Ladle Power Diplomat: Peter T. Oglow (1913-2004)
Can gifts of wooden spoons bring understanding and peace? As a crusader for world peace, whose Russian parents burnt their guns in 1895, Doukhobor wood carver Peter T. Oglow (1913-2004) of the interior of British Columbia made this happen.
His most famous symbolic offer was to 12 world religious leaders who in 1986 attended the Summit for Peace in Assisi in honour of their rocky road to peace. He carved 12 ladles (with 12 peace doves circling its rim and globe in its centre), one each to the leaders, plus one for Mother Teresa for her contribution to world peace, and sent them off by diplomatic pouches and personal couriers. The Pope replied, as did Emilio Castro of the World Council of Churches, the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Metropolitan Filaret of Russia. Peter and the community were delighted!
At the First Global Conference on Tourism in Vancouver, without formalities, Peter walked up on stage with a brown bag of ordinary ladles and politely asked to say a few words. He then proceeded to invite select guests to come up and receive their gifts. This was a spectacle to behold as a peasant-looking Doukhobor with Russian roots made a friendly gesture that few would ever dare to, let alone by publicly cutting through formalities.
He carved hundreds of ladles from the size of small necktie holders to six foot long ones, some of which he donated in 1984 to departing Katimavik students who had completed a museum work project in Castlegar, BC.
In practicing his philosophy of cutting across boundaries, Peter was a member of several diverse Doukhobor societies. At the close of the International Doukhobor Intergroup Symposium, 28th June 1982, in Castlegar, BC, Peter, with the skill of a diplomat, diffused a potentially disruptive terrorist situation at an outdoor Peace Day gathering with hundreds watching.
When a zealot woman stripped naked, chairman Peter Oglow borrowed an idea from the nonviolent movement which at that very moment, a million strong, was in front of the United Nations urging world leaders to embrace the path of disarmament and peace. He brought a fresh red rose to the lady, looked straight into her eyes and said:
“Sister, look at the beauty of this flower. Enjoy its fragrance. I know that you came here to pass on some message and I think you have achieved your purpose. Others at this gathering would like to share their messages here, too. It would be good if you would dress and join us.”
She did and joined in the singing, all the while holding the red rose in front of her. Peter’s imaginative use of love and beauty averted a sensitive incident and made this annual Doukhobor Peace Day and picnic a most memorable event.
On other occasions, Peter Oglow gifted dignitaries, including royalty, the governor general, the premier, the director of the Canadian Museum of Civilization, and many others. This fine arts skill was instilled from his father Tom, a Russian-born Doukhobor, who excelled in the craft of spoon carving.
Peter’s central wish was for humanity: In loving life and nature, all of mankind should make an all-out effort to stop wars. This is the most urgent thing today, because if this will not succeed, then war will destroy humankind.
By Koozma J. Tarasoff, anthropologist, ethnographer, historian, writer and peace activist. ().