The visitors have “enhanced the Doukhobor spirit in all of us,” Walter Ostoforoff of Canora, chair of the National Doukhobor Heritage Village, said July 15 during the program held to celebrate Doukhobor culture and the centennial of the village’s prayer home.
Ostoforoff was speaking to a packed hall on the second of a two-day celebration which was attended by visiting dignitaries including Cathay Wagantall, the Yorkton-Melville MP; Terry Dennis, the Canora-Pelly MLA; Ken Cheveldayoff, provincial minister of parks, culture and sport; Johnathon J. Verigin, descendant of Peter Verigin; the CCUB choir; the Saskatchewan Doukhobor Choir and the CCUB choir of British Columbia, in addition to Saskatchewan Doukhobors.
As emcee for the program, Ostoforoff welcomed everyone to the program and introduced Elmer Verigin, who talked about the Doukhobors who had arrived in the area in 1899.
“We share our culture with others to help make the world a better place,” Ostoforoff said, as he introduced Sonja Tarasoff of Canora and her granddaughter who led the audience in the singing of O Canada.
Wagantall, mentioned the “two milestones” of the Prayer Home’s centennial and Canada’s 150th anniversary and said that there is no better place for families to plant their roots than in the soil of rural Saskatchewan.
“We are who we are today because of who we were in the past”
Calling Canada one of the richest and most envied country’s in the world, Wagantall said that the country’s values have kept Canada strong for 150 years.
“We are who we are today because of who we were in the past,” she said, reminding everyone that the country as it remains united is strong, generous and welcoming.
Terry Dennis mentioned how there is a strong sense of community in Canada, which had done well for the Doukhobors in the past. He spoke of the faith that is displayed in the beauty of the prayer homes which were constructed because of the dedication of the builders.
Cheveldayoff said he, of Doukhobor heritage, was pleased to be responsible for parks, culture and sport and said that the history of the Doukhobor pioneers is a stone in Saskatchewan’s foundation.
Remembrance of the past is so important, he said, referring to the Saskatchewan motto: “From many peoples, strength.”
The Doukhobors leave a legacy of perseverance to be celebrated today, he said, calling the heritage an important part of Saskatchewan and the prayer home a testament of peace.
Cheveldayoff said that Saskatchewan is recognized as a place of opportunity, as the Doukhobors had found it to be when they immigrated, seeking a high-quality of life.
The strength of a community is dependent on the shared tasks of its members, he said. “The future is exciting. I’m looking forward to the next 100 years of Doukhobors in Saskatchewan.”
Laura Verigin of Yorkton talked about the history of the Prayer Home, saying it had been an important social gathering place. She acknowledged the builders and said that it, which is an important landmark in the area, had become a heritage site in 1982.
Johnathon J. Verigin Jr., a special guest from B.C., who is a direct descendant of Peter Verigin after whom the community is named, thanked the community for having sustained the facility. He recognized Philip Perepelkin, his dedication and talents, for having worked at the village for many years.
Verigin said that Doukhobors’ children and grandchildren will thank Canada for having opened up a refuge for Doukhobrs and said that it is hoped that the errors made in the past 150 years will be corrected.
As a reference to the current international political situation, Verigin cautioned people to not get “hepped up” over fear and security thereby ignoring peace, love and harmony, which is not always easy.
He said that Muslims in the Kootenays of B.C. were grateful to use the Doukhobor prayer home and said that they recognized people helping each other out of the goodness in their heart, not out of fear.
“Wars begin in the minds of men,” he said. “In the minds of men, peace must be sought.
“The Doukhobor concepts of peace, equality and compassion resonate in the Doukhobors today as much as before and may that never be eclipsed.”
Sustain the Doukhobor spirit that makes the heart beat with love, he said. “It has been a pleasure and privilege to be here.
“Thanks for keeping the hope of peace alive.”
A plaque commemorating the centennial of the Veregin Prayer Home was unveiled by Laura Veregin and Johnathon Veregin.
Performing were the Saskatchewan Doukhobor Choir, the CCUB Choir and the visiting choir from B.C.
The weekend included tours of the area and the Prayer Home, prayer services, a banquet and brunch.