Saturday, 20 February 2021

Review: Our Backs Warmed by the Sun

Book: Vera Maloff. Our Backs Warmed by the Sun: Memories of a Doukhobor Life (Halfmoon Bay, BC: Caitlin Press, 2020), 263 pp. ISBN 9781773860398.

Peter N. Maloff, 1939; and book cover.

The main hero, Peter Nikolaevich Maloff (1900-1971), was a Canadian Independent Doukhobor, a free thinker, an enthralling emotional speaker, a devout vegetarian, and one who was deeply concerned with humanity’s problems of exploitation, militarism and wars. He shared the Doukhobor historic mission of stopping wars and working to create a good society.

Vera Maloff
The author Vera Maloff of Shoreacres, British Columbia, Canada, is Peter’s granddaughter. After retiring from a career in teaching, Vera began to record family stories passed down from generation to generation. Through Peter’s self-published book, interviews with her mother Elizabeth (daughter of Peter), historic photos, and news clippings, Vera recreates some of the life of her grandfather Peter whom she adores.

Peter Maloff was born in Saskatchewan to parents who witnessed the 1895 Arms Burning event in Tsarist Russia, which marked the Doukhobor community for life as a group that proclaimed to the world that humanity needs to get rid of militarism and wars once and for all.

In 1913, young Peter moved with his parents to establish the communal koloniya svobody (sovereign, or freedom colony) near Peoria, Oregon, USA for three years. (Kolony svobody, The Doukhboor Gazetteer). There he entered high school and developed a keen interest in working towards a war-less world where equality reigns, behaviour would be nonviolent, and caring for neighbours would be the Golden Rule that was taught by Jesus Christ and other religious figures in history.

The commune dissolved in 3 years and the Maloff family went to San Francisco, California, for 9 months where they mingled with Molokane and other sectarians from Russia. Peter learned journalism and Russian grammar by assisting Russian publisher Anton P. Cherbak (Щербаков), and meeting many educated Orthodox Russian immigrants in the city.

About 1918 Maloff returned to Canada and settled among like-minded pacifist relatives in the Thrums area of British Columbia along the Kootenay River north of Castlegar. The community was independent in thinking with a few zealot Freedomite families living nearby that did not easily fit into the orthodoxy of the Community Doukhobors, who were known up to 1938 as the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood.

The book title describes their field work in the hot sun tending to their vegetables and fruit trees. They sold their produce at markets in Nelson and Trail. They also had a horse or two, a cow, a goat and chickens. Most were vegetarians.

In the early 1930s, Peter became very sympathetic to the zealot cause of striving for equality, in being against private property and some objection to public education. However, when the zealots began to burn and bomb homes and public property and used nudity as a way to gain public attention, Peter opposed this terrorism. However, he was arrested for joining a march in sympathy to the cause, and was jailed for three years in Oakalla prison. His own home was threatened with arson and some of his books were burnt.

The biggest impact on Peter’s life as well as on the livelihood of the Doukhobor community was during World War II when Peter spoke out against militarism and wars. He refused to register for the Draft and was arrested, jailed, tortured, and threatened to be sent to a mental asylum and exiled in Canada in the early 1940s to an isolated two-room primitive isolated cottage near Blewett, about 23 km northeast of Thrums. His health was broken and it took several years to regain his strength.

In 1948, Peter published a collection of Russian articles some he wrote, many he collected that he thought would be of interest to Doukhobors. The 600+ page book, often cited in literature about Doukhobors, was never published in English, except for three articles listed below, bottom.

Author Vera wrote about this neglected eyesore in Canadian history through the voice of Peter’s daughter Elizabeth (Vera's mother) who was given the task of periodically visiting her father in exile bringing him essential food for his survival. The book reads well. Vera acknowledges the professional help of editor Anne DeGrace, who generously and skillfully prepared the manuscript for the final publishing form. Teamwork worked!

The book provides a good view of life amongst a close community group of pacifists with perspectives on values for survival, a passion for truth and justice, peace activism, conscientious objections, upbringing in the family, marriage traditions, land ownership, market gardening, visits to Dr. Bernard Jensen’s ranch in Escondido, California, and more. Vera’s mother Elizabeth (or Leeza) is a centenarian who with probing by Vera reveals the many facets of life of a struggling family showing what it means to be an active Doukhobor in the 20th century and beyond.

I was annoyed by the folksy English spelling of several Russian words, two of which were repeated by book reviewer Ron Verzuh. In my opinion these Russian words should have been properly transliterated according to the Library of Congress, or Oxford University Press standards — borshch (soup : not borsh, or borscht), pirogi (pierogi, filled tarts, turnovers, knish : not peerahee), and lekharka (female healer : not lyeekarka). (See more examples in: New Doukhobor Song Book, with CDs, May 28, 2013.)

Overall, this is a good read on the Doukhobors illustrated by excellent historic images, with special attention to Peter N. Maloff, the brave soul who has suffered for the cause of humanity. His truth was welcomed, but long overlooked by the general public. His granddaughter Vera has done a good turn by giving a voice to a nonkilling hero. Bolshoe spasibo, Vera. Many thanks!

If Peter Maloff was alive today, he would no doubt extend his anti-militarism call to include climate change, universal health care and drug programs for all, as well as urging all of us to make war a crime against humanity. Bolshoe spasibo (A big thank you), Peter! You were a visionary.

Fun fact: Maloff Spring, Thrums, B.C. was named after Peter N. Malloff who first filed for a permit to use the water in 1956.

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Saturday, 13 February 2021

Remembering William Kanigan. (1931-2021)


William W. (‘Bill’) Kanigan of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan died January 15, 2021. His compassionate heart touched many lives, including mine. Bill was a generous friend who encouraged and financially helped me with my research during the Doukhobor Centennial in 1995.

In 1989 we published an article about him in Spirit-Wrestlers’ Voices. In 2001 he helped Jon Kalmakoff document the Kylemore Doukhobor Colony for Saskatchewan History. In 2017 we published and replied to an essay he composed with his son Kim about two streams of Doukhobors.

Bill is best known as ‘a responsible entrepreneur from the heart’ who for 27 years co-owned and operated the successful Buy Rite Furniture business in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. He attributed his success to the importance of promoting and practicing co-operation, being gentle, solving problems with thoughtfulness and kindness.


