The Story of Brilliant Fominoff

By Alice Popoff

In January 1909, the first Doukhobor child was born in British Columbia following their arrival in the province eight months earlier. The newborn was named after the settlement they established at the confluence of the Kootenay and Columbia Rivers. This is the story of the brief but inspiring life of Brilliant Fominoff.

With every move of a large group of people there are difficulties. Our Doukhobor leader, Peter Lordly Verigin recognized this. Therefore, prior to the move of our Doukhobor people from Saskatchewan to British Columbia, he chose for the first group, those members of the community who were strongest physically, solid in their Doukhobor beliefs, as well as good overall builders – including machinists, mechanics, blacksmiths, welders, carpenters, millwrights, bricklayers, plasterers, and the like. One of these families was that of John (Ivan) and Helen (Agafia) (nee Zarchikoff) Fominoff with their four sons and one daughter. This Fominoff family was one of the most gifted as machinists and mechanics. They built and managed sawmills for the Doukhobor community.

John and Helen Fominoff had a son, Larion and his wife Aprosya, and to them was born the first Doukhobor baby in British Columbia in the community of Ootischenia [then Brilliant] in January of 1909.

The Ivan S. Fominoff family, 3 years after their arrival in British Columbia, enumerated in Dolina Utesheniya (Brilliant) in the 1911 Canada Census. Brilliant Fominoff, age 2, appears on line 31.

When Peter Lordly Verigin heard that Larion and Aprosya had a son, he was overjoyed and hurried to visit the Fominoff family to bless the newborn. The Fominoff family gladly welcomed Peter Lordly to their home. Peter Lordly was so thrilled with the birth of this first baby in British Columbia that he asked the family’s permission to allow him to name their son, which the Fominoff family joyfully agreed to, since it was quite a privilege for them. Thus Peter Lordly said “I give your son the name Brilliant; it means a clear, precious shining gem.”

Fominoff family in Dolina Utesheniya, circa 1919. Back row (L-R): Mary Fominoff (nee Chigmaroff); Brilliant L. Fominoff; Larry (Larion) J. Fominoff; Cecil (Savely) J. Fominoff; Mary J. Sousoyoff (nee Fominoff); John (Ivan) J. Fominoff; Polly Fominoff (nee Nevokshonoff); William (Wasyl) J. Fominoff; John S. Fominoff. Second row (sitting L-R): Fred L. Fominoff; April Fominoff (nee Plotnikoff); Florence Fominoff (nee Chigmaroff); Florence Sousoyoff – baby; Florence Fominoff (nee Sousoyoff); Polly Fominoff (nee Stooshnoff); Helen (Hanya) Fominoff (nee Zarchikoff). Four children centre front (sitting L-R): John J. Fominoff; Annie F. Chernoff (nee Sousoyoff); Helen F. Malakoff (nee Sousoyoff); Helen J. Chernoff (nee Fominoff).

And so, Brilliant Fominoff grew up in various communities, such as Ootischenia, the community of Skalistoye by Nelson, and a place called Porcupine by Salmo, where his parents worked on different community projects.

The Fominoff family enumerated at the Skalistoye settlement near Nelson in the 1921 Canada Census. Brilliant Fominoff, age 12, appears in line 4. By 1923, the family was restationed to Porcupine Creek near Salmo; by 1925 to Ymir; and by 1928, to Kirpichnoye (Claybrick) near Winlaw.

In his youth, Brilliant became ill with tuberculosis and upon advice from his doctor and the encouragement of Peter Lordly Verigin, he was sent for healing to the USA, to a hospital in Arizona.

At the time he became ill, Brilliant Fominoff was working as a bookkeeping clerk at the CCUB central office in Brilliant. According to this border crossing manifest, he entered the United State in August 1926 at age 18, stopping to visit his cousin Eli Jmaiff in Eugene OR en route to tuberculosis treatments in Phoenix, AZ.

He keenly missed his family, friends, and his home. He composed several songs about his life’s destiny. He was also a great and talented artist. Here is one of the pictures that he drew of Peter Lordly Verigin.

Sketch of Doukhobor leader Peter V. Verigin drawn by Brilliant L. Fominoff while in respite at a tuberculosis sanatorium in Phoenix, Arizona prior to his death.

Brilliant Fominoff passed away in Phoenix, Arizona, USA on October 18, 1927 at 18 years of age and is buried in Ootischenia.

Brilliant L. Fominoff, shortly before his death at age 18.


Note that at the time of Brilliant L. Fominoff’s birth, the Fominoff family was living in Dolina Utesheniya (Ootischenia) which was considered part of the wider Brilliant settlement, hence the name he received.

This article was originally published in ISKRA magazine, March 3, 2008.