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.

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.


Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Q85 : Doukhobors and Racism

Alexander Kalesnikoff, Calgary, Alberta, asked on June 6, 2020:

Do Black Lives Matter to Doukhobors?

How should we as Doukhobors look upon the current protests about police brutality and ‘Black Lives Matter’?

I believe there is too much racism of Black people, Muslims, Indigenous, Hispanics, Chinese due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and others.

Let us not forget, we Doukhobors were also the target of racism. We had many protests in the past, has any change come from that? I think not much.

It seems that we Doukhobors are beating and continually beating on the same drum, over and over again, about pacifism, war, etc. I think it is time that we start to beat another drum about domestic social problems, racism, hatred, prejudice, and a misunderstanding of others.

Most other faiths and religions, such as Mennonites, Quakers, Brethren, Catholic, Jewish, Sikh, etc., have programs addressing anti-racism. What is the Doukhobor anti-racism program?

I as President of the Calgary Folk Arts Council from 1998 to 2019, during our annual Heritage Day Festival, I presented a version of this message to the vast crowd:
It is a time to preserve, to celebrate, to promote and bring about an awareness of the cultural diversity that exists, so that we can have a better understanding of others, so that we can improve our communications with others, support the concept of mutual acceptance, which helps us to erase the racism, the prejudice, the hatred towards other cultures and religions, which hopefully will make life on Earth better, so we can live in peace and harmony, and be extremely proud of our heritage. The festival is also a time when we can reflect on our past, relive those moments in our lives that are so dear to us, and share the experience. We may have a unified identity in the countries we have lived in, but, we are all indeed proud of the uniqueness of our individual heritage.
I believe this time, change will come, as the world wakes up from their deep sleep. It is a time that we must walk with others and continue to believe we are one, we are all ‘brothers and sisters”’ as we continually repeat those words when we pray. We must unite to overcome!

Kalesnikoff sent his question the day after the Canadian media extensively showed and discussed protests, riots, police brutality, and Prime Minister Trudeau and a Black RCMP simultaneously kneeling in silence for nearly 9 minutes.

Left: Trudeau takes a knee at anti-racism protest on Parliament Hill, CBC, June 5, 2020.
Right: Thousands fill the streets of downtown Toronto for an anti-racism rally,
CP24 News, June 5, 2020.


Canadian Doukhobors ‘should look upon the current protests about police brutality and Black Lives Matter’ as a plea for revitalizing and completing the long overdue Civil Rights Movement and War on Poverty, and reversing systemic racism and economic inequity.The nonkilling Doukhobor movement forbids war and police brutality. ‘All lives matter!

To Tarasoff’s 2020 Peace Day message — ‘I believe that today we can extend the [Doukhobor] movement to universal access to food, housing, health care, education, and a clean environment’ — let’s add: ‘economic and social equality.’

While Kalesnikoff’s city of Calgary has made progress in reducing the wage gap, much is lacking. One in 7 Canadians (5 million) live in poverty. White supremacy and racism in Canada is still ‘enforced through the law’. What to do?

Lev N. Tolstoy asked nearly the same question more than 140 years ago.

In 1886 after four years of research and interviews among the poor in Moscow, Tolstoy wrote Так что же нам делать? (So what should we do?) His advice, in short, was for us to personally meet and treat the poor and abused as we want to be treated.
(See: Reviews. Lvyonok Yasnopolyanskiy 10/07/2016; and 3 translations: Isabel Hapgood 1887, Leo Wiener 1904, and Aylmer Maude 1925.)
It seems that Tolstoy recommended a best solution. Instead of spending time and money supporting a protest organization, marching in the street, or writing letters or blogs about events far away, one should find and help a few local people in need, as your brothers/sisters. Work with them to escape exploitation by the elites, or else a ‘labor revolution’ will explode.

To help each other one-to-one is everyone's personal responsibility. Personalism was the life's work of Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement. She was motivated by Tolstoy and her own "promptings of conscience" to help anyone in need.

Doukhobors do not have a formal anti-racism program, but we have a belief in a 'light/God within' which should work like an autopilot to guide us to not be racist. In fact, ‘Human Races’ Do Not Exist! in nature, people created them.