The photo above shows the former Buy-Rite Furniture building (originally the Cockshutt Plow Co. warehouse) at 132 Idylwyld Drive, Midtown Saskatoon. The far end of the building was being demolished. May 17, 1988. Historical Collections, Saskatoon Public Library.

Photo below shows the Kanigan's furniture and appliance store at 220 20th Street West, Saskatoon. August 26, 1965. Local History Collections, Saskatoon Public Library


In 1962, Rnold H. Smith and partners purchased Kanigan Home Furnishings, which Smith operated until 1967. He eventually partnered with Bill Kanigan to establish Buy-Rite Furniture, and was joined by his brother Cecil Kanigan, who died in 2018. Over the years the store grew to a chain of eight province-wide stores. The Buy-Rite Furniture Factory was 2 kilometers north of the showroom at 901 1st Ave N, Saskatoon for railroad access. Smith retired from Buy-Rite in 1985, and died in 2008.

1950s
Bill was brought up in the Community Doukhobor settlement of Kylemore, Saskatchewan by devout parents William George Kanigan and Mary Kanigan (nee Makortoff) who instilled in him the values of compassion, honesty, usefulness, and a belief in nonviolence.

At home, Bill would frequently hear the importance of the Golden Rule, ‘Do unto others as you would do unto you.’ This keystone ethic he applied both at home and at work. He believed that an organization rarely survived for any length of time unless it was ethical and guided by ethical leaders. Although this formula placed a heavy burden on the individual and extracted a heavy price, Bill said that ‘it can be worth the effort’ as reflected in the success of his business.

In his retirement years, Bill, like his parents, was an accomplished singer in traditional Russian. He was a regular member of the Doukhobor Society of Saskatoon and participated in Sunday meetings and the summer outdoor Doukhobor bread baking project at the annual Saskatoon Exhibition. He recently served as an ‘Elder’ in the Society.

Visiting Russian Doukhobor artist Volodia Gubanov (left) shows
his sketch of Bill Kanigan (right), Saskatoon, SK, July 22, 1995.

In early 2001, Bill contributed his family history and 8 vintage photos of his ancestral Kylemore Doukhobor Colony for an article written by Jonathan Kalmakoff, published in the journal Saskatchewan History.

Family was important to Bill, always supportive and encouraging. In the summer of 2001, he and his younger son Ryan went to Moscow, St. Petersburg and other places in Russia, visiting the country of their ancestors. This was one of their highlights in being together.

With Bill's support, his oldest son Kim established a tool and die-making business in Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia. Bill described his son as ‘an entrepreneur with a conscience’ because his son refused to produce several thousand military badges — an action very consistent with the Doukhobor nonkilling legacy. Later, Kim migrated from Canada to the coast of Queensland, Australia, where he used his mechanical skills to refurbish vintage candy machines and founded Stillwater Sweets (Facebook).

In 2016, Bill and Kim communicated by Skype, and often pondered 'what is a Doukhobor based on historical and current facts'? Their dialog evolved into an essay 'The Two Streams of Doukhobor Faith: Apostolic and Inclusivist', published in the Saskatoon Doukhobor journal, The Dove, in 2016.

Bill Kanigan is survived by his wife Doris, children Karen, Kim (Leslie) and Ryan (Nancy Paris), grandson Robin and step-grandchildren Camrin, Megan and Mia. He leaves his sister Natalie Austin, sister-in-law Bernice Kanigan, nieces and nephews. A memorial is planned for a later date. Bill will be missed by a lot of people far and wide.

He was a friend indeed. We enjoyed publishing his essays.


Notes

  1. Three images of Bill, from (left) sketch by visiting Russian Doukhobor artist Volodia Gubanov, July 22, 1995, (center) Koozma J. Tarasoff, published in Spirit Wrestlers: Doukhobor Pioneers' Strategies for Living (2002), page 221; and (right), obituaries online, below.
  2. 'File S-SP-A-25099 - Bill Kanigan' contains 16 Black & White photos of Bill Kanigan created on 12 Feb 1986, The StarPhoenix Collection, City of Saskatoon Archives.
  3. Rnold H. Smith biography in Pederson, Jen. ‘A Seat on Council: The Aldermen, Councillors and Mayors of Saskatoon - 1903-2006’, Edited and Revised by Jeff O’Brien October 15, 2015, The City of Saskatoon Archives, Office of the City Clerk, page 106.
  4. ‘Responsible Entrepreneurship From the Heart’, in Koozma J. Tarasoff. Spirit Wrestlers: Doukhobor Pioneers’ Strategies for Living (2002): pages 219-221. — Much taken from Tarasoff, ‘Responsible Entrepreneurship: an attitude of the mind’, Spirit-Wrestlers’ Voices: Honouring Doukhobors on the Centenary of their Migration to Canada in 1899, 1989, pages 111-115.
  5. Obituaries online for William W. Kanigan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (December 24, 1931 - January 15, 2021) — Mourning Glory Funeral ServicesThe Star PhoenixTribute Archive.
  6. Bill Kanigan of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and his son Kim Kanigan, Queensland, Australia, posted a paper in The Dove, April 2017, pages 5-15, 'The Two Streams of Doukhobor Faith'. In response, K.J. Tarasoff and A.J. Conovaloff replied with: ‘Q80: Two Streams of Doukhobors?’, Spirit Wrestlers blog, 12 July 2017. — Are there two Streams of Doukhobors? Apostolic and Inclusivist?
  7. Kalmakoff, Jonathan J. 'The Kylemore Doukhobor Colony', 20 November 2010, published in Saskatchewan History (Spring/Summer 2001, Issue, Vol. 63, No. 1) , pages 9-18, references on pages 45-47. — See article in online journal (PDF); and at the Doukhobor Genealogy Website in PDF and HTML.

Saturday, 9 January 2021

Defunding the Myths and Cults of Cold War Canada, by Richard Sanders

I met Richard Sanders about 40 years ago at a peace rally in Ottawa, and we remained friends. Like me, he opposed war, attended rallies, and studied anthropology. He founded the Coalition Against Arms Trade (COAT) and maintains the website which I read. He aims to educate us how the roots of war are perpetuated today.

