wasn’t downcast, declaring that according to such-and-such a point in the Stalin Constitution, they couldn’t sling mud at him and he would have his day in an open people’s court, where he would prove the utter absurdity of the accusations of the Komsomolists.
I recall how, on August 13 1937, Pavliuk got his day in court. A “Black Crowˮ (prison van) waited for him in the courtyard of the prison. The old man was taken to a special tribunal where he was asked a few questions by his judges. After 15 or 20 minutes, a sentence was pronounced: 10 years at hard labour in a concentration camp.
Pavliuk thanked his citizen-judges for wishing to preserve his health for another 10 years, and then added that while the charge against him was false – an intrigue by the Komsomol cell, there was one thing that was true: “I did belong to an anarchist group. Yes, I’m an anarchist and I shall die an anarchist.ˮ
L. A. O.
From: Delo Truda–Probuzhdenie, № 34 (Nov.-Dec. 1950), pp. 16-17. Translated by: Malcolm Archibald.