Kootenay Rockies Tourism has featured Castlegar on its website in a story that highlights Doukhobor culture as well as the city’s popular Discovery Centre.
The article, entitled “Doukhobor Discovery Centre: Castlegar’s Culture Story” is written by Gina Bégin and describes her experience touring the Discovery Centre, which, at times, is a little funny. Like when she meets the Centre’s administrator Lisa Poznikoff, who is a Doukhobor, and says, “Wait – there are still Doukhobors living today, and in the area?” Gina made a lot of other discoveries throughout her visit and described them all in her piece such as the group’s persecution in Russia, the flight to Canada to start a new life and the resultant persecution in this country when children were “stolen away into residential schools…[and] the people who were forced from their lands and homes.”
Lisa’s narrative provides the backdrop to the article as they weave through the Centre’s grounds, located directly across the highway from the Castlegar airport. The Centre is laid out in a similar fashion to what one might have found in a traditional Doukhobor village. There’s the communal dwelling with its “large kitchen and eating area, an area for homeschooling, and tiny bedrooms where a full family might sleep,” writes Gina, as well as the blacksmith shop and the banya or steam-bathhouse where different types of flora were stored for their medicinal properties.
The article goes on to describe how Gina was impacted by the stories she heard about Doukhobor culture and the initial misunderstandings that occurred, due in part to language barriers. But those “misunderstandings had persisted, being shared even with me over a century later,” she writes. “Instead of the rumors of them being intent on converting everyone to a radical religion, this was a people who had taken the ‘Thou shalt not kill’ Christian commandment to heart, burning their Russian government-issued arms to signify their commitment. This was a people who believed that God lived in each human, so to kill or hurt them was to do the same to their Creator. And this was a people who believed in living simply by the hard work of their own hands.”
Gina goes on to describe a number of household items she sees on display at the Discovery Centre, from the colourful textiles to the hand-built tools, but it’s the effect the stories have on her that is the truly compelling heart of the piece. “I discovered a depth of culture that my visit had only skimmed, and heartfelt stories of ancestors that continued to live on in the present-day keepers of the culture.”
To read Gina Bégin’s article in its entirety, log on to Kootenay Rockies website at: www.kootenayrockies.com/post/castlegar-doukhobor-centre.