Kylemore Historic Doukhobor Tour

For Immediate Release – July 2, 2008

On Monday, June 30, 2008, the National Heritage Doukhobor Village hosted a guided motor coach tour of Doukhobor historical sites and points of interest in the Kylemore district of Saskatchewan.

Approximately fifty people from Kamsack, Canora, Wadena, Saskatoon, Regina and elsewhere took part in the excursion, which travelled through the Kylemore and Fishing Lake areas, visiting some of the original Doukhobor communal villages and related sites, exploring surviving buildings and structures, and learning about the Doukhobors who inhabited them, their way of life, and the events that took place there.

“One of the main objectives of the tour was to highlight the historic significance of the Doukhobors and their contribution to the development of the area”, said Keith Tarasoff, tour organizer and chairman of the National Heritage Doukhobor Village.

Tour participants conduct a moleniye service at God’s Blessing Cemetery near Kylemore, SK.

In 1918, the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood (CCUB) purchased 11,362 acres of wooded land in the Kylemore district of Saskatchewan. Over 250 Community Doukhobors settled there from Ootischenia, British Columbia and Veregin, Saskatchewan, where they cleared the trees and scrub, planted grain fields, kept livestock and established thirteen communal villages as well as a general store and warehouse, elevator, central meeting house, barns, blacksmith shops, granaries and ice reservoirs. Living, praying and working under the motto of “Toil and Peaceful Life”, they operated a communal farm colony whose grain was shipped through the elevator to Doukhobor settlements in British Columbia and markets elsewhere while fruit, produce and other goods received from the British Columbia Doukhobors were sold and distributed through the store. The colony flourished until the demise of the CCUB in 1937-1938 when the lands were sold and the villages disbanded. Thereafter, a third of the Doukhobors remained in the Kylemore area as individual farmers while the rest returned to British Columbia or relocated elsewhere.

Original CCUB general store and warehouse, now in a dilapidated state, Kylemore, SK.

The Kylemore Historic Doukhobor Tour commenced at the Wadena & District Museum in Wadena at 11:00 a.m. with greeting from the Mayor of Wadena, Brian Helberg, followed by introductory remarks by Keith Tarasoff. Tour participants then enjoyed a short program comprised of Doukhobor psalm singing by the combined Saskatchewan choir members and a historic presentation by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff followed by a borshch and sandwich lunch supplied by Blue Willow Inn Catering at the museum.

Original large communal home (originally 2-story) at Chernoff Village site, Kylemore, SK.

The tour proceeded to Kylemore and visited God’s Blessing Cemetery, established in 1920 to serve the Doukhobor colony, where a group moleniye (prayer service) and commemoration was held. The next stop was the original CCUB store and warehouse built in 1918 and the adjacent sites of the CCUB elevator, the largest in Saskatchewan when it was built in 1920, and associated unnamed village. The tour then passed an original large dom (communal home) built in 1927-1928 at the Chernoff Village, followed by the sites of the Malakoff Village, Popoff Village, Hoodekoff Village, Konkin Village, South Kylemore School, Kazakoff Village and Sheloff Village. A stop was made at the Pereverzoff House; an original village home built in 1922-1924 and relocated from Pereverzoff Village to its present site in 1939.

Tour participants explore the Pereverzoff House, an original CCUB village house.

At several points along the way, the tour passed Blahoslovenie Creek, a small creek running through the heart of the Doukhobor colony, officially named by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff in 2006 to commemorate it. The tour continued to the grid intersection historically known as the Uhol (corner) where the Pereverzoff Village, Makortoff Village and Samsonoff Village once sat on three of its corners. It then passed the site of the Chernenkoff Village, followed by the lug (meadow) on the north shore of Fishing Lake where the Doukhobors historically celebrated Peter’s Day, held outdoor prayer meetings and gathered for picnics, swimming and recreation. A stop was made at the site of the Arishenkoff Village, containing the foundations of a communal barn large enough to house one hundred horses, as well as an original village home that belonged to the family of Tanya Arishenkoff, main character of Eli A. Popoff’s Doukhobor historical novel, Tanya.

An original CCUB house at Arishenkoff Village, shrouded in vines.

The tour continued past the sites of the Kanigan Village and the CCUB community well, dug in 1918 to provide the colony with good water. It then proceeded to the hamlet of Kylemore, the main commercial centre in the area and a significant historic hub of Doukhobor activity, where it passed the sites of the Fudikuf Store, Kanigan Store, Osachoff General Store, Kylemore Doukhobor Society Prayer Home, and the North Kylemore School.

On the return leg, the tour passed Horkoff Avenue in Wadena, named after Sam A. Horkoff, a historic town benefactor. The tour then returned to the Wadena & District Museum where tour participants, guided by museum staff volunteers, visited the Malekoff farm banya (bathhouse) and the Osachoff General Store, both recently relocated from Kylemore, as well as other historic buildings and artifacts. The tour concluded at 5:00 p.m.

The Osachoff General Store, formerly of Kylemore, SK, now at the Wadena & District Museum, Wadena, SK.

Throughout the five-hour excursion, expert tour guide Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, a Regina-based Doukhobor researcher and writer, provided an informative and enjoyable historical narration. Tour participants also shared interesting stories about people and places. These included Verna Negraeff, who reminisced about growing up in the Pereverzoff House, and Peter J. Pereverzoff, who recalled memories of Pererverzoff Village. Tour organizers Keith and Sonia Tarasoff also shared anecdotes.

“Many of the tour participants were surprised at what we were able to show them,” said Jonathan J. Kalmakoff. “Most had presumed that there was nothing left to see, when in fact, there are a number of buildings, sites and landmarks that still exist to attest to the rich Doukhobor history and way of life. Because of the tour, the Kylemore colony is now better documented and understood.”

Peter P. Malekoff, a lifetime resident of Kylemore, reminisces during moleniye prayer service.

For Peter P. Malekoff, an original member of the CCUB colony and lifetime resident of the Kylemore district, participating in the tour was a personal highlight. “It is very nice that people have taken an interest in the history of our Doukhobor settlement,” said Malekoff, who was instrumental in providing background information for many of the historical sites on the tour.

For additional information or inquiries about the tour of the Kylemore and other Doukhobor historic sites in Saskatchewan, contact the National Heritage Doukhobor Village at Box 99, Veregin, Saskatchewan, S0A 4H0. Phone number (306) 542-4441.

Highway map of Kylemore and Fishing Lake, Saskatchewan.