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Doukhobor leader calls Ukraine invasion ‘tragic’

A local Doukhobor leader says he’s disturbed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, calling it a “conflict that cuts through families.”

“I, like people everywhere, am aghast at the tragedy that has befallen us, in particular those who have a Russian-Ukrainian background,” says J.J. Verigin, executive director of the Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ, the largest Doukhobor organization in Canada.

Verigin says many Doukhobors have both Russian and Ukrainian ancestry.

“It’s tragic. That’s the only word I can find to describe it. People’s lives are being lost. There are threats of things getting even worse. This is happening in the middle of Europe in the 21st century. It’s hard to believe.”

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Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and thanks to technology, he says ties between Doukhobors in Canada and Russia have grown stronger.

Verigin says he has visited Ukraine himself several times, as recently as two years ago, and is familiar with some of the spots where the fighting is taking place.

“Sometimes things seem far away, but this is happening where I used to spend time with friends from all those backgrounds, Russian, Ukrainian. There have been several Canadian Doukhobors in that area. I’m not alone.”

Verigin says while Russia and Ukraine are separate countries, they are closely tied.

“These people have grown up with each other. They’ve intermarried. This conflict cuts through families. It’s difficult for people to imagine how deep this goes.”

Verigin says he laments the things he is seeing and hearing.

“Whether it’s the Russians threatening nuclear attack or people handing out Kalashnikov rifles on street corners to anyone who wants to pick one up, where are we heading to? I hope we can get our heads on straight and our hearts in place before this really goes south.

“We Doukhobors, at least the people I represent, stand for peace. We are willing and prepared to contribute to peace-making efforts.

“I wish we could be doing more to bring peace to that part of the world than contributing arms.”

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