The people of the North that I met were warm, welcoming, and offered genuine hospitality.
The tour began at the Grande Prairie Museum on the 14th. Charles Taws, Ron Thoreson and Duff Crerar are dedicated to celebrating our history. The venue was a tastefully decorated meeting room, and the audience was very attentive. Everyone wanted a book at the conclusion of the meeting.
The next day I spoke at the Fairview Fine Arts Centre. Again, I was warmly greeted by Donna (I’m sorry Donna that I didn’t get your full name) who works with the centre. I posted family trees of the original Homeglen families I have researched, on the walls of the room. Then I began the meeting with a “pop quiz”. I asked the audience for each name I was about to mention to please stand up if they knew or were related to the family mentioned. I spoke of the families Nasedkin, Mihailoff, Kosheiff, Doumnoff, Pohoboff, Sidoroff, and Andreeff.
To my delight, the whole audience was standing. Shane Koyman, Cindy Labrecque, Gary McIntyre, Scott McIntyre, Henry Dechant, Ron Thoreson, more Sideroffs (first names missed – sorry says a good Canadian), and a Nasedkin were present.
Aside from the humble story of the Russian refugees’ trek to Canada, I emphasized the theme of freedom. Without their conviction for a better life, all of us in that room would not have the lives we lead today. Private sponsorship of refugees was also addressed. The Russian refugees were privately sponsored in 1924, to the amazement of many. I encouraged those present to consider a “pay it forward” gesture by donating to the Homeglen Legacy Fund. Its objective being the private financial sponsorship of a refugee family in coordination with Mosaic BC a federal government Sponsorship Agreement Holder. This organization helps transition refugees into their new home of Canada. The financial goal for the end of this year is $30,000. It is intended to provide for the family’s shelter, food, and clothing in their first year. Again, after the meeting there was a strong demand for the book.
On a side note, I was indeed fortunate to have my cousin Gary McIntyre meet me and escort me around the area after my lunch with my Aunt Fanny Schischikowsky. I also visited with my other Aunt Fi McIntyre, Gary’s mom. Gary next piloted us around old familiar haunts many listed in the book including the Koyman farm (Philip Andreeff’s original homestead), the Holy Trinity Cemetery, and a structure we speculated could have been Gregory’s Gage Orthodox church (It was in significant disrepair), Hines Creek Village, the Schischikowsky farm, the McIntyre farm, and the Boyd farm. For a city dweller like me, these vast landscapes of farmland covered in snow was stunningly beautiful. A special visit on this tour was coffee and cakes with Jean and Tom Sidoroff. They live in the original farmhouse built (and subsequently renovated) by Peter Sidoroff. Tom offered me three original photos taken in Russia of a very young Elena Evdokimov – my grandmother. I was absolutely thrilled with his generous offering.
I had hoped in an earlier time of making this journey to the North to connect with kin. Covid had prohibited my original plans.
Our journey of connecting with the past continues. A tip of the hat to my people of the North.
What a wonderful post! I am delighted that your presentation was so well received. I am especially delighted that you visited the whom in which I was raised by my dad Peter Sidoroff and my “second” mother Pearl; they raised nine children in this home. Then Tom & Jean raised their two boys in that same home. Thanks to Jean and Tom it is still a beautiful home, fully modernized, and they still live there surrounded by multiple acres of farmland still producing crops and a beautiful garden every year! Thank you Hines Creek and area for making your visitor so welcome!
I recall you and your sister when I was young. My parents lived across the road from your grandparents the Fred Sideroff farm. My parents were Andrew and Olga Charchuk. My older brothers knew more of the Sideroffs. I knew your cousins Vera and Jim ( Sam’s children). Please keep in contact.
What a great visit. So glad that you could share the story.