Doukhobor Dugout House uses bread sales to fulfill late woman’s legacy

The money raised from the Doukhobor bread sales was used complete the unfinished project of Donna Choppe, who passed away in January. Doukhobor Dugout House / Facebook

The Doukhobor Dugout House couldn’t organize tours for its 18th season due to the coronavirus pandemic, but still found a way to bring vistors a slice of history.

The national historic site and provincial heritage property offers a glimpse into what life was like for 46 families who left Russia and lived in the Blaine Lake, Sask., area at the end of the 19th century.

Founder Brenda Cheveldayoff said they usually see more than 3,000 visitors annually. They have 14 volunteers who dress in period costumes and do reenactments.

“We were supposed to open this spring, obviously [be open] this summer, and we couldn’t because of large gathering [restrictions due to COVID-19] and that’s still in place because I have so many people that come,” she said.
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“But we managed to pull off letting the public come and purchase Doukhobor bread and they got to do a little bit of walking around.

“[The bread is made with] a 200-year-old recipe … and it’s baked in a clay oven.”

She said having visitors back on the grounds a few times didn’t feel close to a regular tourist season.

“When you’re doing tourism, people want … the history. It was completely different. I mean, we did dress up in our costumes and everything but, no, not even close because we’re used to seeing 300 people at once and so this was completely different,” Cheveldayoff said.

“They’re allowed to actually come in the yard, park, get out of their vehicles and walk around … they have to social distance.

“At least they can go down there and see where the Doukhobors lived in the sides of the hills and when they come back up, they can come into the museum and look at the artifacts that was found in the archeological digs. We just can’t do large groups so I’ll have to keep, in the museum … monitoring the amount of people that come in and out of there.”

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The last bread sale before winter is scheduled to place on Saturday, Oct. 17 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Funds raised from the baking went toward fulfilling the legacy of a late volunteer and board member who passed away before the Doukhobor prayer home’s leaking roof could be repaired.

“Donna Choppe (Perehudoff) was a descendant of the Doukhobor people. She was a board member for 18 years at the Doukhobor Dugout House. This was her project. She actually was a character inside that prayer home during tourism to teach people about the Doukhobor faith … the work that she put into that place, it’s like a live museum. I mean, it’s just amazing,” Cheveldayoff said.

“(Choppe) was organizing fundraising to be able to have the project done but she passed away in January so, obviously, the project stopped … the bill for that roof was close to $7,000.

“The roof was done so it’s all Saskatchewan people, if it wasn’t for the people of the province, this wouldn’t happen.”

The money raised from the Doukhobor bread sales was used complete the unfinished project of Donna Choppe, who passed away in January. Doukhobor Dugout House / Supplied

Cheveldayoff said she’s already strategizing for an uncertain 2021 season at the Doukhobor Dugout House.

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“For the cave site … It’s been a struggle. It’s been a complete nightmare and I’m hoping, like I’ve been dealing with Tourism Saskatchewan quite a bit … Obviously, [the virus] isn’t going to go away for a while … I don’t know how things are going to work out,” she said.

“In order for things to go back to normal, in order for us to continue, we’re going to have to come up with some other strategy… how to handle the people.

“People drive all the way out there. They come from everywhere, Regina, Prince Albert … We have to figure out how we’re going to be able to manage groups to be able to walk around the grounds because of the large gathering [restrictions].”
Click to play video: 'Impact of COVID-19 on Saskatchewan’s tourism'
Impact of COVID-19 on Saskatchewan’s tourism

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

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Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.

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