New Podcast Features Castlegar’s Doukhobor Community

A new podcast called The Headwaters: Stories from the Source has dedicated an entire episode to Castlegar’s Doukhobor community and included interviews with such local luminaries as JJ Verigin, Chris Kalesnikoff, and Linda Wilkinson from the Mir Centre for Peace. Produced by Kootenay Mountain Culture Magazine and made in partnership with Columbia Basin Trust, The Headwaters has released one season to date that includes eight episodes with varying themes, from adventurers and innovators to “Saving Species” and “Doukhobor Lore.”

The anchor story for the Doukhobor episode revolves around Peter Verigin, the influential leader of the local ethnoreligious community, who was killed in 1924 when a bomb exploded on a train travelling along the Canadian Pacific Railway’s Columbia and Western Line near Castlegar. The case is still unsolved and is considered Canada’s first act of terrorism. In the podcast, reporter Greg Nesteroff interviews Peter’s great-great grandson JJ Verigin about the tragedy and what has since transpired.

Peter Vasilevich Verigin, the Doukhobor community’s leader, pictured in 1922. He died in a train explosion near Castlegar and his murder is still unsolved today.

The podcast also discusses how the Doukhobors, a pacifist sect of the Orthodox Church in Russia, fled persecution at the hands of the Czar during the turn of the last century and 7,000 of them travelled to Canada with the financial aid of famed writer Leo Tolstoy, author of War and Peace. They settled in Saskatchewan first but then made their way to the West Kootenay region of British Columbia, specifically Grand Forks and Castlegar, in part because of the rich agricultural land.

Eventually the community fractured as those who took a more staunch approach to communal land ownership and agrarian upbringing opposed the government’s decree of mandatory schooling and property titles. Known as the Sons of Freedom, the sect became infamous for their public protests and acts of arson. The podcast discusses this and tells the story of Mary Braun, a member of the sect, who was sentenced to six years in prison in 2001 for setting fire to a satellite building of Selkirk College.

The “Doukhobor Lore” episode also discusses modern-day Doukhobors who are doing revolutionary things in the West Kootenay regino such as the Kalesnikoffs who own a lumber company that’s redefining how local forests are managed and wood is milled. The company’s COO Chris Kalesnikoff is interviewed as is CFO Krystle Seed.

The final story in the 24-minute-long episode is about the Mir Centre for Peace, located on the Selkirk College campus in Castlegar. Linda Wilkinson, an educator and scholar who helped to build the Mir Centre, is interviewed and she talks about the importance of the local Doukhobor community and its impact on world peace over the years.

The Mir Centre For Peace on the Selkirk College Campus in Castlegar.

To listen to the entire Headwaters episode about “Doukhobor Lore,” visit or search “The Headwaters” on your favourite podcast platform.