Moscow, March 2nd 1919
Despite being utterly exhausted Yakov Sverdlov could not sleep. Even as he lay in bed his mind was trying to solve dozens of problems, from the current civil war to who the best person for a particular bureaucratic position was. Around 5 am he finally fell asleep, only to be awakened by a knocking on the door. “Comrade Sverdlov, the car is here for you.” “I'm coming, I'm coming” he answered. Sverdlov stood up, put on his trademark leather jacket, and was in the car within 5 minutes.
As he sat in the car Sverdlov read aloud the speech he was supposed to give in Kharkov next week. “Although we have created the first worker's state in the world our struggle is not yet over. The Tsarists and their foreign supporters will crush us, but with your support we shall liberate the workers of Russia and then the world.” He thought for a minute and muttered “This won't work. The average Ukrainian doesn't care about the fate of Russian workers, must less the workers...” He never got a chance to finish that thought. In the dark the driver had failed to see a patch of black ice on the narrow road. The car ran over the patch and was thrown out of control. Before he even knew what was going on Sverdlov felt a sharp pain across his body and the world went black.
Vladimir Lenin was in his office when the telephone rang. On the other end of the line Lev Kamenev said “Yakov Mikhailovich was in a car crash. They're still working on him but from what I've heard he is going to make it.” Lenin responded “I will be there in a few minutes. By the way, what happened to the driver?” Kamenev answered “The same.” After hanging up Lenin called Felix Dzerzhinsky, the head of the Cheka. “Comrade Sverdlov was in a car accident. He's probably fine but I need you to check the driver, see if it was an accident or if the man was an assassin.”
In the end Sverdlov's wounds, while painful were far from fatal. He suffered 3 broken ribs, a broken leg, a broken wrist, and some cuts and bruises. Lenin sat in the hospital for about an hour before he was allowed to see Sverdlov. Upon seeing his friend the first thing Lenin said was “The doctor told me that you refused the drugs and are insisting on getting out of here immediately.” Through gritted teeth Sverdlov muttered “Ilyich I'm fine. More than anyone you should know that now is not the time for rest.” “Mikhailovich you are no use to the Party or me if you are dead. Don't worry, the Party will survive without you for a little while.” After a few more minutes of argument Sverdlov relented. The trip to Kharkov was canceled and, with the drugs coursing through his veins, Sverdlov slept better than he had in months.