Mennonite Historical Society of Saskatchewan

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Peace Event - Burning of the Guns

Mae Popoff, a Doukhobor Elder, was our guest at our Peace event this year, singing, and telling their story of the Burning of the Guns in 1895 in Russia.

As we have been doing for a number of years now, we met in the Fellowship Hall at Bethany the afternoon of Remembrance Day to concentrate on our pacifist, Peace Perspective.

John Reddekopp, President of the Mennonite Historical Society of Saskatchewan, welcomed a small crowd of about 100. He also welcomed our special guest, Mae Popoff, an elder from the Doukabour Community in Saskatoon. (She has been a guest before). She would sing for us and also tell the story of the Burning of the Guns in 1895 in Russia.

John announced that a table with Used Books for sale was open to those who were interested. Furthermore, he called up Dick Braun, for a quick word about his trip to Brazil for the 100th Anniversary of the death of Aeltesta John Wall, who had led a large group of emigrants from here in this area, to South America in the 1920s. Dick showed us a plaque that had been presented to him there, and promised a more full report at another time.

After John had offered an Opening Prayer, he invited Mae Popoff to come to the microphone. The rest of the program progressed unannounced, as Mae and Lois Siemens (the Bethany Chaplain), took turns coming to the microphone. Mae to sing and tell her story in segments, and Lois, to read with an animated voice, some excellent Bible passages about peace.

Doukhobor Elder, Mae Popoff singing and telling the story of the Burning of the Guns

Mae began by singing, We will Assemble as One Human Family, which is sung at the beginning of every Doukhobor service. She sang first in Russian, and then in English.

Lois read Isaiah 9:2-7.

Jake Buhler came forward to read, We Remember All Who Died which included a list of the wars.

Mae Popoff began to the story of the Burning of the Guns, by explaining how the Doukhobor Faith Tradition began. Doukhobors believe that we must love all others as we are all made by God. They did not have churches in Russia, for they were scattered in many settlements, but they liked to meet out in the open and pray and sing directly to God above. When the edict came that all must join the army, they knew they could not kill others, so they refused. Her grandparents were on the first ship to Canada.

Lois Siemens, Bethany Chaplain, read Bible passages about Peace

Lois Simens read John 14:27-31. We were asked to sing verses 1 and 2 of #371 in the Hymnal; "Let There Be Light, Lord God."

Mae told how the word of the forced conscription came to their leader, Peter on St. Peter's Day, June 29, 1895. They resolved to bring all the guns they had been issued, and pile them up to burn. As they expected, the Kosacks were sent out to beat them up and take them to Siberia.

Leo Tolstoy the author, sold his books and gave the proceeds to the Doukhobors, to help as many of those left, to take ships to Canada. In 1899 the first of four ship loads arrived in Canada. Mae's grandfather was a peasant and could not sign his name, but he was one of them.

We sang verses 3 and 4 of #371, and then Lois read Isaiah 2:2-5.

Doukhobor Elder, Mae Popoff, continuing her story

Mae continued her story, telling about the life and singing of her people in Canada. At first, most of them settled around Verigin, SK., but then some went on to BC, and some became farmers around Blaine Lake in the Trinity area. (SK). Those who live in Saskatoon meet once a week - and all of us were invited to come visit them. They pray and sing facing each other as that way they can make sure they stay in tune with each other. Their oral tradition is to sing in five part harmony. She repeated the Lord's Prayer in Russian.

They performed at the Global Peace Fair in 1995 to celebrate 100 years since the Burning of the Guns in Russia, and their coming to Canada. June 29th is regularly celebrated.

Here, she and her siblings were all able to get an education. They all became teachers, and now two of her own children are also teachers, and one is a doctor. They still all believe that they must love God, and their neighbours, be honest, and not hurt their neighbours - or anyone at all.

A film was made about them which was shown in the Western Development Museum; 10,000 people came to see it! If anyone wants more information about the Doukhobors they are all welcome to come to their Prayer House at 525 Ave. I. South in Saskatoon.

Lois read the final passage, Isaiah 11:1-10, then Mae Popoff came back to the microphone to sing their parting song, "The Way is Far, May You Go Safely."

John Reddekopp dismissed us with the invitation to stay for coffee and sweets, and to visit with one another.

[last updated - Nov/25/2021]
Mennonite Historical Society of Saskatchewan

Room 900 - 110 La Ronge Road,
Saskatoon, SK, S7K 7H8
Archive Hours: Monday: 1:30 - 4:00 p.m. Wednesday: 1:30 - 4:00 p.m. & by appointment on Wed. evening.