Pioneer Writing Book on Heritage
by Connie Cone Sexton
The Arizona Republic, November 21, 1997
Northwest Valley Community Section, Page: 1
Sidebar to: RUSSIAN REVIVAL
Fae Papin-Veronin was digging through the library stacks, hunting for information on her family's religious affiliation. She's a Spiritual Christian (Prygun) Molokan, a descendent of Russian peasants who formed their own sects after refusing to join the Russian Orthodoxy in the 1600s.
As she researched, Veronin discovered a bulk of material written about the group's history and on the wave of about 2,500 people who immigrated to Los Angeles and San Francisco in the early 1900s.
But Veronin kept digging, searching for material that offered a personal connection — information on Spiritual Christians Molokans who wound up in Arizona — a journey her own family made. When she found only bits and pieces written down, she decided to write a book.
Her desire for getting something on the record comes from having lived the tale — in 1916, her grandparents and parents left San Francisco and moved to Arizona, a trip made with several other Spiritual Christian Molokan families.
Her father was Nick Papin; her mother, Martha, had the maiden name Conovoloff — one of four main Russian families that settled in the West Valley. The other well-known surnames were Popoff, Tolmachoff and Treguboff; also: Bogdanoff, Galitzen, Gozdiff, Kotoff, Kulikoff, Mendrin, Prohoroff, Shubin, Pivovaroff, Rudometkin, Slivkoff, Susoeff, Teckenoff, Uraine, Valov and others.
The families settled on 20- and 40-acre lots in west of Glendale to north of and near Tolleson in 4 Russian villages and became farmers.
''The landowners were very kind to them; they only charged them $100 for 20 acres,'' Veronin said.
She was born in 1921, her family's second daughter. A brother died as the family was moving from California. Three other girls and a boy came along later.
Veronin, who now lives in Desert Hot Springs, Calif., was in Glendale last week participating in Russian Heritage Day at Glendale Community College. She shared part of her research and talked about her family's struggles after moving to the Tolleson area.
She also met with members of the surviving Russian families, collecting stories, photos and other information that she can use.
Veronin is focusing on the families who settled in the Tolleson area and those who arrived five years before her family.
''Our group came from San Francisco, but in 1911, about 30 150 families from Los Angeles moved to Glendale, where a few they worked at a sugar beet factory,'' she said.
After the sugar beet crop factory failed, the families went into farming. By the time Veronin's family moved out, no land was available in Glendale, so they settled north of in Tolleson.
''It seemed like fertile land and a place where they could have a rural community, where they could carry on their traditions,'' Veronin said. ''When they first moved here, there were no trees. They simply pitched a tent and built two-room houses.''
Families were big — almost all had six children.
''Here was our family with five girls and only one boy,'' she recalled. ''But we were all expected to work on the farm. It was hard work. I remember pulling a horse and thinking, 'Is this something a girl should be doing?' But we didn't have any choice.''
Most of the Spiritual Christian Molokan families stayed until about 1930, Veronin said.
''Then almost everybody left because of the Depression,'' she said. ''And they just couldn't handle their crops failing. Out of about 200 150 families that had been here, there were only about 15 left.''
Her family stayed. And she would have, too, but she wanted to get married.
''A Spiritual Christian Molokan was only supposed to marry another Spiritual Christian Molokan,'' she said. ''It was very strict. Yes, we could have married a Russian boy here, but we grew up with them. They were like brothers.''
So when when she was about 21, she returned to Los Angeles, moving in with an aunt.
''I had to find a city slicker,'' she said, laughing.
Although she moved away, she kept in touch with her family and has remained fond of the Glendale and Tolleson areas.
''I just want to write this book so we all can keep our memories alive,'' she said.
Spiritual Christians in
Molokane, Pryguny and Dukh-i-zhizniki Around the World