Monday, 25 October 2021

Jim D. Kolesnikoff (1936–2021)

Jim D. Kolesnikoff, a stalwart of the Doukhobor Movement, died in Hamilton, Ontario on June 29, 2021, remarkably on the exact date of the Doukhobor Arms Burning in Russia 126 years ago. 

Three important historical occasions brought Jim and myself together.

  1. 1957 — December. At the all-Doukhobor youth conference: ‘Building bridges of understanding’. Jim was one of the hosts. The Saskatoon Doukhobor Students’ Group initiated meetings with Community Doukhobor students in British Columbia to jointly discuss ‘Where do we go from here?’ Jim is seated on the right end in this group photo. (See: ‘Young Adult Tour of Western Canada’, The Inquirer, December 1957, pages 8-12.)

  2. 1982 — June 25-28. During the International Intergroup Symposium that brought together over 1,000 Doukhobors, Mennonites, Quakers, and American Spiritual Christians from Russia, to Castlegar, BC. Jim served as Secretary of the Convening Committee of four (Jim Kolesnikoff, John J. Verigin Sr., Jim E. Popoff, and me Koozma J. Tarasoff as Coordinator) and signed a letter to the United Nations.

  3. 1999 — October 22-24. At the Doukhobor Centenary in Canada conference held at Ottawa University, Jim presented: ‘Understanding violent behaviour: the “Sons of Freedom” case’, published in Doukhobor Centenary in Canada (edited by Andrew Donskov, John Woodsworth and Chad Gaffield), 2000, pages 114-128.

These events brought Canadian Doukhobors together to focus on examining our identity in the new world today.

  • ‘Who are we?’
  • ‘What contribution can we make to world society?’ 

That’s how I knew Jim.

Jim was born in Watson, Saskatchewan. His family moved to British Columbia where he graduated from high school in 1954. For several years he worked for the Sunshine Valley Co-op and the Grand Forks Credit Union and was an active member of the USCC Union of Youth in a program of singing, the Russian language evening school program and Iskra.  

In the 1960s, Jim attended Moscow State University where he received his MA in Russian language and literature, returned to Canada, and in 1978 obtained his PhD in Slavic Linguistics at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.

A big event in Jim’s life was meeting Nina, a Polish student on scholarship in Moscow. They married in 1968 and moved to Canada the same year. They lived in Edmonton, Alberta where Nina completed her PhD studies in the Department of Comparative Literature. The couple moved to Hamiliton, Ontario where Nina became a professor of Slavic Studies at McMaster University. Jim commuted to Toronto where he worked with a company (dissolved in 2002) importing precious and semi-precious metals, and jewelry from Russia to Canada.

In 2002 I published a short biography of Jim and his wife: ‘Slavic Scholars Broaden International Boundaries’, Spirit Wrestlers: Doukhobor Pioneers’ Strategies for Living (2002), pages 232-233. (PDF, 1.3 Mb)

Jim was interviewed by Gregory James Cran for his doctoral thesis: 'A Narrative Inquiry into the Discourse of Conflict among the Doukhobors and Between the Doukhobors and Government', University of Victoria, 2003, pages 105, 128, and 200. (PDF, 5 Mb). The thesis was modified into a book published in 2011 titled: Negotiating Buck Naked: Doukhobors, Public Policy, and Conflict Resolution, where Jim is quoted on page 81. (See my book review.)

Published Obituaries for James (Jim) Kolesnikoff

  • Iskra, No. 2166, September 2021, pages 35-38. Bilingual Russian and English.
  • Grand Forks Gazette, (photo) June 12, 2021. Photo 
  • Today in BC, Black Press Media (Surrey, B.C.) June 12, 2021

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