The Russian Revolution in Ukraine

Nestor Makhno

Chapter 4: Examination of the police files

At about this time, the leaders of the Gulyai-Pole Militia, Lieutenant Kudinov and his secretary, the inveterate Kadet A. Rambievski, invited me to help them sift through the files of the Gulyai-Pole police administration.

Since I attached great significance to these files, I asked our group to appoint another comrade to join me. I considered this matter so important that I was prepared to temporarily set aside all other work.

Some of the comrades, Kalinichenko and Krat in particular, scoffed at the idea of my wanting to help the Militia bosses. Only after a lively discussion did Comrade Kalinichenko acknowledge what had to be done and agree to accompany me to examine the files.

There was a document about Petr Sharovsky, a former member of our group, attesting that he had performed great services as a secret agent of the police... .

I took all the documents with me to the group. Unfortunately, most of the people implicated by the files had been killed in the War. The only survivors were Sopliak and P. Sharovsky, along with Constables Osnishchenko and Bugayev. The last two liked to disguise themselves in civilian clothes during their off-duty hours and go snooping around the homes of people suspected of political activities.

We made a note of these survivors but considered it inappropriate to kill them at the present time. Anyway, three of them (Sopliak, Sharovsky, and Bugayev) were not in Gulyai-Pole; they had made themselves scarce shortly after my arrival.

The document about Petr Sharovsky, proving his betrayal of Aleksandr Semenyuta and Marfe Piven to the police, was publicized by me at a general meeting.

But the documents about the other three were kept secret for the time being. We hoped they would show themselves in Gulyai-Pole sooner or later and we would be able to seize them without too much difficulty. The former constable Nazar Onishchenko was now living in Gulyai-Pole but never showed himself at councils or meetings. After the Revolution had disbanded the police, he was called up for military service by the new government, but soon contrived to leave the Front and return home.

Shortly after the documents about Sharovsky were publicized, I ran into Nazar Onishchenko right in the middle of town. This was the policeman and secret agent who had once searched my room. He had also permitted himself to search my mother, and when she protested, he slapped her. Now this scoundrel, who was so corrupt he had once turned in his own brother for the reward, rushed up to me in the street and, snatching off his cap, cried: "Nestor Ivanovich! How do you do!" And he extended his hand.

How awful! What a loathing this Judas aroused in me just with his voice, his facial expression, his mannerisms! I began to tremble with rage and screamed at him: "Get away from me, scoundrel, before I put a bullet in you!"

He recoiled and his face turned white as snow.

Without even thinking, I reached in my pocket and nervously fingered my revolver. Should I kill this dog here, or would it be better to wait?
Reason won out over fury and the thirst for revenge. Overcome by my agitation, I made my way to a nearby store and collapsed into a chair at the entrance.

The owner of the store, a shop where flour was sold, greeted me and tried to ask me something but I didn't understand him. I apologized for sitting in his chair and asked him to leave me alone. Ten minutes later I asked a peasant passing by to help me get to the Executive Committee of the Peasants' Union.

The members of our group and the Executive Committee of the Peasants' Union learned about my encounter with Onishchenko. They insisted on publicizing the document which incriminated him as an agent of the secret police. (That he had been an ordinary policeman was of course well-known to the peasants and workers. He had arrested and beaten up many of them.)

All of the comrades spoke in favour of making public this document, to be followed by Onishchenko's execution.

I objected, entreating the comrades to leave him alone for the time being. I noted there were more important secret agents, Sopliak, for example, who had been a specialist in undercover work, according to the available documents. He had worked for a long time in Gulyai-Pole, as well as in Pologi, among the workers at the depot. He had taken part in the manhunt for Comrade Semenyuta.

Bugayev was also an accomplished undercover agent, an expert at disguise. He would go wherever peasants and workers were gathered with his tray of bagels and seltzer water, passing himself off as a pedlar. He was especially active during the period when the Tsarist government had put up a 2,000 rouble reward on the head of Aleksandr Semenyuta. More than once this Bugayev had disguised himself, together with Police Chief Karachentz and Nazar Onishchenko, and the three of them disappeared for whole weeks. Abandoning their official posts, they drifted about the raion of Gulyai-Pole, or the workers' quarters of Aleksandrovsk and Ekaterinoslav. Chief Karachentz was killed by Comrade Semenyuta at the Gulyai-Pole theatre. Bugyaev, Sopliak, and Sharovsky were still alive and hiding somewhere not far away.

That's why we couldn't touch Onishchenko. We had to fortify ourselves with patience and try to get our hands on the others. According to information from the peasants, they occasionally showed themselves in Gulyai-Pole. Therefore I asked the comrades to leave Onishchenko in peace, in the hopes we could seize all these scoundrels and kill them, because such people are pernicious for any human society. I told the comrades, "These people can't be rehabilitated because they have committed the worst of crimes: they sold themselves for money and they betrayed their friends. A revolution must annihilate them. A free society where there is complete equality has no need of traitors. They must all perish, either by their own hands or by the hands of the revolutionary vanguard."

All my friends and comrades now refrained from their insistence that Onishchenko be immediately exposed as the perpetrator of the worst of crimes.


On to Chapter 5 Re-election of the public committee; whether or not to get involved in it

Back to Chapter 3 Organization of the Peasants' Union

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