Champion Creek, revisited
Forty-third in a series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names
An earlier installment in this series stated the Doukhobor settlement at Champion Creek, aka Blagodatnoye, was abandoned by the 1960s. Not so, according to Castlegar’s Walter Volovsek, who knew the last settlers.
William and Matrusha Postnikoff and their sons John and Bill lived there into the early 1970s although their three daughters had by then married and moved to Castlegar.
Matrusha grew up in Grand Forks before moving to the isolated village, where Volovsek notes she literally had to learn all the old ways of eking out an existence.
“I am told she managed very well and ran exemplary household even when things started to fall apart,” he says. “The buildings grew derelict, the water system failed.” (Water had to be hauled up from either the Columbia River or Champion Creek.)
Nevertheless, the remaining family was happy to continue living at Blagodatnoye until they were forced out by community managers. “The buildings were burned after their departure. I think the argument for the forced move was a desire to reduce the taxes by getting rid of improvements,” Volovsek says.
Daughter Dolly Makaroff recalls four men arriving with a can of gasoline to burn the residence after the family had been notified to move out, but her father chased them away, saying he hadn’t moved his personal possessions yet.
“That was the impetus for my involvement,” Volovsek says. “John Makaroff asked me to help with my truck, which I did ... I moved all their belongings to a small house on Crescent Street around 1974. Prior to that I photographed them as they were holding on to their more primitive lifestyle. I am pretty sure there never was power in the settlement and Dolly confirms that most emphatically.”
Some of Volovsek’s remarkable photographs are seen above.
Previous installments in this series