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Doukhobor Prayer Home at Veregin, Saskatchewan Featured in Edifice & Us Documentary Series

For Immediate Release - March 29, 2008

The Prayer Home at the National Doukhobor Heritage Village in Veregin, Saskatchewan will be featured in an upcoming episode of Edifice & Us, a television documentary that explores Saskatchewan through the architectural heritage of the province. The half-hour episode, entitled “Home of the Spirit Wrestlers”, premiers on the Saskatchewan Communication Network (SCN) on Tuesday, April 1, 2008 at 8:30 p.m. and again Thursday, April 3, 2008 at midnight.

Located in the small farming community of Veregin in eastern Saskatchewan, the spectacular Prayer Home reflects the community’s importance to the Doukhobors as a religious and cultural centre, as well as the authority and the vision of the leader of the Doukhobors, Peter V. Verigin. Constructed in 1917 as the spiritual meeting place of the community and Verigin’s personal residence, this finely-crafted wooden building with its two-storey wrap-around veranda and elaborate metal work was inspired by 19th-century Doukhobor architectural traditions in Russia. The vast open site surrounding the house accommodated large gatherings drawn from Doukhobor colonies throughout Saskatchewan, who assembled to hear the words of their leader as he addressed them from the second floor balcony. It was the administrative headquarters of the Doukhobor communal organization, the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood (CCUB) until 1931. Following the demise of the CCUB in 1937-1939, the building sat empty for decades until 1980, when it was restored as the National Doukhobor Heritage Village.  It was declared a Provincial Heritage Site in 1982.  In 2006, it was designated a National Historic Site. Serving for many years as the social, cultural and spiritual centre of Doukhobor life in Saskatchewan, the Prayer Home remains highly significant as a major architectural landmark and for its ongoing role as a prayer home and museum of Doukhobor history.
 

 

The Edifice & Us episode “Home of the Spirit Wrestlers” tells the unique story of the Doukhobor Prayer Home. The building acts as a lens to view the poignant human stories that are its life and times. The documentary uses this lens to bring the past alive and view the present life of the building in an entertaining and educational way. It gives viewers access to its unique construction and style, one of the few surviving examples of its builders’ art. It also offers viewers insight into the special role the building has played in the Doukhobor community.

Shot on location during the Heritage Day celebrations at the National Doukhobor Heritage Village in July 2007, “Home of the Spirit Wrestlers” explores the architecture, art and structure that define the Prayer Home’s physical space and its interaction with and impact on the natural environment. The episode tells the human stories of the building’s creators, those who use it and the people who experienced its past, are living its present and are influencing its future. In doing so, it features interview footage with a number of prominent local Doukhobors, including Laura Veregin of Benito, Alex and Mary Sherstabitoff of Veregin, Fred Strukoff of Kamsack, Keith and Sonia Tarasoff of Canora and Philip Perepelkin of Veregin, along with many others.

“By telling the compelling story of the Prayer Home and creating captivating portraits of the Doukhobor settlers who built it and the people who preserve it, “Home of the Spirit Wrestlers” will be of interest to a wide-ranging audience,” said Keith Tarasoff, chairman of the National Heritage Doukhobor Village. “The episode is an entertaining way to help viewers better understand our culture and preserve its history.”
 


“Home of the Spirit Wrestlers” also features extensive interview footage with Doukhobor writer and historian Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, who discusses the historic, spiritual and cultural significance of the ninety-one year old Doukhobor building. “The Prayer Home in many ways is a monument to the values of the Doukhobor people that built it,” said Kalmakoff. “It provides an enduring image that we use to visualize and remember the past. It shelters the stories of the builders and users of this heritage building.”

Edifice & Us is produced by Wolf Sun Productions and directed by Regina-based filmmaker, Steve Wolfson in partnership with Penny Ward and Richard Diener. The series explores Saskatchewan's cultural heritage through its architecture, going beyond the bricks and mortar of the buildings to delve into the human stories too.

“Our buildings are shaped by who we are, how we live and creative vision," said episode director Richard Diener.  "In turn, the structures we create contribute to enhancing our lives and evolving our communities. Our buildings are part art, part science and part the product of necessity. They express our lives and culture.”

For information or inquiries about the Edifice & Us television series or to obtain a DVD copy of the Doukhobor episode “Home of the Spirit Wrestlers”, visit the Edifice & Us website at: http://www.wolfsun.ca/index.html.

New (and past) episodes of Edifice & Us air regularly on the Saskatchewan Communication Network (SCN). For program schedule and information, visit the SCN website at: http://www.scn.ca/.