Saturday, 17 March 2012

Celebrating My 80th Birthday

To celebrate my 80th birthday of February 19th, some 37 friends came out to a party on March 3rd at our home in Ottawa. Most guests were from the local Bulgarian community which I have gotten to know since I first met Kristina Kristova in January 1992 shortly after she arrived from Bulgaria to visit her daughter Milena.

Over food and drink there was a program of speeches, gift-giving and music.  Step-daughter Milena Kyurkchiyska prepared the main course dishes for which we are all grateful. What follows below are some of the memorable messages of the day.

My Poem

Good evening my friends — Bulgarians, Russians, English, Irish and Indian.

As I once wrote:

'I am part of you as you are part of me.
We belong to the same human family.'

You are all here today to celebrate a birthday.
Not just any kind of birthday,
but my 80th.

Eighty years ago
on an isolated Saskatchewan farm
I came to be
from my mother's womb —
helped by Babushka Polia as mid-wife.
My brother John was already here
four years earlier.
My Dad was on hand to
give moral support.

I was given the name 'Koozma'
after my Slavic Deda and grand-Deda
who both had the same name.
The roots stem from the Greek word 'cosmos',
meaning the Universe.

Fast forward to Ottawa
where Kristina and I are honoured to welcome you.

My friends —
Thank you for coming to share
your joy, love and gifts of friendship with me —
the ingredients that make life worthwhile.

Most of all —
thank you for remembering me as I am:
a father of two nice children (Lev and Tamara)
and their children Jaspar and Katya, Nic and Elena;
as husband to Kristina — the belle of Bulgaria
(with her two musical children Milena and Orlin);
a friend to all here and many others around the world.

An active part of me is that I am an ardent pacifist —
inspired by the wisdom of many:
Russian writer Lev N. Tolstoy who called war
'a slavery of our times';

Mahatma Gandhi, Indian lawyer who was grounded
in the principles of Truth and Nonviolence;
Martin Luther King, Jr. the nonviolent activist who coined the phrase
'I have a dream...';
As well as by the nonkilling tradition pioneered by
Glenn D. Paige of Hawaii.

Throughout my life I have embraced the
Spirit of Love in us —
which says

'It's wrong to kill another person
for then we kill the sacred spirit within each.'
Stemming from my mother's breast comes
my Spirit-Wrestlers/Doukhobor identity
of love, bridge-building, and compassion.

Again, my friends,
Kristina and I thank you for being here
and patiently listening.

At 80 —
I am grateful to share my voice with you
for friendship and joy!
Blagdarim! Thank you!.

From family and friends


For my father on the occasion of your 80th birthday:

A decade by decade reminiscence of your life so far!

As I was thinking about what I would say tonight, on the occasion of your 80th birthday, I decided I would do something that both of us have spent a lot of our lives doing: approach this challenge from a historical perspective. You have spent much of your life focused on other people — documenting their lives and sharing their stories — so I decided that tonight I will turn the historical lens on you!

Obviously, I wasn’t there for much of this, and unfortunately I don’t have access to great archival records to help me with this task. But I did my best to remember what I had been told and make some educated guesses so that I could share highlights of Dad’s of life, decade by decade, so far.

80 years ago (February 19, 1932): you were born on a farm not far from Saskatoon; you were welcomed by your older brother John, and of course you were a delight to your mother Anastasia and your father John Tarasoff; this was the Great Depression, a terrible time for many in Canada, but I have the feeling that your parents were hard-working farmers who made sure they would always be able to fill the tummies of their growing family.

70 years ago: you were a ten-year old living on your family farm; I am sure you were a big help around the farm and you were probably a very good student at your local school. You were bilingual, speaking Russian at home and English at school. I think you were a good athlete as well, and likely enjoyed playing baseball and other sports at Doukhobor picnics and other gatherings. You probably followed your brother around a lot and tried to be just like him, learning as much as possible.

