Although it was now nearly twenty-two months since Laetitia began coming to the Emerald Victorian, she never ceased to find surprises. As she sat scanning maps and guidebooks in a comfortable chair in the library, she saw a picture she hadn’t noticed before on the wall. It depicted a gray frame house. On the penultimate porch step stood a woman, wearing only a bonnet and high heels. On the step below was a cat in a classic sphinx pose. Flames and smoke emerged from the open door behind them.
The print was entitled Doukobor Home Cooking. The title is a pun derived from the occasional practice of this pacifist religious Doukobors to burn their belongings in protest. Intrigued, Laetitia returned to her guidebook and found that the National Doukhobor Heritage Village was located in Verigin, a few miles west of Kamsack. She and her group drove to the heritage village and spent the middle part of the day there viewing the prayer homes, grain elevators, brick ovens, bath houses, barns, and a blacksmith shop.
The Doukhobars were a Protestant Christian group formed in the late seventeenth century in Russia. The name translates loosely in Russian as “spirit wrestlers.” An archbishop used the term mockingly to imply the group was fighting against the Holy Spirit, but they adopted it, claiming they were actually fighting along with the Spirit. The Russian Orthodox Church persecuted them because they rejected its priests, rituals, and its view that it was the gatekeeper for access to God. The Tsars persecuted them because they rejected the state religion, refused to sign loyalty oaths they viewed as conflicting with their oaths to God, and refused military service. When the Russian government’s lack of success in enforcing conscription laws became an embarrassment, it allowed the Doukhobors to leave in 1897. Aided by Leo Tolstoy, the Quakers and others sympathetic, many Doukhobors moved to Canada. They were generally hard workers and excellent farmers who had simple lifestyles and dressed modestly, although their protests sometimes included mass nudity.
As her group gathered for the drive to Canora for their evening’s sojourn, Laetitia’s mind drifted back to the Emerald Victorian and Doukobor Home Cooking. Laetitia saw many pictures of Doukhobor women on display at the Heritage Village, but none wore high heels. She didn’t need a happy hour trip tonight. She already had a limerick.
Doukobor Home Cooking is one
Of those paintings whose title’s a pun
And the Doukobor lass
Sporting heels, showing class
Was a scene Freedman likely found fun.