Sointula, the musical, a sold out show

The move from Nanaimo to Sointula involved men desperate to leave underpaid and dangerous work in Lord Dunsmuir’s coal mines

From Finland to Australia to Nanaimo to Sointula, Matti Kurrika had pursued his ‘ideal community,’ where people would live together in socialist harmony far from the dictates of the Russian Czar.

Kurrika was of a spiritual and philosophical bent, not skilled in practicalities, so his string of ideal communes tended to end in debt and in-fighting.

The move from Nanaimo to Sointula in early 1902 involved men desperate to leave underpaid and dangerous work in Lord Dunsmuir’s coal mines. Kurrika’s desperate attempts at fundraising on the backs of those same men by taking some of their meager wages meant that their relationship was rocky before they even got to Sointula.

Once there, debts and disagreements again took their toll, and after a devastating fire in the communal hall in 1904 that killed 11 people,  Kurrika left the community for Vancouver to work for Finnish language newspapers in the region.

His good (and former) friend Austin Makela stayed behind in Sointula, while Kurrika continued his quest for a perfect socialist community.

Makela had a far steadier hand and the community stabilized and eventually thrived in a modest way.

They did not retain Kurrika’s strict socialist ideals and became more of a normal ‘materialist’ settlement in the fashion of the usual Canadian community.

During his time at Sointula, Kurrika developed his ideas about ‘free love,’ which were somewhere between the stringent ideas of the day and what the hippies would later refer to by the same name.

He wanted women to be fully equal to men and not tied to one father for their children.

At some point, his thinking turned around – perhaps due to the less than warm reception for his ideas – and he decided that his ideal would be better met by a community that was all men.

It was at this point in his personal journey that he heard of a shingle bolt cutting contract at Webster’s Corners and moved his group of single men there.

They formed an organization called Sammon Takojat (Forgers of the Place of Sampo). They arrived in Webster’s Corners on Jan. 1, 1905 in a group of 24 single men, none of whom owned anything individually.

Kurrika soon left on a lecture and fund-raising tour, partly to escape the inevitable conflicts that were arising in the new commune, where the men were quickly getting tired of communal poverty.

By July, Kurrika received a message that there were now women at the commune and that he need not return, ending his involvement with Webster’s Corners. Those involved at Webster’s Corners continued to have strong ties to Sointula through wives and families.

This month, Sointula’s remaining Finnish community is getting a special visit from the ‘old country.’  A group of youth participating in Finnish summer theatre wrote and produced a musical called Sointula, about Matti Kurrika’s life, the Sointula colony and the great Finnish socialist experiments of the early 1900s.

The term ‘culture shock’ was invented by a Finnish writer, born in Nanaimo and raised in Sointula,  investigating the hardships faced by these adventurous Finns.

The youth group from Masala is coming to Sointula next week to entertain at a conference called “Culture Shock: Utopian Dreams, Hard Realities”.

People from all over the world are coming to tiny Sointula to participate in the conference and see the play. In fact, the conference is entirely sold out.

 

Val Patenaude is director of the Maple Ridge Museum.

Just Posted

Class sizes dropped from among the worst in B.C.

Maple Ridge trustees review statistics

Pitt Meadows gets new art gallery

Arts community celebrates during official opening Saturday

VIDEO: emergency landing near Langley airport

Plane lost power during take-off

Heavy downpours expected in parts of Metro Vancouver

Heavy rain will begin to ease off Sunday evening as the frontal system moves south out of the area

Murray returns as Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows School Board chair

Will serve his last year in an “outstanding” time for the board

Maple Ridge remembers

Remembrance Day ceremony and parade in downtown Maple Ridge.

Giants ground Rockets in WHL action

Vancouver builds early lead, never looks back in 6-1 win at Langley Events Centre

Start on time: Canucks looking to shake first-period struggles

Canucks centre Bo Horvat said the formula for getting a leg up is there for everyone to see

COMMUTER ALERT: Snowfall warnings in effect across B.C.

Travelling this weekend? Check the forecasts before hitting the road

Drones take off to search for missing North Okanagan women

A volunteer search party was supported by professional drone operators

Tips for keeping your personal data safe, from the experts

It’s important to keep your ‘online footprint’ safe

Lights to turn blue ahead of funeral for fallen Abbotsford police officer

Buildings across B.C. are going blue Saturday night in honour of Const. John Davidson

Ride-share pioneer drives up quietly to B.C. battleground

Lyft approaches B.C. without Uber bombast, eyes small towns

Crash shuts down Highway 91 in Richmond for hours

The stretch of highway was closed for more than 6 hours due to a multi-vehicle accident

Most Read