The date 3.11.1937 didn't turn out to be a milestone of good fortune. The day marked neither a great scientific breakthrough, nor the conquering of a new geographic frontier, nor did it mark the birth of some great genius. Instead, this day should be marked in the collective historical memory of Ukrainians with a broad black band, because on the 3rd of November of 1937, in Solovki at a tract of land known as Sandarmokh, in the killing fields just south of Karelia, 1,111 prisoners of the Solovetskyj Special Camp were shot to death - a tribute to the 20th anniversary of the October Revolution. Among these souls was Mykola Pvalushkov, the founder of CYM, the Ukrainian Youth Association.
Mykola was born in 1907 in Tula, a manufacturing city of Russian samovars, sweet cakes and
He lived here only 14 years, and in 1921 moved to Kyiv, running from the Cheka that investigated Pavlushkov's father.
In the Ukrainian capital the boy settled down to live with his uncle on his mother's side - the renowned Ukrainian intellectual and acedemician Serhij Yefremov. Despite his relative's standing in the community, Pavlushkov had to start at the bottom of the working man's hierarchy, struggling as a laborer. Only later, on the advice of his uncle, did Mykola enroll in the prestigous Shevchenko First Working School, which was headed by the noted pedagogue Volodymyr Durdukivskyi.
His proximity to these two humanitarian luminaries obviously left a mark on Mykola. After completing his studies he enrolled in the Veterinary Institute, but was shortly thereafter expelled. For some time he worked to be readmitted, but the decided to abandon the idea of becoming a veterinarian and enrolled in the History Department of the Institute of National Studies. This line of study soon proved to be more dear to his heart.
From all of this it is clear that Pavlushkov was an energetic individual who was searching for his place in society. The context of his surroundings continually impacted his search, but what played the most profound and deepest role in influencing Mykola would be his interactions with his relatives - Yefremov and Durdukivskyi.
And so, from among the graduating students of the Shevchenko School (which was modeled after the first Ukrainian high school in Kyiv), was born the organization CYM. In its beginning, it did not resemble the association that would later be accused of causing terrors. Instead, first came the Society of Unity and Consent (in Ukrainian, "Tovarystvo Yednosty i Z'hody", or "TYeZ"), a peaceful organization, made up of graduating students of the school, which came into existence on Graduation day in May of 1923 - on the day when Pavlushkov himself graduated from that school.
It was V. Durdukivskyi who first suggested that the sixty young graduates form a literary society which would help maintain continuing contact between the graduating students. They met each month, assisted their former teachers, organized literary evenings, visited museums and created a community of like minded individuals.
Yet after about a year the members of the TYeZ began to divert their attentions away from this agenda. Pavlushkov became the leader of the Society in 1924 and attempted to keep it alive, but was unsuccessful - more and more members gravitated away from it to focus on the afairs of their own maturing adulthood. The confusion borne by the attentions
of the Bolshevik secret police also did little to encourage the existence and growth of a literary society.
It was then that Pavlushkov was driven to form a new organization which would later be named CYM, the Ukrainian Youth Association. We are forced to infer some of the events that would follow, because to this day the KGB archives of that era are not directly accessible to researchers, and those documents that are available were only much later re-typed from originals, so we cannot be certain if the transcripts of interrogations and other materials are either complete or accurate.
In 1925, a "tightening of screws" began. The short-lived Ukrainianization (which had been created by the soviet authorities in order to buy the sympathies of Ukrainians) was about to end, and even the most stalwart optimists no longer believed that a independent Ukraine was anywhere on the govenrment's agenda. It must have been around that time that a discussion took place between Mykola and his uncle, who was known to have a critical view of the communist authorities and openly refused to cooperate with them. The topic of this discussion, which Pavlushkov would later talk about, was the unsatisfactory state of life for Ukrainians. Yefremov expressed seditious (from the point of view of the soviet powers) thoughts, and asked in the presence of his nephew, whom he trusted explicitly, "Is the youth of Ukraine not capable of an organized movement to stand against that which is happening around them?"
Clearly this was not meant to be a rhetorical question. Just 7 years earlier, those who (in Yefremov's opinion) were meant to create such a resistance had laid down their lives nearby at a place called Kruty.
Mykola would never have earned the right to be privy to Yefremov's private thoughts on this subject, if the academic had not been absolutely certain that his young relative was of a like mind.
Add to that that the Shevchenko School which was dear to his heart had been modeled on the first Ukrainian high school of Kyiv, the students of which had been among those bravehearted lads who gave battle to the hordes of Muravyov in January of 1918 at Kruty. The matter was clear to Pavlushkov. As a refugee from Tula who was seen as a son of the nation's enemy, he did not have a wide circle of friends in the Ukrainian capital. But as a Ukrainian, he nonetheless felt obligated to action - and so, he did take action. From among the members of TYeZ, Pavlushkov began to assemble like minded comrades who would come to form CYM, the Ukrainian Youth Association.
You'll likely agree that it sounds rather like a simple thing - to merely "form CYM, the Ukrainian Youth Association". But put yourself in the shoes of 18 year old Mykola. To organize an underground organization, in a country controlled by a totalitarian military regime... Even taking into account an 18 year old's fearless idealism, this was a step that could only be undertaken by a courageous person with truly extraordinary convictions.
But at that aprticular moment in history, the forces at hand were insufficient. Based on the entirety of historical documentation that is available, we can deduce that the organization was not likely to have evolved to the extent that was ascribed to it at the Kharkiv trials. A purchased pistol, leaflets distributed at the Cathedral of St. Sofia calling citizens not to remain indifferent to the killing of Petliura, and the recruitment of new members to the organization - this was the work that the organization's young founders were able to accomplish before their arrest on 18 May, 1929.
While in the Lukianivska prison (which to this day serves as an holding area for accused criminals), Mykola smuggled letters to his uncle. In those letters he wrote about his interrogations, which lasted 12 hours each day. He was not permitted to sleep, and his interrogators used numerous physical and phsychological methods to force from him the testimony that they wanted. In his letters he wrote that they demanded incriminating testimony against Yefremov, and he warned his uncle that there would come a point where he would most likely not be able to withstand the torture any longer.
It is easy to say, of course, that "the boy broke; he was weak". But is it a weak boy who gives the finest years of his youth to a cause, which from the very beginning promised to be a long and dangerous struggle? Is it a weak boy who actively opposes investigators and interogators as long as he can withstand, and in the meantime warns his colleagues who are still free, of impending danger to them? Was it a weak boy, whose cause proved to be longer than his own life, and even today continues throughout the world?
But all of these questions would be asked only later. 19 April 1930 brought a judgment in the Kharkiv trials against CYM and CBY, and the longest sentences were delivered to Mykola Pavlushkov and Serhij Yefremov - sentences of 10 years. Those who were accused of "terrorist acts" did not hide their disdain for the soviet powers, nor for their methods. Witnesses to the trial, held at the Kharkiv Opera House, recollect that Pavlushkov and Yefremov declared that their "confessions" were obtained through methods of torture. Because of these declarations the trial was interrupted for several days, for "clarification with the prisoners", but were subsequently resumed. Pavlushkov didn't live to see freedom again, just as many other enemies of the soviet regime would never know freedom again. On 3 November 1937, Mykola Pavlushkov was executed by shooting, at the Karelian tract called Sandarmokh, in the place known as "the killing fields'.