Author Tags: Doukhobors, Fiction

Vi Plotnikoff, who wrote Head Cook at Weddings & Funerals. And Other Stories of Doukhobor Life (Polestar, 1994), died on November 20, 2006. Featured in a documentary film about Doukhobor artists, associated with Selkirk College in Castlegar and known in the Kootenays for her performances at the Proctor Storytelling Festival of 'The Assassination of Lordly Peter Veregin,' Plotnikoff also contributed to Weaving a Country: Stories From Canadian Immigrants (Pacific Educational Press 1-895766-17-6) edited by Wilma Maki.


Head Cook at Weddings & Funerals. And Other Stories of Doukhobor Life (Polestar, 1994)

[BCBW 2006] "Doukhobors" "Fiction"

Vi Plotnikoff (1937-2006)

Vi Plotnikoff, whose book Head Cook at Weddings and Funerals And Other Stories of Doukhobor Life has been praised as one of the finest sets of short stories to come out of Canada in the last fifteen years, died early Monday morning in Trail. She was diagnosed with a brain tumour in October.

She was born Dec. 30, 1937 in Verigin, Saskatchewan to Ignace and Annie Makaeff. The family eventually moved to Grand Forks where she grew up. She married her husband, Serge, a singer/songwriter, and they moved to Castlegar where they raised their sons, Ron and Larry. Plotnikoff was the first woman to publish fiction from within the Doukhobor culture. Head Cook (Polestar, 1994) went into three printings, and Plotnikoff received invitations to speak at international scholarly meetings and literary events. Her work is included in course curriculae across Canada and the U.S, and her short stories appear in anthologies such as West by Northwest and Weaving a Country: Stories From Canadian Immigrants.

Author Caroline Woodward calls Plotnikoff’s work “the cultural equivalent of Alice Munro's Lives of Girls & Women, with the same wise, clear-eyed, and essentially subversive observations.” Dr. Myler Wilkinson, Chair of Russian and North American Studies at Selkirk College, said Plotnikoff managed a difficult trick: to stand deeply embedded in Doukhobor culture, while creating a work of beautiful imaginative literature. “She sets the standard. She went beyond historical documentation or personal memoir,” he said, “Vi was deeply involved in her culture, but imaginatively free. She was the first.”

Plotnikoff was one of the featured artists in the 1998 documentary, Soul Communion, which examined how five contemporary writers and artists were finding ways to portray the Doukhobor diaspora. She also wrote the section on Doukhobors in Castlegar—A Confluence, published by the city of Castlegar in 2000. “Vi had the wonderful literary ability to portray the lives of Doukhobor women in a humble and candid way,” said Natalie Voykin, author of A Gift of Peace. “She inspired Doukhobor women to take courage and begin writing.”

Vi Plotnikoff participated fully in the Doukhobor community, several Kootenay writing groups, housing for seniors, the Watchan Lake retreat, and taught writing to young and old alike. Her skills also extended to scriptwriting and acting: The Mysterious Death of a Doukhobor Leader, about the train explosion that killed Doukhobor leader Peter Lordly Verigin in 1924, was a powerful and popular performance at Kootenay storytelling festivals and was released as a CD.
Plotnikoff was close to completing a novel, Ghost Songs at the Brilliant Jam Factory.

Funeral service: 10:00 a.m., Friday, November 24, at the Brilliant Cultural Centre, followed by interment at the Kinnaird Cemetery.

-- by Rita Moir and Linda Crosfield