Click to ENLARGE
Richard Sanders illustrated himself.


Richard says: ‘In this 64-page exposé (with 600+ footnotes) I have documented the 70-year history of collaboration of the Canadian government (and the corporate media) with pro-NATO, East European émigré groups that killed millions of innocent people.

I show that the ethno-nationalist cult founders, leaders and heroes include: 

Almost half of my report is now available online

To receive a free sample copy of Press for Conversion in the mail, send your street address in Canada to: overcoat@rogers.com, or in Facebook

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Petrofka Ferry

Saskatchewan boyhood memories by Nick Troubetzkoy
 
Never before published tales of Doukhobor rural life in the 1940s  family farm, banya, baseball field, uncle John's general store and petro station, brick making, folklore, river, water hand pump, electricity, vodka still, cows, fishing, chickens, berries, outhouse, ice skating, ... 

For a kid there was an exciting grab bag of things to see and do along the North Saskatchewan River near Petrofka and on the ferry crossing the river, and on the farm, which was Uncle John's farm.

Orange markers show locations added to map: 'Blaine Lake and Langham, 
SK Doukhobor Settlement, 1899-1932', by Jonathan Kalmakoff.
Green insert map shows location of Petrofka north of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Uncle John had kids, Phil, Donnie and Sonia, and his wife was Mabel. They all lived together in a farmhouse with my grandmother and grandfather on my mom's side (the Gulioffs).

Uncle John, my mom Lucy, Uncle Eli, Uncle Jim and Auntie Fannie, were all brothers and sisters.  There were five of them and they all lived around the great river and near John’s farm at that time. 

The farm was the first place you would hit when you crossed the river on the ferry and reached the shore on the other side.

Just drive a city block along the old dirt road from the ferry landing pad and there you are at a big flat area where Uncle John had put in a baseball field and where people from the entire area would come and play baseball.

Example.
Uncle John sold two types of gas and diesel and K-oil [kerosene] there outside of his local general store just by the ball field, with four grand old mechanical pumps outside. You had to pump fuel into the tall glass cylinders at the top of these pumps by hand and keep them topped up ready for action.

Us kids were given the task of keeping the glass cylinders on top of these tall gas pump housings full, by pushing and pulling the long wooden handles back and forth that were at the bottom of each the pump housing.  Why a hand pump?  Well of course this was because we did not have any electricity anywhere in the region.

When you looked up you would see a small amount of gas squirting and spilling into the tall glass cylinder with every stroke of the pump handle.  

The glass cylinder was really like a giant measuring cup with marks at every gallon, half gallon and quarter gallon.  If you wanted gas you would just pour it into your car’s gas tank with the gas hose and nozzle from the pump.  For example, if you wanted two gallons of gas, you would check to see that the cylinder was full and then you would pour two gallons into your car and you would physically see the gas dropping downward two gallons in the glass cylinder.  Fun to watch, and hypnotic for a kid. 

The gallon level marks in the cylinder were half an inch wide so you could have a good argument about whether you were measuring the gas from the top of the mark or the bottom of the mark. A favourite threat which was shouted at the skinny kid attendants by the burly farmers was 'Hey kid are you sure the gas was at the top of the mark before you started?'  One half an inch of gas in the glass cylinder was a meaningful amount of gas back in those days

The reason there were two gas pumps was not for regular or premium gas, but for regular gas and farm gas.  That’s why the gas in the pumps was of two very distinct colours.  Purple for farm gas and orange for the regular gas. If you were a farmer, you would get your gas tax free which meant at a very considerable savings. But if you weren't a farmer, you would have to pay for gas with the government tax added onto the price.  A big price jump.  Right there you had the purple gas, the orange gas and temptation.

If you put purple farm gas into your car and you weren’t a farmer, you could be heavily fined because if RCMP would stop you, they would take a syringe, plunge it into your gas tank, pull it out and say, 'You sir are a criminal, you have put farm gas in this here car, mister and you are therefore not paying the provincial Saskatchewan Gas Tax which is a serious offence.  Consequently sir, we're going to fine you, or put you in jail, or lock up your car, or take it away from you.  Mister, you are in a big bit of trouble. '

If our family didn't have a car because sometimes we were too poor to have a car, we'd catch a ride with people who were going in the direction of Blaine Lake and the farm.  Then we would be dropped off and stay in Uncle John's housing complex, which was really just a bunch of dirt buildings. The walls of the house and the other buildings were all made from mud.  Made up of a mix of dirt, clay, straw, cow dung, horse dung, and water which was shovelled into wooden forms which were left in the sun to dry and become building bricks.  The bricks were made by mixing this dirt formula in a grave shaped ditch dug in the ground into which you dumped all the forgoing ingredients and added water and women with bare feet to mush everything into a muddy dirt mixture just like kneading bread dough and then dumping the dirt dough into the forms to dry in the sun thereby creating mud bricks for constructing walls.

These architectural wonder houses were very, very primitive, very tiny and with only one wood burning stove in the middle of the house. Separate interior spaces were defined by woven willow tree branch privacy walls and the roofs were of woven straw placed over small willow tree trunks.

Behind the main house was a separate building which in Russian was called the banya.  The word banya translates as bath house which is the place where everyone would go to have their Saturday bath. The banya consisted of two rooms, one room which was a dressing room area where everyone would take of all of their clothes and hang them on hooks all around the room, and it also was the location of the front of a wooden stove made from oil drums with a door for loading wood into the stove and with its chimney in the dressing room to carry the smoke away.

Banya example

The oil drum stove protruded a long way into the banya and was completely clad all over in river stones which would get almost white hot from the wood burning in the stove under the stones.  On top of the stone clad stove sat a huge tub of water with a wooden ladle floating in the tub.

They call it a banya and I don’t know how to differentiate it from a sauna [Finnish], but it was hot dry, dry heat. That is, it was dry, dry, heat until somebody would surreptitiously approach the hot rock stove, take the ladle from the water tub, fill the ladle full of water and throw the water onto the red hot rocks.  This would result in an explosive blast of steam that was so hot it became invisible immediately.  If the ladle holder was one of the old troublesome grandfathers, then they would dip and blast and dip and blast repetitively until every one in the banya was shouting stop you durak, which in Russian translates to 'you idiot'.