Doukhobors have donated to charities. Since 2015, the Doukhobor Society of Saskatoon supported the Kinsmen Foundation Telemiracle', and the USCC has donated to many causes. We cannot tell if the charities are racist.

To follow Tolstoy you will need to find people to help. Check with Calgary Social programs and services. Don’t donate money, donate your time.

The larger social-political problems are very difficult to solve (yet we need to also deal with the evil of poverty and the evil of war). There is still a lot to learn from Tolstoy's emphasis on personal responsibility in dealing with immediate issues of human needs:
Your question about whether any change has come from racism against Doukhobors, can be answered in part. The 1895 burning of arms protests by our ancestors resulted in one-third of all Doukhobors migrating to Canada, including your family. In Canada, Doukhobors assimilated unevenly, divided, with some factions protesting and suffering more than others. Many, like yourself, prospered. Others did not. Some died. We are still protesting for peace and working to be understood.

Our Movement evolved during the past century and is continuing to change. It is up to us to continuously form and reform the Doukhobor legacy, while trying to understand and treat others as we wish to be known and treated.


Update 3 October 2020

The BLM logo previously shown was from Wikipedia. The current logo is now shown above.

On 19 July 2020, Stephen Jmaeff tried to post a link which I corrected to: Candace Owens: "I DO NOT support George Floyd!" Here's Why! 18 min. Youtube video by Candice Owens, June 4, 2020. 7.3 million views, 65,000+ comments — A rant against BLM.

Alex Kalesnikoff then emailed and phoned to explain that Candace Owens is a far-right agitator not appropriate for this discussion. Upon checking Alex's complaint, I agreed. Miss Owens is a lobbying pro-Trump young Black woman based in Washington DC. Therefore, the original Jmaeff post was deleted with the above explanation.

Many opinions of BLM are being tossed around in the media, and seriously discussed by some Christians. Connor Fledman of The Atlantic explained: "It is a large, free-wheeling movement without clear leaders, and individual participants have no doubt acted badly on many occasions, as is true of [other] groups ...."

One extensive article series explains that a need for 'police' in America was controversial until it focused on persecution of slaves, a prejudice that continues today: Duret, Daphne. The legend of Bras-Coupé: How police turned a Black man into a villain to save themselves, USA Today, Oct. 1, 2020. 

But, how do Doukhobors feel? What should you do, if anything?

Update 24 November 2020 (Sent Nov 22, by Laura Savinkoff, Grand Forks, BC)

Racism and Doukhobors

A list of great questions to consider, Alex. Thank you.

I needed to think about how to respond sensitively and honestly, for if we wish to address ‘racism’ in all its manifestations, then we must be honest and consider the feelings and experiences of others.

So first I’d like to share my perspective on racism. To me it holds within its mighty grasp prejudice, discrimination, bigotry, misogyny, xenophobia, colonialism, imperialism  and all those other labels that excuse treating people with disrespect and dishonour, excluding sectors of our global family, ensuring social and economic disparity, giving rise to superiority and self-serving actions.

Do Doukhobors practice racism?  Sadly, I must say that some do and have. But, we’ve also suffered from the attitudes that put people down, hurt people physically, emotionally, psychologically.  Our history is full of incidences of our ancestors being treated with disdain because they dared to stand firm on their belief, their life concept, their understanding of how we, children of God the Creator, need to live by.  This history occurred in my lifetime when children were housed in a Residential School and made to build the fence that jailed them, made to march with wooden guns, not allowed family visits for speaking a word in Russian, etc. But, even now the snide remarks, racist jokes, disparaging remarks hurt children.  But we don’t discuss or truly acknowledge the hurt we lobbed at each other — Community, Independent, Sons of Freedom.  Oh yes, let’s not forget the askance looks if you are poor, disabled, challenged in some way, live in one community rather than another, wear certain clothing, don’t speak Russian, did or did not do this or that or the other thing.  And of course the attitude towards non-Doukhobors was alive and lingers.

And yet, contained in our teachings we consider all equal and part of one global family with no enemies with all that exists on Mother Earth. We oppose violence but somehow didn’t understand that verbal abuse is violence, that disparaging remarks are violent and that allowing someone to live in poverty is violent.  War is not the only form of violence just as attacking someone for the colour of their skin is not the only form of racism.

