Today’s subject we briefly touch on a little known chapter in the province’s history, the life of Anastasia Holoboff (or Holuboff, sometimes Holobova, less common Golubova), aka Anastasia Lords. She was the one time spiritual leader of an little known Alberta based Doukhobor group and is interned near the former village that once bore her name. The location here is an off-the-beaten path back road on the vast plains southeast of Calgary, a remote, peaceful place to spend eternity.
The Doukhobors are a Christian based religious group that originated in the 1800s (if not a bit earlier) in Southern Russia. That region today encompasses parts of Georgia, Azerbaijan and Ukraine. Fleeing persecution in their home country, large groups of them settled (mostly) in present day Northern Saskatchewan and a bit later South-Central British Columbia (a couple small settlements were also founded in Southwest Alberta.). They lived a communal lifestyle, at least in the beginning, but later abandoned that practice.
Leading the British Columbia group was the charismatic and often times controversial Peter “Lordly” Verigin. Arriving in Canada in late 1902, he was assassinated in the 1924. The railway car he was riding in, near Farron BC, was torn apart by an explosion. His murder is still unsolved to this day.
Peter’s long time common-law partner was Anastasia (born 1885 and who accompanied him to Canada in in the early 1900s), and with his untimely passing, was believed to be the natural successor to his leadership. Instead, one of Peter’s sons was brought over from Russia. Unhappy with that direction, soon after Anastasia and a breakaway group of followers left the region, settling in in a remote corner of Alberta, near the present day community of Arrowwood. The town took the name Anastasia Village, after their new leader, and was established in 1926.
Officially the group was known as the “Lordly Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood”. Some records, for reasons unknown, omit the “Lordly” reference.
The town and its people, some one hundred and sixty souls, for a time thrived. Homes were built, as was a school, and a communal farm established. The future held promise. Within a few short years however, it began to unravel. Poor crops, the effects of the great depression, all took their toll. An exodus began with more families leaving with each passing year.
By World War Two the colony was essentially abandoned. Anastasia Lords retained her leadership until the end and in fact continued to live at Anastasia Village, along with a long time companion, her cousin, for many years afterwards. She died in 1965. I understand she never had children.
The cemetery at which she is buried had its first interment in 1928 and is located just north of the former village colony and not far from the old railway line. It’s still maintained and used to this day by descendants of the Anastasia Doukhobor Community. The name Verigin shows up in on numerous grave markers. Many relatives of Peter “Lordly” Verigin, some brothers included, once lived at Anastasia Village. A long time companion of Anastasia, her cousin, was also a Verigin.
Anastasia, before she became “Lords” (with the move to Alberta) had many variants of her last name. It seems no one could decide on the correct form, but Holoboff appears the most common. While with Peter she’s sometimes refereed to as Anastasia “Lordly” Holoboff (or some variation of those other last name spellings), similar in form to his title. Does adding Lords or Lordly to one’s name maker them a better person religiously or is it presumptuous? I’m thinking a little bit of the latter.
Most of the writing on Anastasia’s grave maker is in traditional Russian Cyrillic. It reads, roughly translated: “Here is resting in peace Anastasia Lords, born on April 21, 1885 in Russia and passed away on November 24th 1965. She was true follower of Christianity”.
Outside a large communal barn, and he cemetery we visited, there is little left to remind us that Anastasia Village was ever here. Many of the old houses and other out buildings remained in place until recently but were for reasons unknown, were torn down a few years back. A sad loss. It’s like the place never existed.
Read about the village…
Doukhobors in Alberta – Anastasia Village.
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Date: October, 2015.
Location: Anastasia Village, AB.
Article references: Doukhobor.org, The Canadian Encyclopedia, Library and Archives Canada