The more steam created, the more foggy it ultimately became in the banya until you could not see anyone at all.  The banya benches were stacked in different levels rising from the front to the back where the back benches were just a few feet below the ceiling. This is where the highest heat was and where the old timers hung out in the hottest of hot heat. The lowest benches were about two feet above the floor and every layer going back from there would be about 18 inches higher.  The benches were about two feet wide and ran from side wall to side wall of the banya so that several people could lie flat out on each of them. 

On the wooden floor was the coolest level and that’s where the kids wrestled and played with everyone shouting at them all the time, watch the stove, watch the stove which was in the front of the banya in the central place of honour.

This was an every Saturday communal event with sometimes even relatives and neighbours coming over.  There were thin young willow branches with the leaves still on them lying everywhere that people would flog themselves with because it would stimulate your skin and also could make young women more fertile according to Slavic legend.

Willow, don't forget, is the source of acetyl-salicylic acid [aspirin] and grew in abundance all along the river.  It is a great stimulator and rejuvenator of the skin.  I think that it is in very expensive women's beauty products  which also come from the natural source called aspirin.

Of course, if there was snow outside, then if you had the nerve, you would rush outside and lie in the snow completely naked and make snow angels, screeching at the top of your lungs, burning with both cold and heat and then rushing back in to the banya and then whipping yourself with willow branches again and again.  With that, everybody was positively glowing and laughing hysterically.  Unless some undisciplined giggling brat locked the entry door and you could not get your naked body back into the banya.

Was there any drinking taking place?  Well the kids didn't know about it or if it was happening.  But those uncles, don’t forget those uncles had stills all over the place. Well why not? They were growing wheat and of course they'd without a doubt have stills and make their own vodka. 

Everybody would have a little bottle hidden away somewhere and of course Uncle Jim the vodka maestro had several stills on his farm hidden away in the bushes and behind rock piles.  Making vodka out of wheat is so easy to do and a still is not complicated. 

Little nips of vodka were available for everyone, little nibbles of vodka here and there through out Saturday night, which would go on and on.  In the meanwhile back at the ferry there was often a minor crime scene going on of course and people running away from the police every which way.

With all this booze floating around, you would have these ferry situations where the cops seemed to be always chasing after somebody but not always catching them.  The bad guys might cross on the ferry ahead of the cops and the cops would be left behind stuck on the wrong side of the river blowing their horn at the ferry and the infamous people who were driving off with nobody going to stop them until they were long gone on the other shoreline. 

The other thing about the North Saskatchewan River, is that it was lined with berries, 'Saskatoon berries'.  There were endless trees and trees and trees and you would be sent out with baskets to pick Saskatoon berries, buckets and buckets of Saskatoon berries.  They were really way better than any other blueberry.  Enough berries to eat and to make pies and jams and jellies.

The cows would have been let loose in the morning and would go wandering all along the river, and at the end of the day towards dusk, the kids would have to go out looking for the cows and round them up using willow switches to whip them on their butts so they’d shuffle back to the barn and get milked. 

Uncle John's store was always full of people, really full and he would have big pickle barrels, a 45-gallon wooden barrel with pickles in them that you’d stick a big pickle fork into and pull out pickles and there were barrels and barrels of peanuts and many more other treats to dig into.  That general store was such a very nice place to hang out in, full of people all the time all gossiping and having a great friendly social  experience.

There was a stream running through the property behind the store and behind the house, running completely right through the length of the farm.  I don't know what the source of the creek was, because this was prairie land, so it must have been a spring with the source higher up in the hills.  But it ran right through the farm, past the house, and right past the store. 

Because the creek was running into the North Saskatchewan River, being practical farm people, the family did block up the stream at a certain point near the house and created a big pond. That's where they would keep live sturgeon that they would catch from the North Saskatchewan.  They would catch live sturgeon and keep them fresh and alive for a long time in that pond and would sell the fish and caviar to passing people for ten cents a pound.

Don't forget that the sturgeon fish and its caviar were just the most common thing living in the pond  and if you liked caviar you could  just eat it by the handful if you wanted to.  But this caviar in our pond was not like the caviar you buy in a glass jar in a big city gourmet store which has salt added to it, because that glass jar, rich people caviar, is really very salty.  Fresh caviar from our river sturgeon didn’t have that salty chemical taste, it had a clean, fresh from the fish, fresh from the river flavour.

Whenever the sturgeon was killed, the kids would gather around for the exploding of the fish swim bladders that were smashed with a hammer and would explode sounding like a gunshot. 

Uncle John had built out a twin bay outhouse on top of the stream, but down stream a bit from the pond and away from other idyllic surroundings so all of those special areas would remain fresh, pure and park like and clean.  So this outlying loo [lavatory] was further away, but was where everybody went to the bathroom.

It was down hill a bit and away, down past the sturgeons and so everybody would use that outhouse to go and have a poo and if you were a kid, you would do whatever it is downstream from the outhouse and have what I called the outhouse poo races.  It was literally an outhouse built over the stream and as a kid, why would you not be interested in the outfall and having races between the turds?  This would cause the adults to go nuts if they saw the kids downstream poking at mysterious objects in the creek water and shrieking.

Of course, there were lots of chickens everywhere, and so if you have chickens you eat their eggs for as long as they produce them, but then when eggs come no more, you have to kill them and eat them.  Of course if you want to eat them, you have to catch them. This was kids work.  Imagine four kids running around like chickens with their heads cut off trying to catch four chickens for that weekend’s large family gathering.

After the kids caught the chickens their favourite harassment was to gather around and try to convince the axe man to chop the head off a chicken and then let the chicken go so the chicken could run around like a chicken with his head cut for up to ninety seconds just going full blast with the head lying there on the chopping block and the running body spouting blood and the chicken just running and running, all over the yard, but running silently since the cock-a-doodle-doo part of the chicken was lying back there on the chopping block.  Now imagine four chickens that we kids caught all running around at the same time with four mute heads on the chopping block.

K-oil lamp
It was at this point when the chicken fell over sideways, that we would take off like rocket ships so that we did not get stopped and recruited as child chicken feather pluckers which was quite a difficult job and probably illegal. 

