Spring Name Commemorates Doukhobors of Petrofka

For Immediate Release – May 5, 2008

A spring near Blaine Lake, Saskatchewan has been officially named in recognition of the Doukhobor pioneer settlers of Petrofka. The name “Petrofka Spring”, proposed by Doukhobor researcher and writer Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, was recently approved by the Saskatchewan Geographic Names Board.

Petrofka Spring is located on the SW 1/4 of 31-42-6-W3 on the picturesque west bank of the North Saskatchewan River, twelve miles south of Blaine Lake, Saskatchewan. It is situated in the Petrofka Recreation Site, a popular riverbank spot for camping, picnicking and hiking. The spring flows east down the riverbank to the river. It flows year-round and provides an excellent source of clean, cool, fresh and abundant water.

View of Petrofka Spring. Photo by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.

“The naming of Petrofka Spring is of immense cultural and historic value,” said Kalmakoff, a leading authority on Doukhobor geographic names. “It is a lasting legacy for future generations, and one that helps recognize the contribution made by the Doukhobors of Petrofka to the development of the area.”

The village of Petrofka (Petrovka, Петровка) was established near the spring in 1899 by Doukhobors from Kars, Russia who fled to Canada to escape persecution for their pacifist beliefs. Following the motto of ‘Toil and Peaceful Life’, they lived, prayed and worked together, transforming the prairie frontier into productive farmland. By 1911, Petrofka had a mixed population of Russian, Ukrainian, Polish and German settlers. The village existed for a number of years before it was finally dissolved in 1929.

“The Doukhobors of Petrofka had a direct connection with the spring,” said Kalmakoff. “When they settled along the river, the Doukhobors found an abundant source of spring water, fertile land, trees and rolling hills reminiscent of their homeland in the Caucasus region of Russia. Building their settlement near the spring, they used its natural waters for drinking, household, irrigation and agricultural purposes. It was the lifeblood of the settlement.”

View of the pathway leading to Petrofka Spring. A sign reminds visitors that it is untreated water. Photo by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.

The official name comes after a year of consultations by Kalmakoff to gather input and support for the name from local stakeholders. The collective response was overwhelmingly in favour of the name. The Ministry of Environment, which owns the land on which the spring is located, submitted a letter of support. The Blaine Lake Doukhobor Society also backed the naming project. As well, the Rural Municipality of Blaine Lake No. 434 passed a resolution in favour of the name. Finally, the Riverlands Heritage Region provided an enthusiastic written endorsement.

The consultations were followed by a formal proposal by Kalmakoff to the Saskatchewan Geographic Names Board, the Provincial body responsible for place names. The Board reviewed and investigated the name proposal in consultation with government agencies and departments. In determining the suitability of the name, the Board was guided by the Geographic Naming Policies, a stringent set of principles governing the naming of geographic features. Its decision – which was solidly in favour of the name Petrofka Spring – was then recommended to the Minister Responsible for the Board, the Honourable Ken Cheveldayoff, who approved the decision.

Now that the name is official, the Saskatchewan Geographic Names Board will supply the information to government ministries and agencies, cartographers, geographers, publishers and other persons engaged in the preparation of maps and publications intended for official and public use.

“The main objective of this naming project is to ensure that the Doukhobors are recognised by all Canadians as a fundamental part of our country’s heritage and that there is a need for their historical sites to be acknowledged,” said Kalmakoff. “Now that the name Petrofka Spring has been adopted, there is an opportunity to recognize the historic Doukhobor presence in the area and to garner wider community recognition.”

A short distance from the spring, a historic marker on the scenic North Saskatchewan River bank commemorates the historic Petrofka Ferry. Photo by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.

“An official ceremony to commemorate the naming of the spring is planned for later this spring, and will be hosted by the Riverlands Heritage Region in cooperation with other local stakeholders,” said Maurice Postnikoff, Vice-President of the Riverlands Heritage Region. “It is important that we celebrate our rich and diverse local heritage through endeavours such as this.”

For additional information or inquiries about Petrofka Spring, email Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.