CAROLYN AND FRED CASE stand at the front door of the Southard House museum in Richmond, where they have been celebrating the town’s Russian heritage with multiple exhibits this year.

CAROLYN AND FRED CASE stand at the front door of the Southard House museum in Richmond, where they have been celebrating the town’s Russian heritage with multiple exhibits this year.

RICHMOND

The town of Richmond was once a hot spot for Russian immigrants fleeing Czarist communism and civil unrest in the mid-20th century. Many of these families still reside there today.

To honor the immigrants who are still settled in Richmond as well as those who have moved on, the Southard House museum has been hosting a series of events and galleries over the past year. Museum curator Carolyn Case and her husband, Fred, are excited to bring attention to this oft-overlooked group of immigrants and how they have impacted Maine over the years.

UKRAINIAN EASTER EGGS, created by Kate Cutko, who instructs an egg-making club at the Southard House museum.

UKRAINIAN EASTER EGGS, created by Kate Cutko, who instructs an egg-making club at the Southard House museum.

“What this is is a salute to the Russian community of Maine,” said Case, who along with her husband purchased the Southard House in 1989 and rebuilt it into a museum. The museum has had many functions and rotating galleries over the years, but devoting a large block of time to Richmond’s Russian heritage seemed a natural fit, both Cases agreed.

Starting in the early 1950s, immigrants from Slavic countries of the former Soviet Union, such as East and West Ukraine — and other Eastern European countries including Czechoslovakia, Poland and Estonia — began immigrating into America. The first wave was a result of refugees fleeing the czar in the 1920s. Most of the refugees lived in exile in Europe for the next 20 years, eventually immigrating to South America before finally being admitted into the United States.

“A former Russian soldier ended up buying property in Pittston, and when he found out more former soldiers were coming to the U.S. he contacted them and helped them secure property in nearby Richmond,” said Case. “He bought a farm and allowed many of them to live there.”

The soldier, named Baron Vladimir Von Poushantol, also bought one of the original mansions in town, the Southard House, which was built by and named after the famous shipbuilder from Richmond, T.J. Southard, in the mid-19th century. Southard built a second house across the road for his son, which is the same house where the Southard House museum is located today.

“This group of former soldiers came together and dedicated two rooms of (the original Southard House) to build a church,” Case said, who noted that church is at the heart of the Russian culture.

“Once they had established the church, that drew a lot of other settlers to Richmond.”

Another round of immigrants arrived in the ’60s and ’70s, people who were displaced by World War II and the Cold War. Case said that after that group settled into Richmond, there was a total of “around 300-400” Russian immigrants living in town. She also noted that even though the community referred to the immigrants as “Russians,” many were Eastern Europeans, as well. Some lived in the original Southard House, while others rented the newer Southard House.

A lot of the original Russian family roots still exist in the community today, while some have moved on.

“It’s a typical story,” said Case. “A lot of the kids get educated and spread out, and a lot of the first and second wave elders have passed on. But the kids married into populations that are still here.”

The majority of the remaining Russian population worship their heritage at the Russian Orthodox Church on Church Street.

Some of the exhibits that will be on display include a photo gallery of Russian immigrants paired with excerpts written by Russian community member Galina Panko, and a Russian quilt display by Janet Clement.

“These are new quilts, impressionistic representations of Russian orthodox traditions, sacraments and saints’ birthdays,” said Case.

The quilts will be hung on the walls, and according to Fred Case, Clement has “done a great job with the colors.” The display will begin on Oct. 2.

Clement will host a gallery talk at the Southard House this Sunday, Sept. 25, where guests are free to mingle, enjoy refreshments and ask questions about Clement’s craft as well as Russian tradition.

“This display is more than just history,” said Carolyn Case. “It’s really about bringing Richmond’s community together.”

The Southard House is run by volunteers, and is open the first Sunday of October and November from 1-4 p.m. Appointments can be made ahead of time, as well. Furthermore, there are open houses on Veterans Day and Christmas. For more information, visit southardhousemuseum.com.

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