What a place, it was full of stuff to do, and in the winter, there were hills that we used to go sleigh riding on. And of course they would flood the flat baseball field and you could go skating there as it had turned into a big skating rink for everybody who wanted to be in and around there to meet up.

Oh yes by they way, no electricity anywhere and therefore no magical electric light bulbs.  It was all kerosene lamps all the way everywhere you go.  Not your benign flickering flame K-oil lamps, but the mean hissing lamps that you pump up to pressurize the K-oil tank to then create the fine spray that shoots onto and ignites the fragile carbon filament sack. A filament so fine that if you breath too hard on the filament it turns into ash before your very eyes. 

Replacing that filament in the dark if you can even find where they are hidden is one of life’s most difficult tasks.  Certainly subject to failure and the humiliation of your mother’s complimentary words 'chavo eta dyela, chorta dva durak' which as you know full-well means 'what is going on here, are two devils attacking you, you idiot?'  'Why is that filament not replaced yet.  We are the living blind in here.'

About the author  see


Friday, 11 September 2020

New Book: The Kissing Fence
         — about Freedomites

The Kissing Fence, by Brian A. Thomas-Peter, May 2020. Caitlin Press. ISBN: 9781773860237 (softcover). 288 pages.

This book is one of the first to specifically examine how the Canadian government abused the children of Sons of Freedom (Freedomites) in the 1950s, leaving them scarred with extensive mental health problems for generations. It fills a gap in Canadian history that only a specialist can explain.

The author is a Canadian clinical and forensic psychologist, educated in England. He retired from the post of Provincial Executive Director of Forensic Psychiatry for BC, and consults and writes from his home on Vancouver Island. His publications focus on mental health and elder care. He chose the New Denver survivors as subjects for this book to deliver a broad message about how to improve mental health services in Canada for the afflicted Sons of Freedom and thousands of others like them who have been ‘scarred for life’ by bad public policy. Dr. Thomas-Peter covers identity crisis, schizophrenia, changed names, and suicide.

This fictional novel is about two children, a boy and girl, whose parents rejected government schools. The parents were ‘Sons of Freedom’ who wanted schools that teach their heritage values of peace, social equality, community, and harmony with nature. Their wishes were rejected by the provincial government of British Columbia that strongly enforced an assimilation program for children of dissident immigrants and First Nations. Through these fictional kids, the psychologist explains how bureaucratic government officials have inflicted widespread, long-lasting damage.

This is essentially a work of fiction. Dr. Thomas-Peter has a right to say whatever he likes in fiction, except when he wrongly converts his text into a fact that we are henceforth speaking of Doukhobors not Sons of Freedom. He mixes apples with oranges without knowing it and becomes responsible for doing harm to Doukhobors. There is a no-win situation here if we look at this strictly as a creative piece of writing without commenting on the wider relationships.

Beginning in 1954 the police were ordered to raid Freedomite houses in the Slocan Valley at night, seizing screaming, crying kids, and delivering them to a court ordered boarding school in New Denver, a former internment camp for the supposedly enemy-alien Japanese. Their forced education program ended in 1959.

The author's storytelling is well done with careful attention to details and sensitivity to the characters. The pace of the story created suspense by alternating chapter topics from one end of the interior of BC to the Pacific coast. With great sensitivity the author described police raids on villages to enforce the School Act, life in exile in the dormitories that once held Canadian Japanese arrested during WWII, a car bombed in Castlegar killing one of the New Denver survivors, the son’s involvement in an illegal gold smuggling ring in Vancouver, the appearance of an owl as an omen of life, and fates of family members scattered across British Columbia.

Though Dr. Thomas-Peter tried his best to research the subject matter, immigration history, and personally interviewed several Freedomite New Denver survivors, he failed to understand they were no longer authentic non-violent Doukhobors. 

Since 1902, some zealots used nudity, fire and explosions among immigrating Doukhobors to protest the government negating the original immigration agreement, and controlling their lives with new requirements. Freedomites were not members of the incorporated Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood (CCUB), the 'Orthodox' or 'Community' Doukhobors. Freedomites formed separate, adjacent fragmented tribes that harassed the CCUB, the wider public including the Doukhobors and government.

Though the author appears to acknowledge the difference between Doukhobors and Freedomites, he confuses the average reader by using the label 'Doukhobor' 4.5 times more than their actual label ‘Sons of Freedom’. He mixes the ‘apples’ with ‘oranges’ so much that the general reader would not know which group is which. Moreover, he is dealing with essentially less than 5% of the population of the study group as compared to 95% of the Doukhobors. 

Image from 'Six Blind Men and the Elephant: The Challenge of Concussion',
Pink Concussions, December 7, 2015.

But there was one major flaw that many authors before have made over the past century. It is about the parable of the Blind Men and an Elephant which originated in the ancient Indian subcontinent, from where it has been widely diffused. It is a story of a group of blind men who have never come across an elephant before and who learn and conceptualize what the elephant is like by touching it.

Wikipedia describes the moral of the parable: That humans have a tendency to claim absolute truth based on their limited, subjective experience as they ignore other people's limited, subjective experiences which may be equally true.

The big elephant here is the Doukhobor Movement. Most of the parents of these children were not Doukhobors because they transgressed the basic tenets of nonkilling by burning public structures and their homes, as well as bombing private property. Nudity was added to the mix. When arrests were made, many made an excuse that they were the rightful owners of the Doukhobors, but in fact they were hijacking the Doukhobor movement as their own.

This hijacking maneuver is one that I as a scholar have been striving to uncover for over 65 years. The mass media is addicted to it, while many readers have been conditioned to believe this falsehood. This is propaganda in action.

I am delighted to review Thomas-Peter's fiction novel, but the famous peace activist song keeps popping up in my head, 'When will they ever learn?'

Yes, this is supposed to be a novel — yet why did the author in the front piece of the book as well as in his Note (p.279) dedicate the book to 'the Doukhobor people of Canada'?  Obviously the author has not looked at the full context, but remained captive of the Blind Men and the Elephant.

The learned professional slipped from his novel pedestal to that of history, contributing to harmful fake news. I am sorry that Dr. Thomas-Peter did not read any of my major works on the Doukhobors before he wrote his book, where he would have gained an understanding of the historic context. The fictional individuals that he was writing about were no longer authentic non-violent Doukhobors.

