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.