Saturday, 10 December 2011

'Mutual Help Society' Proposed

Hank Hulsbergen
The following letter was submitted by Hank Hulsbergen of The Netherlands. Hank, now 60, recalls his 17-years living in Canada and especially his fond memories of Helen and John Stevenson (Argenta Quakers, British Columbia). As an innovative thinker, he suggests the creation of a Mutual Help Society a structure inspired by Peter Kropotkin as well as the Mennonite Central Committee. In his most recent letter, Hank Hulsbergen writes: 'At the end of most Unitarian services, people hold hands and sing three times "Carry the flame of Peace and Love until we meet again." Of course reading that Doukhobors aspire to Peace and Love as well fits well with that!'

Dear Koozma:

How are you? I lived in Canada for 17 years of which 10 in British Columbia. Good friends from Argenta, Helen and John Stevenson, advised me in the early 1980's to read Plakun Trava: The Doukhobors and I even received a letter from you telling about the publishing of PT. Maybe due to studies at Simon Fraser University, I decided I'll do that later. Now I'm back in the Netherlands and have recently read a lot about the Doukhobors on the Internet. The title of your book has always stayed with me.

In 1979, when the old hotel was still operating in Grand Forks, BC, I enjoyed some borshch for the first time in my life. Later, in 1998, when living in Vancouver, I helped an elderly lady move to Grand Forks and visited her a few times when on holidays from Europe. Even got to see the Doukhobor Museum [in Castlegar, BC] when it hadn't been that long open yet. From the very first time I came to Grand Forks and the Kootenays, I sensed that that area was the nicest of BC. Since I'm sensitive to "atmosphere", I have undoubtedly picked up the peaceful vibes of the people.

Back at the University of Washington in 1974 I had a Jonah Goldstein as prof for a first year course in Human Relations and Counselling Studies (HRCS) which dealt with alternative communities etc.

This HRCS program was very much inspired by the work of Carl R Rogers. His book On Becoming a Person is still wonderful to read. I find the essence of his ideas back with the lifestyle of the Doukhobors. During my University of Washington years I somehow came across Peter Kropotkin's Mutual Help [Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution] when writing an essay. Then I find out he was very much supportive of the Doukhobors.

In the last month and a half all these experiences seem to have come together and I somehow found your email address on the nice Internet site. I would still like to find a way to read Plakun Trava and perhaps other material later. Can I purchase the CD-Rom while paying with credit card? Am not totally clear on the process.

While my religious background has been with the Dutch Reformed Church, while my parents always allowed me to draw my own conclusions and have my own thoughts, in Canada I was active in various Unitarian fellowships.

In a wild moment, I thought it would be neat if Doukhobors, Unitarians, Mennonites, Hutterites and maybe others would work together to have a common "Mutual Help" society, not so different from the Mennonite Central Committee, which encourages and supports young people to do a year of voluntary service for communities and people nationally and internationally.

Having focused my study in Communication on Psychotherapy, Doukhobor communities may be best suited to help "lost" children and teenagers find their bearings again. Much like the Friendship school in Argenta saw students live with local families.

In short, reading about the Doukhobors and their lifestyle etc inspires me a great deal. If and when I come to Canada next summer I hope to spend a bit of time in the Kootenays again too.

I'm currently 60 years young and am kind of open to a change and some new things. My reason for emigration to Canada was to make myself free from the military draft at the time. This too I found to have in common with the Doukhobors. I'm working on the vegetarian bit! :)

     Hope this finds you well and happy.
     Kindest regards
     Hank Hulsbergen

1 comment:

  1. Greetings Koozma!
    Just discovered this post from Hank and the Iskra reprint of his 2012 letter to you. Are you still in touch? I would like to get in touch with him! Fred Samorodin