I strongly empathized with the plight of the zealot children at New Denver, but wish to look for the truth in the wider ecological context where relationships do matter.

When will they ever learn to look at the wider truth of the Doukhobor Movement? As a start, have a look at the following sources:

Monday, 10 August 2020

When strangers meet….

In Moscow, Soviet Union, in 1988, a Tatar Muslim screenwriter Vakhit Sharipov happened to meet a Russian film journalist Alexei Melnikov. Vakhit described a bridge-building project he wanted to do about the Cold War with any western anthropologist to try to dispel some of the misconceptions of the other. Alexei happened to know me, and introduced us.

Koozma and Vakhit in Kazan TASSR, 1988

I was delighted to do it. We both believed that the Cold War was a foolish and dangerous threat for nuclear war. It was essential to get to know the stranger as a necessity for the human survival of our civilization. We agreed to pay our own expenses.

First, Vakhit invited me to the Soviet Union for one month, then I arranged for him to come to Canada for a month. We hosted each other in our homes. Vakhit lived in Kazan city, the capital of the province of Tatar ASSR, renamed the Republic of Tatarstan. I lived in Ottawa, capital of Canada.

As an anthropologist, in the early 1960s, I studied the Cree and Saulteaux peoples of Saskatchewan and soon discovered that our attitude is an important ingredient for effective communication and human understanding. Becoming friends requires overcoming negative images of the other  and dispelling fear and misunderstanding of the unknown. Rubbing shoulders with our neighbour and stepping into the shoes of the other are useful metaphors in working across cultural boundaries.

Click here to see a large map of all places mentioned.

When strangers become friends, as with Vakhit and I, we were deeply affected. Our lives were changed forever. I experienced this first-hand as we traveled in Russia to Moscow, Kazan, Naberezhnye Chelny, Yelabuga, Nizhnekamsk; and later in Canada to Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton, Montreal, and Saskatoon.

In each country, doors were flung open as photographers, yachtsmen, hikers, teacher, artists, students, professors, public school administrators, religious leaders, union organizers, peace workers, writers, and even millionaires have come forth to meet the international stranger.

In Kazan, I met Misha and Evgeny, who took us on the Volga river in their small yacht, named 'Tempest 04'. We were together for two-days, traveling by boat (50 km, 30 mi.) east on the Volga, camping on a river island overnight, then to their dacha (cabin) with banya (sauna) at the riverside village of Kurochkino. Living together gave us plenty of time for intimate serious discussions on perestroika, glasnost, Stalin, religion, the nationalities question, and more.

I felt like Saint Exupery’s fairy tale figure of Little Prince who travelled the planets and came to Earth, where he learned finally, from nature, the secret of what is truly important to life.

As a traveller, I learned about the beauty of nature that transcends political boundaries and ideologies. Its colours, shapes, and sounds decorate our gaze and rejuvenate our bodies and minds. That beauty is precious, yet vulnerable to destruction if we pollute our waters, air and soil, and if fail to work cooperatively and sensitively as one family on our common planet.

From Vakhit, I learned that cleanliness is a cultural trait of the Tatar people. When you enter their home, you take off your shoes and are offered a pair of slippers. I have used this practice in my Canadian home.

More profoundly, from Murat, Bulat and Alexei, I learned that war is a human tragedy that few of us in the West can relate to. We need to acknowledge the fact that the Soviet peoples lost over 27 million in defending themselves during WWII.

I learned that gift-giving is an old tribal custom that has persisted through the centuries and has transformed strangers into friends. On my departure home, Vakhit and his wife Galiya presented me with a beautiful handcrafted woolen rug.

From strangers and newfound friends I learned that diverting money from the arms race can provide us with all the infrastructure we need, the architecture, clean water, universal education and free health care to make life livable and make peace possible in the world. Our human family aches for that shift in evolutionary thinking.

Opening doors with strangers is a good first step in this thinking by peacefully bridging two or more realities on Planet Earth.

Photo album, 19 images: Canada — Tatariya 1988 Friendship Project. To see photo captions on a hand-held tablet or smart-phone, swipe image up; on a laptop or desktop computer, toggle the upper-right "info" button shown here in the yellow box: 

This article updated from: Koozma J. Tarasoff. 'When strangers meet….', 150 Canadian Stories of Peace (2017). Compiled by Gordon Breedyk, Mony Dojeiji, Koozma J. Tarasoff, and Evelyn Voigt.
My Kazan trip was mentioned in: Black, J.L. Canada in the Soviet Mirror: Ideology and Perception in Soviet Foreign Affairs, 1917-1991. McGill-Queen's Press - MQUP, Apr 15, 1998, page 326. — I met Professor J. L. Black when he was teaching at Carleton University, Ottawa. Some of his students came to my Living Room Discussion in 1984-1985. I met Soviet historian and Ambassador A. Yakovlev who borrowed many of my books on the Doukhobors and published a long essay on the group.

Tragedy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Tōrō nagashifloating paper lanterns — began August 6, 1947. It was copied from the traditional August Buddhist Obon festival as a consolation to the souls of the millions of Japanese citizens who perished during World War II. 

Photo by Brent Patterson.

Due to my caution about CoVid-19 at my age, I chose to not attend this year’s annual 1945 A-bombing of Japan Memorial, hosted in Ottawa by the Society of Friends. I only missed 2 since 2009. About 60 people attended.

Photo by Brent Patterson.

This year the event was held at a pond along the Rideau Canal Western Pathway, a few meters east of Queen Elizabeth Parkway, at Third Ave, a few meters north of the new Flora Footbridge that crosses the Rideau Canal. (Google map

The proposed footbridge with labels added and red arrow pointing to location of
the Tōrō nagashi ceremony (Image from: Support Flora Footbridge, Facebook) 

It has been 75 years since the atomic bomb was dropped by the USA on Hiroshima, followed three days later with another one on Nagasaki, resulting in over 200,000 instant deaths and many more injured and dying.

In Special coverage: Hiroshima & Nagasaki at 75, The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, warns us that we are all living in a ‘particularly dangerous period of our nuclear age’. Civilization is at stake. Time left in January 2020 : 100 seconds to midnight.

