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The Tragic End of Peter, the Lordly.

[ Large gathering in front of Peter Verigin's community home in Verigin, Saskatchewan, built after arson of Otradno home, 1918, Unknown, Koozma Tarasoff personal collection 660 ]

On Wednesday the 29th of October, 1924, we were awaiting the arrival of Peter Vasilievich the Lordly in Grand Forks from Brilliant. He was to arrive on the train which came into Grand Forks at 2 in the morning. Vasilii Vasilievich Koochin and Aleksey Aleksyevich Popoff were waiting for the train at the station in West Grand Forks. The train got in late at 3:30 a.m. and the conductor informed our brothers that there had been an explosion in a train near the station of Farron and that Peter V. the Lordly and several others were dead.

Aleksey A. Popoff immediately notified the Orphan's Home of the tragic occurrence. Vladimir A. Rezansoff ran into my house at about 5:00 a.m. from the Orphan's Home and told me in tears: "Petushka is dead. Come as fast as you can to the Orphan's Home." [The Orphans Home was, in Canada, the name of the residence of the Doukhobor leader when he visited the various communities.]

Arriving at the Orphan's Home, I noticed that the Lordly's car was already all set to leave; Peter Vasilievich Koochin (the usual chauffeur of Peter Vasilievich Verigin) was at the wheel. I hurriedly got into the car and we drove to Vasya Koochin's where we learned more details about the explosion in the carriage and the spot where it took place. We found out that it would be impossible to go by car to Farron. We appealed to the section man, that is, to the railway workers, to take us there by speeder but they refused.

Then we drove with Peter Koochin by car to Cascade and appealed to the section boss or foreman of the railroad but he also refused to transport us, saying that he would probably have to take a commission (a doctor, police and others) there. The foreman advised us to go by car to Paulson although the road, he said, was bad.

We followed his advice and started up the hill toward Paulson. We finally arrived there with great difficulty at about 9:30 in the morning. From Paulson to the spot where the explosion took place was about 4 miles so we covered this distance on foot, following the railway tracks and running almost all the way. As we came near to the place of the explosion, we saw a group of railway workers standing near a fire as it was cold and the earth was covered with snow. When they caught sight of us, two of them hurried to meet us. First was Vasilii Kooftinoff (the elder) and second, the foreman of the workers. Vasya Kooftinoff said: "I'm very glad that you've arrived. I was-afraid they'd take Petushka away and none of the Doukhobors would see him." The foreman, when he found out who we were, warned us in answer to our request to view the body of Verigin that we wouldn't be able to see him until after the commission had arrived and completed its investigation. "But," he said, "if you want to, you can have a look at the carriage which was blown up and burned — there's only the metal left."

Just at that moment a train arrived from Nelson (an engine, one sleeping car and a caboose). Mr. Miller, a chief official of the railroad in the Kootenay region (the superintendent) got off the train. He came over to us and began to ask questions about who we were. We explained. He started telling us that they had received news in Nelson about the explosion of the carriage and that it looked like the explosion came from one of the gasoline tanks (containers) which are located underneath the railway cars to provide lighting inside. "Therefore," he said, "you have the opportunity of looking over the remains of the carriage before the commission arrives. Not far from the remains of the carnage lay a burnt human corpse; it was impossible to identify it. The foreman told us that they thought that it was a woman—Verigin's servant. It was frightening and sad to look at this whole scene. As we were examining closely the remains of the carriage we saw that the gasoline tank had not blown up and that all the pipes from the tank were whole. Turning to us, the Superintendent said: "The two sides who are here — the railway company and you Doukhobors — have examined everything together and we can both see that the source of the explosion was not part of the carriage itself.

We began to look at the dead. Went up to the first body — he had been blown up into several pieces. He lay on the left side of the road. It was a foreigner (a Hindu). Proceeding further, we came to the place on the tracks where the explosion had actually occurred. Four ties were shattered completely between the rails and a hole some two feet deep was gouged out. The rails were spread apart. Here the members of the commission talked about the explosion and everyone agreed that the explosion was a relatively powerful one.

From here the foreman led the group to the right and down to the spot where another corpse was lying covered with a blanket, about 50 yards from the place of the explosion on the railway tracks. Along the way I slipped and to keep from falling down all the way, I supported myself on my hand. Under my hand I felt something soft. It turned out to be part of a human limb, a foot. As soon as I saw it, I knew immediately that it was part of Peter Vasilevich's leg since I had often happened to see him walking barefoot. I took it, having wrapped it in a towel, and began to cry from grief and sadness. When we went up to the body and drew back the blanket we saw Petushka. He was lying face down near a stream which came from the mountain. There were no stones on this spot and the grass was thick and soft like a carpet. [...]

Written on the 16th of October, 1954 by Simyon F. Makhortoff, West Grand Forks, B. C. Translated from the Russian by Maureen Sager.

Source: "The Tragic End of Peter, the Lordly," The Arrow, Issue 5, October 1973.

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