by Barry Verigin

Welcoming Spring

How wonderful it is to welcome Spring back into our world. After what seemed like a prolonged winter, with its cool weather and lingering snow, the longer days and warming temperatures are beginning to work their magic. The natural world around us appears to come back to life. Shoots rise from the ground, buds begin to form on the branches of trees and the birds, again, begin to delight us with their cheerful springtime melodies. Soon flowers will begin to bloom, decorating the landscape and lending their fragrance to sweeten the air around us. All this helps to invigorate us, encouraging us to become more active as we take on new projects, or approach ongoing ones with renewed enthusiasm.
This theme of rebirth and renewal associated with springtime is reflected by cultural and religious traditions that span the globe. Of course, it has a special significance for all Christians who gather to celebrate the resurrection of Christ during Easter. For Doukhobors, this holiday also represents an important event in our history.

It was during Easter of 1895 in the Trans-Caucasus that Matvei Lebedoff, along with several other Doukhobor conscripts, laid down their guns, refusing to continue their military training. This bold act was a testament to the spirit of Christ by consciously choosing to follow his teaching – respecting the sanctity of all human life. The subsequent burning of weapons by our forbears further demonstrated their adherence to Christ’s teachings. The persecution and punishment that followed included beatings, torture and forced exile, resulting in the loss of many lives. Still, the vast majority of Doukhobors held fast to their beliefs and were willing to suffer the consequences.

Fortunately, influential people of conscience, such as Lev N. Tolstoy and The Society of Friends (Quakers) sympathised with the plight of these Doukhobors and assisted in their migration to Canada. It’s interesting to note, much of this assistance came from the proceeds of a novel written by Tolstoy titled “Resurrection”.

Today, Doukhobors continue to commemorate Easter, not only through prayer, the reciting and singing of psalms, but more importantly, by making a conscious effort to live our lives in accordance with the teachings of Jesus Christ. We are reminded of the struggle our forbears had to endure and the benefactors who came to their assistance. Today we are fortunate to enjoy the comfort of living productive lives in relatively peaceful surroundings. We continue to raise our voices for peace, the protection of human rights, social justice and environmental sustainability; all of which we believe are important in creating a better world, not only for ourselves, but for succeeding generations of humanity.

Several of the activities our community members take part in during this time of year are featured in this issue. For example, our ongoing tradition of hosting talent nights. These light-hearted evenings of entertainment are held not only to celebrate the coming of spring by fostering a spirit of goodwill and friendship, but also to celebrate our cultural heritage.

More recently, community members in Grand Forks had the opportunity to listen to a former “home town girl” share some of her experiences and adventures during her lengthy career as a producer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Corinne Seminoff spoke to a captivated audience of over 70 people, describing how her career in journalism began on a part- time basis with CBS as a translator, just two months after beginning a Russian language program at the Pushkin Institute in Moscow in 1986. She explained how after completing her program, she continued to work full-time for CBS for three years prior to applying for a position as producer with CBC in 1989. She described how her work has taken her to many places through-out the world allowing her the opportunity to meet with various heads of state, dignitaries and celebrities. When asked, what experiences stood out the most, she explained it was meeting with ordinary people who had suffered from tragedy and loss.
Corinne continues to work as a producer for CBC Television and will be moving to Moscow for a period of three years to head the CBC bureau there. We hope to include more on Corinne’s presentation in the next issue of ISKRA, and look forward to sharing more of her articles. We wish her continued success in her career.

In a way, Corinne’s visit and presentation was timely, as it helped to demonstrate just one of the benefits of learning a second language when concerns are being raised about the decline of language programs in our public schools, and the relevance of the Russian language in our Doukhobor communities.

We hope that the coming of spring continues to brighten all our lives, strengthening our spirits and filling our hearts with enthusiasm and hope as we continue our journeys in life, wherever they may lead us.