“Toil and Peaceful Life” is the axiom that lies at the heart of Doukhobor spiritual, personal, and community values. These values have always been, and continue to be, integral to the people who belong to this historically rich and vibrant community. However, as the history of the Doukhobor people demonstrates, putting this into practice was more difficult than envisioned and, paradoxically, has generated a great deal of conflict within the various spheres of the community itself — most certainly it has created conflicts with those from outside their self-contained community. It is at this juncture of conflict in the decades of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s that the name Doukhobor was to etch itself into the Canadian consciousness. Stenson sets his novel’s action against the backdrop of the Kootenay Region in and around Nelson, BC.
To say Svoboda is a “Doukhobor” novel is misleading, for it is much more than that. While Doukhobor culture plays a central role in creating conflict, from the first few pages right to the end, it is also a novel of coming of age, a novel of accepting fate, and a great entertaining story. The story of Vasili, who walks in the shadow of the past and in the light of the future, marks this novel as a distinctive cultural read in a territory where few writers have gone before.
Unit Lessons Plan for Svoboda
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