60 years ago: As a strapping handsome 20-year old you had already had many adventures. Your skill as a baseball player had been recognized and you had been invited to a special baseball camp in the Ozark Mountains of the United States. Legendary ball player Ty Cobb noticed your skill and invited you to try out for the Pittsburgh Pirates. You even watched the Academy Awards from a Hollywood mansion when you were waiting for your tryout to take place. I think you were already interested in writing and taking photographs; Elena thinks that you probably spent time just watching your surroundings, observing and recording what you saw both in writing and on film. Soon you would start producing a journal, The Inquirer, to share knowledge about the wider Doukhobor community.

50 years ago: Now you were living in Vancouver, British Columbia. You now had a university degree under your belt — a Bachelors of Arts and Sciences focused on literature, psychology and drama  — you had married Saskatchewan Doukhobor Nadya Konkin and you were awaiting the arrival of your first child. You were finishing your Masters’ Degree in Anthropology and would soon juggle the demands of fatherhood, studies and then looking for a job.

40 years ago: Well, by now I was on the scene! 40 years ago, in 1972, I was 7 — almost 8 — years old so finally I can tell you a few things that I can remember first-hand! Just two years earlier you had been relocated from Winnipeg to Ottawa to follow your job with the Department of Regional Economic Expansion. In fact you lived right here, at 882 Walkley Road! You chose this house so that my brother Lev and I could walk to an innovative school, Fielding Drive Public School. A good education was always important to you! Even though we lived here in Ottawa, our ties to the West were important, and every summer we would drive or fly to Saskatchewan to visit my babas, my dyeda and other relatives. Later in this year you and Mom would take Lev and me on one of our first amazing travel adventures — to Moscow, Leningrad and Kiev for the Winter Festival of the Arts! Many more great trips would follow in years to come.

30 years ago: You had a 17-year-old daughter and a 19-year-old son. Lucky you! Two teenagers! Both of us were at university so you had some peace and quiet during the school year, but you certainly saw me during summers! As a result of all the travelling we had done as a family, I too had the travel bug and was looking forward to a year abroad. And thanks to all the photography I was exposed to I too had a camera in my hand, saw much of the world through a viewfinder and spent many hours in a darkroom developing film and printing photos. As a result of an earlier reorganization you were no longer employed by the federal government; but you were devoting your energies to research, writing and photography. Nadya, my Mom, had made the decision to live a separate life so you were learning to live a rich and fulfilling life on your own.

20 years ago: Much love was in the air at this time. You would soon meet a beautiful Bulgarian woman named Kristina Kristova. She would bring much joy and excitement into your life! You had attended my wedding to John Pinkerton two years earlier, and you were happy to see that Lev was living with the love of his life, Dorothee Bienzle, on an organic farm near Guelph.

10 years ago: It does not seem that long ago that I attended your 70th birthday with two very young children of my own. In 2002 you were the proud dyeda to 4 grandchildren: Jaspar (who was 6), Nicholas (who was 4), Katya (who was 3) and Elena who had just turned 1. Kristina and you lived a full life and you continued your research, writing and photography while she worked at JDS Uniphase. You enjoyed visits up to our place in the country, north of Wakefield, Quebec, and continued interesting research projects including working on an exhibit for the Canadian Museum of Civilization.

Today: So that brings us to today! 80 years — what a full and rich life you have lived so far. And you show no signs of slowing down! You continue your many activities — and even add some — as you adapt to our ever-changing digital world. You continue to correspond with your many friends and you continue to share your ideas — but now you use email, and web site and a blog rather than the typewriter and Gestetner-printed journal of your past. Your grandchildren are now all teenagers — or nearly there — and you delight in seeing them grow and make their own paths. Today they are students and athletes with many interests and talents. Tomorrow — who knows? They may be clothing designers, engineers, mechanics, lawyers, teachers.... But no matter what path they choose they will always know they are half-Doukhobor: they will know what borshch is (and how it tastes!), where the Doukhobors came from, and how important our pacifist roots are to our family — and to the future of the world. You can take great pride in knowing that this knowledge is in large part thanks to you! What a legacy!

So what does tomorrow hold? Who knows? But if these last 80 years are any indication of things to come, you will continue to have many adventures and happy events ahead.