I agree we need to address the issues that you listed and more. But we must also address the issues that cause poverty, hunger, homelessness, addiction, and yes war.  We must look below the surface of the actions of police brutality, racism and social injustice and address why do humanity and Doukhobors still not live up to the ideals we espouse? Why is it we treat others as lesser? Why do we excuse violent and abusive behaviour whether in protest or in our homes, our schools, work places, hospitals, on our streets?

I understand why the mantra 'Black Lives Matter' is so resonant with people of colour.  I support peaceful protest and creative resistance because 'the vital powers that be’ can institute the laws to ensure all are treated with respect by police, hospitals, on our streets, etc.  But, I cannot and will not support the off shot of the movement that throw fire bombs, raid and steal from stores, riot, verbally and physically attack others in person or on social media.

You ask if protests actually do any good. They did and still do -- when Doukhobors or others work for peace and justice, there are improvements.  Women protested and won the vote.  Unions protested and we have our Labour Code.  The Indigenous stood up and said 'enough' and the Residential Schools were finally closed.  All the codes and regulations we take for granted did not come because some politician or corporate head thought it is was good to treat people with dignity.  Our Medical System happened because people made a lot of noise.  And the same is true with all systems that need improvement.

Without a whole bunch of us making noise, change won’t happen. Nor will it happen only by nicely asking in a letter or petition. It will take a concerted effort. But before that concerted effort turns into an organized wellspring of action there is much work. We must understand the issues by talking, meeting and yes, protesting on the streets peacefully chanting 'an end to war, violence, racism and disregard for our planet'. We must educate and work as a team to improve our world through creative, supportive, innovative, kind, respectful, honourable, loving actions.

It’s vital we begin this dialogue, not as USCC, Independent or Sons of Freedom but as humans, people that value what our ancestors were willing to die for. We must be willing to work not just talk, willing to stand firm and not fold when the going gets a bit tough, willing to extend our hand of loving kinship to our neighbours, community, the global family.

I try to do this and am not always successful. I work with my Doukhobor family, my local community and globally to understand, support, educate, inspire and enlighten each other to improve the world we leave for our future global family. I ask all to take Alex’s queries to heart, and have an open mind for the vital needs today. And I ask you not to condemn my opinion; if you don’t agree that is fine, but do think about what I’ve said and about getting involved with changing the world so that Black Lives Matter does not exist, that violence out of frustration and pain does not exist, and that violence of war will not exist.

In Universal Kinship and Loving Peace,

Readers: Maybe you have a different answer. Anyone can comment below.

Saturday, 23 May 2020

1933 Crossword: 'Doukhobor'

By 1933, so many newspaper reports about 'Doukhobors' had been published in California that one crossword creator decided to use this new word in a puzzle.

Daily crossword puzzle "Largest Deer", Santa Cruz Evening News, 31 March 1933, page 7

Answer next day

The word also appeared in educational newsprint 'fillers', to fill a small gap in text.

In most of North America (Canada, USA, Mexico), a new generation of readers was exposed to this 'strange' new word mistakenly and confusingly describing all kinds of 'Doukhobors' as one group with one 'king'.


Sometimes reporters confused the Canadian and American groups. Compare the news reports about 'Doukhobors' in Canada (above) to simultaneous news (below) of the mixed Spiritual Christians tribes from Russia in Los Angeles, all mislabeled 'Molokan'.

  • Kniga solnste, dukh i zhizn' (Book of the Sun, Spirit and Life) published. A preface was contributed by Dr. Young falsely claiming they were "Molokane" to hide their mystical ecstatic spiritual zealotry which has no origin in Molokan history.
  • A spiritual zealot places the new book on the altar tables of several congregations in Los Angeles as a 3rd Testament to the Russian Bible.
  • Most of the Spiritual Christian congregations from Russia in Southern California are coerced into using this new book, changing their rites, holidays, songs, prayers to those printed in the Dukh i zhizn', thus forming a new family of faiths best called Dukh-i-zhizniki.
  • Lover's suicide, Anna Prohoff, 18, and Pete Makshanoff, 21, drank insecticide.