Though there are many fine books and articles for this 75th year milestone, I don’t find convincing evidence for preventing nuclear war. Concerned citizens and world leaders need to stand up and prevent a world holocaust that would take us back to the Stone Age. These are just 6 items online that reflect my thinking:

Robert Freeman. 75 Years On: Reflections and Preflections on Hiroshima. Common Dreams, August 7, 2020. — ‘We cannot change what happened, neither the heinous military nor the tragic moral stains that indelibly mark its occurrence. But we can transcend it, rise above it, by naming it, acknowledging it, repudiating it, and committing ourselves to a greater expression of the people and society we imagine and hope ourselves to be. It is the only option for a sane, safe, and civilized future.’

PBS. 75 years after Hiroshima, should the U.S. president have the authority to launch a nuclear attack?, August 5, 2020. — No U.S. President should have absolute authority to initiate a nuclear attack. Too many were mentally impaired while in office. William Parry, former Secretary of State, concluded: ‘Ronald Reagan and Gorbachev said it best, which is, a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.’

Helen Caldicott. The Lessons We Haven’t Learned. The Progressive, August 3, 2020. — ‘... make friends with ... all nations and reinvest the trillions of dollars spent on war, killing, and death, saving the ... world with renewable energy including solar, wind, and geothermal, and planting trillions of trees. ... free medical care for all U.S. citizens, along with free education, housing for the homeless, and care for those with mental illness.’

Gary G. Kohls, MD. Why Americans Believe That Bombing Hiroshima Was Necessary. LewRockwell, August 1, 2015. — The American government was ‘... fully aware of Japan’s search for ways to honorably surrender months before Truman gave the fateful order to incinerate Hiroshima. Japan was working on peace negotiations through its ambassador in Moscow as early as April of 1945, with surrender feelers from Japan occurring as far back as 1944. ... all of Japan’s military and diplomatic messages were being intercepted. On July 13, 1945, Foreign Minister Togo wrote: “Unconditional surrender ... is the only obstacle to peace.” …(BUT) … ‘profiteers … Wall Street, the Pentagon, the weapons industries and their lapdogs in Congress … (did) … what is profitable or advantageous for our over-privileged, over-consumptive, toxic and unsustainable American way of life, …’

Amy Goodman and David Goodman. Atomic Bombing at 75: Hiroshima Cover-up -- How Timesman Won a Pulitzer While on War Dept. Payroll. Consortium News, August 4, 2020. Enhanced from: Hiroshima Cover-up: How the War Department's Timesman Won a Pulitzer, Common Dreams, August 10, 2004 — By boldly disobeying US military orders and censors, Australian journalist Wilfred Burchett was the first western reporter to get to Hiroshima, 30 days after the bomb, and have an uncensored eye-witness report published about an ‘atomic plague’. Burchett was extensively bullied by US agents. To negate the story, the US War Department used their hired propagandist, William L. Laurence, the Pulitzer Prize-winning science reporter for The New York Times, to deny massive deaths from radiation. ‘“Atomic Bill” Laurence revered atomic weapons.’ In 2003 the Times discussed removing a 1932 Pulitzer awarded to their Moscow bureau chief (1922–1936) Walter Duranty, but did not. This prompted the authors to recommend that Laurence’s prize be ‘stripped’.

Setsuko Thurlow. Hiroshima survivor, anti-bomb activist, and 2017 Nobel Prize winner living in Toronto, wrote a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, on June 22, 2020, urging him to ‘acknowledge Canada’s involvement in and contributions to the two atomic bombings and issue a statement of regret on behalf of the Canadian Government for the immense deaths and suffering caused by the atom bombs that utterly destroyed two Japanese cities.’ She also urged him to sign the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

My Conclusion

Prevention. Prevention. Prevention of nuclear war is the key to world survival. Atomic wars must never be fought. Hiroshima and Nagasaki warn us of the danger if we do not act urgently and sensibly to prohibit atomic weapons development and wars.

I was 13 years old in 1945. I got the censored news on radio and newsreels at cinema. Let’s give hope to our children and grandchildren and everyone else that atomic wars must never take place, and that wars be banned as criminal behaviour.

I want an international War Prohibition Treaty! — like the 1920 League of Nations, the 1928 General Treaty for Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy,  the 1933 Anti-war Treaty of Non-aggression and Conciliation, and the 2017 United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Every country should have a well-funded Department of Peace and a nonkilling foreign and domestic policy.

Ancient Ritual of Kurban

It’s been 3 years since my Bulgarian-born wife Kristina Kristova suffered a stroke in July 2017. Her recovery progressed well so far. She is walking and continues to get stronger from daily exercises. Periodical dizziness remains. She thanks the Divine (God) for her healing.

To ensure that this forward progress continues, she thanks the friends who helped in her recovery, and needed to make kurban soup. Kristina says that in Bulgaria, this traditional thick soup was made when people want to wish someone good health, especially after a person suffers from an accident and needs time to recover, or to pray for good harvest, fertility of the animals and good clean nature.

Photos from: Classic Kurban Soup, TastyCraze.com; and
Simple Bulgarian Banista, Recipe by mis liz, Food.com.

She prepared a large pot of kurban soup — with many pieces of lamb and fresh veggies which I cut up (carrots, tomatoes, green onions, peppers, parsley). She also made banitsa, a Bulgarian filo pastry baked with cheese, which she baked rectangular on a large cake pan.

We prepared kurban gifts for 4 Bulgarian couples who are close friends, and delivered to each a quart of soup, several banista, and nice handwritten thank you card of love and good will.

After the last delivery, Kristina invited me to a nice restaurant for seafood to thank me for my help as her caregiver and to celebrate her recovery. This was our first visit to a restaurant since the mid-March closure of all restaurants in Ottawa due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Stage 3 of Ontario's COVID-19 regional reopening plan began July 17. As we enjoyed our food, we talked about the kurban soup and its meaning and history.

From Kristina’s understanding, kurban is an ancient ritual going back to paegan times, when the people looked for ways to thank the Gods for giving life to humanity, for healing, and for good fortune. As village people got together to eat and celebrate, an elder or priest would bless the food before the meal began. Today this could take place without a priest, as we have done.