So — happy birthday Dad! I invite all of you here to please join me in toasting the past — 80 years of a life well-lived — the present — a healthy, vibrant person surrounded by loving friends and family — and the future, with so much to look forward to!

With love,

Grandson Jaspar, Guelph, Ontario

Happy Birthday!

Dear Koozma it's your birthday,
Oh what a special day!
Haven't seen you for awhile,
So I'll use this e-mail to say:

Your age brings plenty of experience,
A great deal of wisdom too.
And it's great when you share that knowledge
To help others become smart like you.

This day is meant to celebrate
Make sure you do something fun!
Because you've got a whole other year
Until you turn 81!

Tatiana and Misha Raytchev family, Ottawa

A happy man is a man of honesty and sharp intelligence.
There is no need to count years; we need to count deeds.

So let's celebrate the deeds of our dear Koozma as a professional, spiritual, and family man!

Love from the Raytchev family.

Glenn D. Paige, Founder and President of the Center for Global Nonkilling, Hawaii, as read by guest Bill Bhaneja, co-chairman of the Ottawa Chapter, Canadian Department of Peace Initiative:

To Koozma, dear Friend and Toiler for Nonkilling Peace —

Not by chance are you celebrating your 80th Birthday at home in community with family and profoundly respectful peace-worker friends. For it exemplifies the Doukhobor Spirit that we are not alone but toil in community to achieve everywhere the Peaceful Life objectives of the Burning of Weapons in 1895.

Your Spirit-Wrestlers's website is a global treasure for Nonviolence Education. Your Blog educates with elegant prose. Your photographs artfully open our eyes. Your patriotic actions toward demilitarizing Canada provide examples for nations of the world. Your generous caring for others appears in everything you do.

May your 80th Birthday celebration be an occasion to remind us all of Tolstoy's advice:

'Radоvatsya! (Be joyful!). Radоvatsya! (Be joyful!)

'The point of life, its purpose is joy. Rejoice at the sun, the stars, the grass, the trees, animals, people. And beware that nothing impairs this joy. If this joy is impaired, it means that you [we] have made a mistake somewhere — look for that mistake and correct it.'
    — Lev Tolstoy and Yasnaya Polyana: A Photographic and Literary Essay by E. Kassin, V. Yankov and G. Rastorguyev (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1984), page 121.

May the Blessings of Good Health and Happiness be with you and Kristina Kristova for many years to come!

Love and Nonkilling Peace,
Glenn and Glenda

Bill and Marie Bhaneja, Ottawa, Ontario

To: Dear Friend and Peace Colleague Koozma

Warmest wishes on your special Birthday! We are grateful for you having inspired us all these years through your fine intellect, wisdom, kindness and commitment to build a world in which Nonkilling peace can be possible.

We salute you for the peace building you have accomplished.

Wishing you many more years of good health and happiness with Kristina and family.

Love, Bill & Marie

Jim Deacove, Family Pastimes, Perth, Ontario

Well, well. 80 years old. You have to tell us your secret of longevity. Not only do you feel good, but you also look good....I once heard someone say that the secret of longevity is deep breathing -- so long as you can keep it up for eighty or ninety years.

Svetlana A. Inikova, Moscow, Russia

From the innermost of our hearts, Oleg and I greet you on your 80th birthday. We wish you many more years to remain young in spirit, active, with a full life. Good health to you and good luck! Koozma, I thank you very much for all that you have done for me. You have become my teacher in the area of photo gatherng, you taught me to pay attention around you and not lose track of my camera.... (Trans. from Russian).

Local Bulgarians: Neli and Boria Poliakov, Malvina and Nedko Panayotov, Lidia and Vassil Gatchev, Kalinka Georgevova and Aram Nalchadjian, Rositsa and Evelyn Anastasov, and Anton and Svetlana Pelchesky (and daughter Rya).

Dear Koozma. With great satisfaction, as your Bulgarian friends, we congratulate you on your birthday and wish you good health for many years to come, so that you will again bring joy to us with your presence of wisdom — along with your wife Kristina and her concerns and help. We respect and love you!  From the Bulgarian community in Ottawa.  (Trans. from Russian).

