Friday, 7 October 2016

Tribute to Michael M. Verigin (1929 - 2016)

Michael M. Verigin died September 29, 2016. Obituary in Calgary Herald.

To Michael’s children Venera and Liuba and their children and spouses, my wife Kristina Kristova and I send our sincere condolences in the passing of a dear parent and cultural legend. Michael was a stalwart elder whom people looked up to.

In human societies, the elder is one who has experienced life fully and is respected for the lessons of time. Michael M. Verigin was one of those people who worked hard in a coal mine, who lived a long life, preserved the spirit and traditions of his Doukhobor ancestors, and has shared his wisdom with the wider world.

This cultural activist knew much about the Doukhobors in Alberta. His grandfather was among the first settlers to go there in 1915 to establish a Doukhobor colony in the southern foothills area of Cowley and Lundbreck.* As the oldest of six children, Michael Verigin grew up there as a young pioneer helping with the chores of the household. Since marrying Doris (nee Fedosoff) in 1955, he lived in Cowley for much of his life, and for over 60 years was active in the community.

Michael was generous to me with his knowledge, wisdom and hospitality. When I needed to take pictures of his collection, Michael went into his basement, looked into his trunks and brought out rich treasures: old issues of Iskra and Mir, colourful traditional costumes made by his grandparents, old pens and inkwells used in an early one-room school where he attended, and rugs made by his wife. He had a cornucopia of Doukhoboria.

Michael readily stepped in as President of the United Doukhobors of Alberta, as councilman for the village of Cowley, as Board member of the CCUB Trust Fund, representing Alberta and the Alberta Cutural Council. At the Doukhobor Community Home in Lundbreck, he regularly led the sobranie meetings and joined in the singing of traditional psalms and hymns.

True to his tradition, Michael was a strong peace activist who believed that it is wrong to kill another human being because we then destroy the humanity of each. The historic 1895 burning of guns by his Russian ancestors was an event that he felt our society today can learn from. ‘Disarm our weapons of mass destruction and bring our troops home’, he would often proclaim, ‘and respect the Commandment of “Thou Shalt No Kill”.’

From his ancestors he gained the wisdom that sharing and cooperation are essential to human development. He often visited the local Hutterite colonies where he was welcomed as an honorary member. He was against exploitation and excessive materialism. Greediness for him has no place in a healthy society. The dollar cannot be the real measure of human worth.

When the media and some ignorant writers demonized all Doukhobors as fanatics, he was there to defend Doukhobors and speak up for them. For him, ‘burnings or bombings or disrobing’ were contrary to the Doukhobor movement.

In 1995 Michael and his wife Doris organized a beautiful and harmonious ‘Toil and Peaceful Life’ exhibit on the Doukhobors at the Sir Alexander Galt Museum in Lethbridge. It was produced in honour of the 100th anniversary of the burning of guns in Russia and 80 years of Doukhobor settlement in Alberta.

Yes, Michael Verigin was a man of wisdom, a hospitable man, a man to remember. All of us will miss him. May future generations respect and learn from him and his wife how to treat our neighbours with love and compassion.
 — Koozma and Kristina

See M.M. Verigin biography: Koozma J. Tarasoff,  'Upholding the Culture of Alberta Doukhobors', Spirit Wrestlers: Doukhobor Pioneers' Strategies for Living (2002). pages 268-271. 

* Map by Jonathan Kalmakoff, Doukhobor Genealogy Website.


  1. Candan Badem, Turkey9 October 2016 at 10:27


    From where did Michael Verigin's grandfather come to Canada in 1915?

    1. Michael's grandfather Simeon Ivanovich Verigin came to Canada in 1899 with the large migration of Doukhobors from Transcaucasia, and settled on the Canadian prairies, and later in 1908 moved to Brilliant, British Columbia. In 1915, Peter V. Verigin asked Simeon and a select group of Doukhobors to establish a new settlement in Alberta. The 14 men that came in the summer included carpenters, steam engineers and a blacksmith who immediately began to break the land and cut the abundant hay in the meadows, and new settlements began.

  2. I feel honoured to have gotten to know Michael Verigin when I was part of the Voices for Peace group to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Burning of the Arms as they hosted our group for practices in Lundbreck on a number of occasions in the lead up to 1995. As you rightfully point out Koozma he was the model of what I think we would envision our Doukhobor community Elders to be. Thank you for this tribute to him and may he rest in peace, a life's work well done.

  3. Светлая память и Царство Небесное Михаилу Веригину. Это был замечательный человек

  4. Alex Ewashen, Creston, BC15 October 2016 at 17:26

    Hi Koozma,
    Yes you were quite late in sending your tribute to Mike, we were already gone to Lundbreck Thursday. We had to attend a funeral here in Creston at 11.00 AM Thursday, and we left right after that, so Larry and I didn't get the email, and Bob was in Toronto. But Venera got it and it was given to Larry to read, but the print was so small he couldn't so JJ read it. Mike got a good send-off. David Goa said some great words, he is quite the guy. I don't know how old he is, but he left Edmonton at 4.30 AM to drive straight to Lundbreck. As far as I know he was planning to drive back after the services, but I heard that there was snow in Calgary so he may have had to overnight. Horst Schmidt the former Minister of Culture also drove down against the wishes of his doctor, and he gave a great tribute to Mike. I played a CD of the old Russian Psalmists, long plays that Larry brought from Russia some time ago. It went over very well, Luba and Venera like it very well. Luba brought pyrahee from Grand Forks which went over very well. The Hutterite ladies catered the lunch, and they sang 3 or 4 numbers which were requested by Mike. Larry and Margaret Salekin from Calgary were a great help so we managed to pull off the singing not too badly. There were many tributes, the services lasted for 4 hours, we had lunch at 4.00, and then drove home. We stayed in out RV at the hall.