For an extensive history, see: Kurban in the Balkans (Курбан на Балкану), editors: B. Sikimić and P. Hristov, 2007, Belgrade : Institut for Balkan Studies, Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts. 302 pages.

I learned that ‘Kurban’, kourbania in Greek, korban in Hebrew, and Qurban in Arabic, all refer to ‘ritual animal sacrifice … to bring man back to God, or rather to facilitate this approach.’ Some use it to venerate Saints, and it evolved into secular traditions, as Kristina was inspired.

For me, kurban is a kind of superstition of hope, an opportunity to give thanks to the powers that be, to bring people together to commemorate and honour and pray for improvement in their lives.

Twice in my younger life I witnessed ceremonies and traditions similar to kurban.

In the mid-1950s in Saskatchewan, during my field work as an anthropologist for a couple of years, I studied the local Native Canadians in 4 reserves. After their rain dances and sweat lodges they held communal feasts, with meat dishes and rice as a staple.

In the 1980s in Azerbaijan, during a trip with the USSR-Canada Friendship Society our group was hosted by locals. They honoured us with a surprise feast of a barbecue lamb slaughtered and roasting as we arrived, but did not know that most of our group were vegetarians. It was an embarrassing experience for all. Upon understanding their custom, we expressed grateful appreciation to our hosts.

I grew up among nonkilling Canadian Doukhobors who abandoned any animal sacrifice rituals in Russia. I learned that it continues in forms today, around the world in many other cultures to celebrate health, appreciation, a religious holiday, the fall harvest, friendship, peace, blessings, etc.

My webmaster, Andrei Conovaloff in Arizona, USA, grew up with the tradition of animal sacrifice among Spiritual Christian Dukh-i-zhizniki. He says in Russian they call it zhertva (жертва: sacrifice, offering), similar to ‘sacrifice in Judaism’ (жертвоприношения в иудаизме), and ‘korban’ in Hebrew.

His family lived on a farm west of Phoenix colonized in the 1910s by his grandfather's generation of immigrants from the Caucasus. They raised and butchered their own animals for home consumption, and for communal (obshchiy) meals at their rural congregation when it was their turn to prepare the feast. 

Their religious communal meals are 4-course traditional Russian feasts with large bread loafs, tea (chai) with vegetables (lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, lemon squeezed), borshch (soup) or lapsha (egg noodle soup), roasted meat and boiled eggs, and fresh fruit in season. The eggs are for the very few vegetarians, who also get postni borshch, without animal broth. Besides cube sugar for chai, other sweets could be dates, raisins, pastries, and whatever else the severs provide.      

Hymns are sung between each course, and speakers lecture while congregants eat. Doukhobor meals in Canada are similar, but much shorter in time without meat, or continuous singing and speaking.

The Dukh-i-zhiznik meat offering is preferably a lamb, slaughtered similar to Jewish kosher and Muslim halal. Urban Dukh-i-zhizniki typically pay select community butchers to do the task for them. For large gatherings, beef is cheaper. Since the 1970s, concerns about cholesterol and cost allowed offering meat to be chicken or fish. When the meat offering course is served, often the most zealous elder(s) will be ritually ‘seized by the Holy Spirit’, jump with both hands raised to the end of the song, and sometimes deliver a message from God in Russian. Since the Holy Spirit is always present, jumping and prophesy can be expressed anytime during meetings, most often when fast loud spiritual songs are sung.

The Dukh-i-zhiznik communal meal is typically closed to outsiders, leftovers must be given only to Christened members, to their homebound elderly, to their own animals to be eaten (chickens, sheep), and discarded animal fat and bones buried. Nothing is fed to non-kosher pets (dogs, cats). People not Christened in the faith should not eat their zhertva food. Some zealots in the faiths may chase outsiders away as unclean pork-eaters. A few liberal congregations tolerate outsiders (ne nashi), particularly at large weddings and funerals.

In 1985 the practice of burying zhertva bones in the city created a media frenzy for a few weeks in a suburb of Los Angeles which scared most of the Dukh-i-zhizniki in Southern California to this day. Neighborhood kids who saw bones being buried outside a meeting house after meals imagined that the strange people were eating human babies. See: Borshch Bones NOT Human Sacrifice.

Thursday, 23 July 2020

Remembering Micheal Lucas (1926 - 2020)

Michael Lucas was a charismatic political activist, author, professional graphic designer, accomplished musician, and advocate of peace and socialism.

See 68 photos

He immigrated from Slovenia, and worked in Toronto. He served as chair and editor of Northstar Compass, the publication of the ‘International Council for Friendship and Solidarity with Soviet People’, Canada.

Michael was a lifetime advocate of East-West understanding, and chaired the USSR-Canada Friendship Society from 1972 to 1991. The organization had branches in 35 cities across Canada, and I served for several years as president of the Ottawa Branch. Doukhobors participated in other branches in British Columbia and Saskatchewan. Michael and I both agreed that friendship between the Soviets and the West was critical to prevent war, and organized meetings with Soviets in Canada and tourist groups to the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s.

The Cold War in the 1980s was a very scary time. A popular slogan and bumper sticker in Canada and the USA was ‘Better Dead Than Red’. We needed to bring Soviets and Canadians face-to-face to mitigate hate, and approached the Canadian Department of External Affairs (now Global Affairs Canada) and other departments to see if we can use their reception rooms to host Soviet athletes and scientists for public meetings. ‘This was never done’, they said. ‘We can’t set a precedent.’

Living Room Discussion at the Tarasoff house, Ottawa, March 23, 1985, led by
Alexei Melnikov (right), a Soviet journalist in Canada who produced a short
documentary: 'Russian Doukhobors in Canada'. Photo 837-31A, (c) K.J. Tarasoff.

Where to meet? I volunteered using my home which could accommodate up to 60 people. Beginning in 1984 we began Living Room Discussions on Saturday afternoons, and hosted 17 sessions for about a year. In 1985 Michael and his wife Helen led 34 of us on a friendship tour of the Soviet Union.

Today, during this Second Cold War, we need to revitalize exchanges like Michael advocated since the 1940s. Since 1983 the USA Center for Citizen Initiatives has been organizing similar citizen diplomacy with 1000s of person-to-person bridges between Russia and the USA.

Bravo to Michael for helping to lead the way.

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