Ivaylo and Elsa Grouev, Penka Grueva, and Maria Groueva, Ottawa

Our deepest wish to you for many years of good health, luck and success. Enjoy fully your golden age — an age of joy, serenity and wisdom … Always love and live light. May there always be sunshine, may there always be sky… With love and inspiration!

Lidia and Vassil Gatchev and Anka, Ottawa

It's not just on your  birthday that we stop and think of you. But that's the perfect day for us to tell you that we do!

Solveig and Stoyan Penev (Niagara Falls, Ontario) and Robert and Spartak Penev (Ottawa)

We wish you a very happy 80th birthday, and with much love, we wish you only health and happiness for the next 80 years.

Vania and Evgeni Stoychev, Bulgarian Ambassador to Canada, Ottawa

From our heart we wish you and Kristina good health, the celebrations of many more anniversaries, and to always be happy with good nature.  With admiration and love. (Trans. from Bulgarian.)

Jordanka and Avram Ignatov, Ottawa

Happy Birthday! We wish you health, happiness and to take interesting snapshots and gorgeous pictures.

Tsveta Panayotova, Ottawa

Congratulations to you on your Jubilee! I wish you good health, youthfulness and love.

Nadya Tarasoff/Lambert, Baysville, Ontario

Warmest wishes for a joyous celebration of your 80th birthday, a milestone our fathers never achieved.

Canadian House of Commons


  1. When I reminisce on how I got to know about Koozma Tarsoff, I have to start with my first reading of the 'Doukhobor Inquirer' sometime in the mid-fifties. I was a very young teen-ager growing up in a small farming community of Pelly Sk. I thirsted for reading material and pamphlet related stories about peace, Doukhobor Communities in far off places, and just Doukhobor information which I quickly absorbed and wondered where is this place on Avenue K in Saskatoon that was the publishing house of this DI?

    So, I would like to note that the letters of 'BK' and 'AK' (Before Koozma, After Koozma) would best describe my association with you. During BK, I knew nothing about you except the image that was my visual perception from what was written in the DI. Yes, I grew up in a mosaic community where various Europeans were eking a living with very little although the Doukhobors were a minority, there was singing, praying and cultural activities, that included a large youth organization. It was from this Periodical, that my interest in the Doukhobor story was nurtured and grew as I was able to visit in the Kootenays of British Columbia during the late fifties, and found that extended Doukhobor community family.

    It became time to extricate Elmer from his dog, his horse and tractor and and send him on to a higher education and as when Saskatoon was mentioned, I visualized an exciting place out West in a city that I had yet to see for the first time. Then, I thought that is where there were Doukhobors and this guy Tarasoff.

    That was BK.

    After my initial shock of acclimatization in Saskatoon, I decided to try and find this Koozma Tarasoff and started making calls. There was large contingent of Tarasoffs listed in that phone book as there was also a few Koozmas. Somehow, I got the address of the Saskatoon Prayer Hall on Avenue I and a proposed date and time for a youth meeting. I caught the bus and made sure that I was there early enough that Sunday evening and there I stood in the snow and cold waiting.

    Just when I had made up my mind that it was the wrong address and ready to leave, suddenly several cars arrived with enthusiastic youth and they suspiciously eyed what appeared at that time a Transient Street Kid. So it was that I met Koozma and I also met his volunteer editing staff from the DI, Marilyn and Elaine. Not only where they all related to Koozma but Marilyn became my future wife. I was also able to see the Gestetner printing press and the attic where everything used to happen.

    So now AK gets its opportunity and with Koozma and all the Doukhobor Youth that came from the various corners of Saskatchewan, the Saskatoon Doukhobor Youth thrived and developed a program of choral song and plays that was able to be presented in Canora, Kamsack and Pelly late that 1960 even though everyone was busy with their studies.

    The pretty girl that I danced with in Kamsack became your wife, and the coincidences continued over the years.

