Wrestling with the Spirit: A Doukhobor Story
Directed by Dorothy Dickie
Dickie shares the personal history of her Doukhobor family's arrival to
Canada in the late 19th century and their journey into Canadian life.
In 1899, a devout Russian Doukhobor family, the Perverseffs, came with
over 2,000 other Doukhobors to Canada's prairies in search of religious
freedom. Promised land by the government, they lived in communal villages
and tilled the land successfully. More Doukhobors joined them in the ensuing
years, but eventually, the government became concerned about their way
of life, and reneged on earlier promises for free land and complete freedom
in their way of life. The Doukhobors split into various groups in response
to the government's demands. Some like the Perverseff family who valued
education moved "forward" with the times and chose to allow
their children to attend public schools. Others remained true to the "old
ways" and have, over the years, been at odds with the Canadian government.
1) Many Doukhobors have been pretty colourful in their protests over the years. Research some of the most recent issues they've been involved in and see if you can find some newspaper articles from the 1950s when they were arrested for taking their clothes off en masse as a political and religious statement. Write an essay explaining what their issues are, and pretend you are a government official who is assigned the job of trying to make peace with the Doukhobors. How would you address their concerns?
2) Bread, Salt and Water are symbols to the Doukhobors, representing peace and hospitality to them. They are placed on Doukhobor eating tables to show how they are willing to live in peace and friendship. Many other religions have physical objects which are used as symbols to represent their basic beliefs and values. Research several religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam are suggestions) and describe some of the symbols they use, and what they represent. Perhaps bring in a collection of these symbols to share with your class during your presentation.
4) Make a hearty, healthy traditional Doukhobor meal. Serve a vegetable soup called borshch and little dumplings called pyrohis to your classmates and teachers. Read the recipes below, and with the help of your teacher and kitchen staff at your school, divide up the chores for preparing the dishes below. Have each student donate a part of the ingredients. Don't forget to set bread, salt and water on your eating table as a symbol of your hospitality.