    Our careers separated after that but our association intertwined many times as I watched your literary creations of 'Pictoral History of the Doukhobors' and 'Spirit Wrestlers' unfold along with other works. Your support of our friends and Marilyn and I never ceased to encourage us to stimulate Seniors Projects, Doukhobor Sports days, Whatshan Lake Retreat, Freedom Quest, Grandview Heights and many other projects. These were all encouraged during your visits where you researched many of your works and our philosophical discussions took us into the night.

    Yes and Kristina was able to demonstrate her Bulgaria cuisine while Marilyn and I enjoyed her worldly discussions at the same time.

    Koozma, you have created a foundation of knowledge in eighty years and now you have a reason to build a future of the best that is yet to come.

    Marilyn and I look forward to that, and we wish you the best!

    Elmer Verigin, P.Eng
    Project Manager
    Kootenay Columbia Seniors Housing Cooperative

  2. Peter and Elsie Rezansoff, Vancouver BC27 March 2012 at 13:04


    We are forwarding belated birthday wishes on your "special Birthday". The acknowledgement and good wishes coming from such an extended list of well wishers make it most evident that you are a special person.

    The question belated to be asked what makes a good person? There are many attributes and no doubt you possess them. Not only possess them but you live and portray them in your daily life. In other words you "walk the walk" and not only talk. Your undisputed stand against Warfare,for Peace and None Killing has been evident through out your life and without doubt will continue onward and not be extinguished.

    I am pleased that our paths have crossed early in our lives. I recall our first meeting was in 1958 during our Youth Choir trip to Saskatoon. What was then termed as a “good will farewell tour ”, the return of the Doukhobors to homeland Russia.” Being hardly out of my teens at 18, I was fascinated by this Koozma who was a university graduate who invited a group of us to his home.

    In those days for Doukhobors, University was less than a common occurrence. During that initial meeting, the group of us as young as we were, debated late into the night on principals of Doukhoborizm, life in general and the return of the Doukhobors to their homeland. Even then your passionate ideals towards pacifism were very much evident.

    As life continued, through out the years our paths have crossed many times, at various events, presentation, visits as well as working together on projects honoring the revered Doukhobor benefactor Lev Nikolayevich. We value those opportunities that allow us to meet and share.
    You have a loving extended family beginning with Kristina, both of your families children and extending to all of the “united Nations of friends and acquaintances”
    Wishing you continued good health, happiness and inner peace in your soul.

    As always,with Brotherly love
    Peter & Elsie Rezansoff
    Vancouver, BC.

  3. Roger and Adelaide Phillips, Regina SK27 March 2012 at 13:15

    Hi Koozma and Kristina,

    What a wonderful birthday celebration! Belatedly, Adelaide and I add our best wishes and express the hope that the rich, full life continues as long as you wish it.

    As long as each day has you looking forward with eagerness; perhaps to writing about an idea or some thoughts or a way to go or a reflection on life or a new wrinkle on making peroghi; receiving word from friends; reading something that really catches your eye; or simply enjoying the companionship of family and friends; there is much to look forward live for, and to relish.

    Happy Birthday!

    Adelaide and Roger Phillips, Regina, Sask

  4. Fred and Ann Chursinoff, Castlegar BC27 March 2012 at 13:19

    Hello Koozma & Kristina,

    Thank you for sharing your special day with us. Fred & I congratulate you on the important milestone you have reached in your life.

    The number 8 in your 80 is a very powerfull number, as you have been and continue to be a powerfull human being.

    Blessings and many Happy returns of the day continue being the special person that you are surrounded by your wonderfull wife family & friends.

    Fred & Ann Chursinoff, Castlegar, British Columbia.

  5. Koozma - a belated and very happy 80th birthday to you on behalf of myself and my family.

    Congratulations on your continued energy and dedication to your life's work and to keeping the Doukhobor spirit alive. It has been a pleasure to get to know you over the years and I look forward to many more interactions to come!

    Best wishes,
    Ryan Androsoff

  6. Annie B. and Ken Barnes, Sundre, Alberta28 March 2012 at 05:38

    Congratulations, Koozma.

    My gratitude to you for all your encouragement throughout the years. I wish you many more years of creativity and spreading your message of peace throughout the world.

    The very best from me and Ken.

  7. Jim and Lillian Popoff, Eli and Dorothy Popoff, Grand Forks, BC28 March 2012 at 05:49

    Hi, Koozma:

    Extending our belated congratulations on the occasion of your 80th birthday! Your connections with our family extend over six of those event-filled eight decades of vigourous and productive living, and we honour that sharing of endeavour in a common cause.

    Though perhaps not always on exactly the same wavelength, we nevertheless continue to value the friendship, and to admire your steadfast dedication to the core values of our common heritage. We wish you and your family many more years of health and happiness in the pursuit of your visions and worthy goals.

    D.E. (Jim) Popoff, wife Lillian, parents Eli and Dorothy Popoff, Grand Forks, BC

  8. Radovat'sya, Koozma, radovat'sya!

    Gunter Schaarschmidt, Sidney, BC

  9. Last night at an open stage, I was introduced as a performer who had a rich, varied and 'storied' career. As a colleague and friend over the years, I would like to simply say, that I am certainly not the only one — as the above testament shows — you have had a rich and varied life and career and I have been fortunate to be with you occasionally on some parts of that road which we travelled together!

    Larry A. Ewashen, Creston, British Columbia

  10. Igor Zbitnoff, Winooski, Vermont, USA28 March 2012 at 06:05

    Koozma —

    Thanks for sharing this. Keep leading the way! You are an inspiration.


  11. Maxim Zbitnoff, San Rafael, California, USA28 March 2012 at 06:08

    Congratulations and felicitations dear Koozma / Cosmos.

    You've brought knowledge, inspiration and friendship … shored up by plenty of hard work.

    Tamara gave a great snapshot glimpse of your life to date.


  12. Alex and Julie Ewashen, Creston, BC28 March 2012 at 06:10

    Happy Belated Birthday, just about twin Brother Koozma, my birthday being on the 21st.

    You are a very rich man Koozma, to have such fond thoughts coming your way on your Special Day from across the nation and beyond. Thoughts earned by deeds through out your lifetime.

    May you be Blessed with many more years of Good Health, Happiness and Productivity.

    Alex & Julie Ewashen

  13. Danny and Kathleen Pictin, Surrey BC28 March 2012 at 09:55

    Belated Happy Birthday Koozma.

    We are honored to have meet you and appreciate your dedication to your research into our Heritage — thanks to Koozma.

    Danny and Kathleen Pictin, Surrey BC

  14. Dear dear Koozma:

    You are one of a kind. I thank you and bless you for all you have done for the world, for others, for myself, and my daughter Tanya.

    With love, Ingrid

    (visual artist, translator and activist for the environment and non-killing peace)

  15. Koozma, belated birthday greetings on your 80th.

    You are an inspiration to our faith with your non-violent and anti-war beliefs to create a better world for all.

    We wish you continued good health and happiness.

    Larry & Helen Negrave
    Calgary, AB

  16. kathleen, Brussels7 April 2012 at 13:37

    Dearest Koozma

    Very late, but no less warm or sincere happy 80th birthday wishes! We are glad to hear you had a great party. I must say you look radiant and happy and so does Kristina! You obviously have a winning recipe for life, with unlimited positivism and love (and some chocolate along the way ;-)). You are surely a great example for all of us.
    big hug
    Kathleen, Ramesh and Lucas

  17. This is a belated birthday greeting on becoming an awesome octogenarian. May you continue to educate, inspire and enlighten us all with your wisdom, enthusiasm and dedication to making the world a more harmonious and peaceful place to live.

    Thank you for your immeasurable contribution to the Doukhobor community at large and for preserving our history and ancestral roots through your books, blogs and letters.

    Thank you also for your support and for the opportunity you presented to me personally, to acknowledge and honour the creative spirit in artists of Doukhobor heritage, and as an invaluable resource and fond of information for my own work on my heritage, without which it would not have come to fruition.