During the First World War over a thousand Russian-born servicemen enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF). They were the largest national group in the AIF after British, New Zealand and Canadian born servicemen. Besides ethnic Russians, these Anzacs included members of a score of different ethnic groups born within the borders of the Russian Empire. Their story is told in my book:
Elena Govor, Russian Anzacs in Australian History, Sydney, UNSW Press in association with NAA, 2005, 310 p., 44 ills
This site provides additional information about each of the Russian Anzacs, as well as statistical and other data. There is a page for each of these servicemen, containing biographical and service details, as well as links to further materials such as archival documents, newspaper articles, photographs, and quotes from books. In many cases these sources have been digitised and are available to view online.
This site was updated in 2014, and from early 2015 all old versions of the site will redirect to this main page. We apologise for any broken links, and advise to update old links to the new address (http://russiananzacs.net).
New! A map which shows the locations associated with the lives of the Russian Anzacs.
Centenary of the First World War
To mark the Centenary of the First World War, this site will, in a weekly blog post, celebrate the Russian Anzacs who enlisted in the AIF that week. Their pages on this new site will be updated with the latest available sources and materials.
August 27, 2016
- Edward Holmberg from Abo in Finland came to Western Australia in 1907 and was farming in Bolgart.
- He served with the 16th Battalion on the Western Front. In August 1917 he was wounded in the leg, but recovered and continued serving. In April 1918 he received a self-inflicted wound due to negligence; three months later he was accused ‘inciting a comrade to desert with him’, but remained with his battalion and was wounded in the face in August 1918, during the Amiens advance.
- Returning to Australia, he married an Australian girl, Lenore Fallon, and farmed in Kulin.
- Frank Winter, a Finish sailor from Helsingfors, enlisted in the Army in Claremont, Tasmania.
- A month later he died in Hobart Hospital from pneumonia.
- His mother in Helsingfors was found after his death and paid a pension.
- Alex Alexandroff from Vladivostok came to Australia in 1914 and worked in Sydney as a cook.
- He served with the 4th Battalion on the Western Front. Being discharged in London in August 1919, he enlisted in the Middlesex regiment as an interpreter and served in the Russian Relief Force as a sergeant.
- When returning to Australia in 1920 he was suspected by the Australian authorities to have ‘Bolshevik sentiments’, but soon they lost trace of him. He settled in Sydney working as a chef. In 1943 he married an Australian woman, Doris Fairy Cook. When he was naturalising in 1940 police considered the evidence that he did ‘not mix with people of Russian nationality’.
- Nicholas Kocaj, a Polish man from Tomaszow, arrived in Australia in 1910 and worked as a cook in Coffs Harbour.
- He served with the 3rd Pioneer Battalion on the Western Front.
- After the war he married an English girl, Gladys Winnifred Wilshere, returning with his wife to Australia in 1920. They settled near Sydney where they had a poultry farm. In 1925 Nicholas died and his widow with four young children returned to England.
August 22, 2016
- Stanley Elsky, a Polish man from Warsaw, came to Brisbane in 1911 from Vladivostok, where his mother was staying. Although recorded in the shipping records as a student, he worked as a labourer on the farm.
- He served with the 3rd Machine Gun Battalion on the Western Front. In July 1918 he was wounded in the leg, but returned to his unit in November 1918.
- In May 1919 he was discharged in London and stayed there, naturalising in 1959.
- Waseli Pimonoff was born in a village near St Petersburg. He came to Brisbane in 1915 as a seaman on a sailing ship from London and worked as a railway labourer.
- He enlisted in the AIF in Rockhampton, but was discharged two months later as medically unfit.
- After the war he made several attempts to return to Russia to reunite with his wife and parents, but finally stayed in Australia, working as a labourer and waterside worker in Queensland, Melbourne and Sydney.
- Alick Popoff from Penza came to Australia in 1915 as a sailor.
- Enlisting in the AIF in Sydney, he served with the 21st Battalion on the Western Front.
- After the war he continued his occupation as a merchant seaman, working on British ships.
Carl John Sandberg
- Carl John Sandberg from Borgo in Finland came to Melbourne in 1907 and worked as a miner and labourer in Victoria.
- He served with the 58th Battalion on the Western Front. In September 1917 he was wounded in the head and shoulder in the battle for Polygon Wood near Ypres and died of his wounds two days later.
- Samuel Waxman, a Jewish man from Warsaw, came to Melbourne in 1912 and worked as a salesman and draper.
- He served with the 24th Battalion on the Western Front. In March 1918 he was gassed at Ploegsteert, but recovered and continued his service.
- After the war he married Leah Peskin and had a family, working as a cloth merchant in Melbourne and Adelaide.
August 18, 2016
- George Lihpin from Riga came to Australia in 1911 as a seaman, deserting his ship in Geelong.
- Enlisting in the AIF in Adelaide as George Haak, he was discharged six months later as medically unfit. He made one more attempt to enlist in the AIF in 1917 and disappears from the records after that.
John August Pankoff
- John August Pankoff from Libava (Liepaja) in Latvia left Russia in his youth as a sailor travelling all over the world. He came to Australia on a sailing ship in 1913 and continued working in Australian waters.
- With the 8th and 5th Machine Gun companies he served on the Western Front where he was affected by gas poisoning.
- After his discharge from the Army he worked on the ships on the north-east coast of the USA, returning to Australia in 1925. He married an Australian girl, Jane Christine Jorgenson, and lived with his family in Ipswich working as a millwright assistant. During WWII he served in the Volunteer Defence Corps.
- Peter Sterletsky, a Russian from Tobolsk in Siberia, came to Brisbane in 1912 and worked as a labourer on the construction of railways.
- He served with the 26th Battalion on the Western Front, being gassed in November 1917, at Passchendaele.
- After the war he married an Australian girl, Isabella Esther Stephens, and worked as a railway ganger.
- Leo Gordon, a Jewish man from Girtagola (Girkalnis) in Lithuania, came to Adelaide in South Australia in 1908 and worked in Broken Hill as a storekeeper and hotel useful. In 1911 he married a Jewish girl, Annie Griff, but she died in 1915.
- He served with the 18th Battalion on the Western Front, being severely wounded in the back and arm in May 1917, at Bullecourt. Recovering, he continued his service until he was wounded in the leg in October 1918 during the final attack on the Hindenburg Line.
- After the war he lived in Sydney, marrying Rebecca Symonds. In the 1930s they moved to Broken Hill, where Leo worked as a salesman.
- John Rohdy was born in Russia, but did not provide the place of his birth. He studied in a school in America, coming to Australia in 1906, and lived in Newcastle and Brisbane, working as a wharf labourer. He married an Australian girl, Cecelia Cox, and had a daughter.
- Enlisting in the AIF in Sydney as an American citizen, he served with the 1st Battalion on the Western Front. In May 1917 he was wounded in the right arm at Bullecourt and returned to Australia.
- After the war he lived with his family in Brisbane working as a labourer, later moving to Sydney and then to Narrabeen, where he worked as a watchman.
August 13, 2016
- Solomon Rosenberg, a Jewish man from Warsaw, came to Australia in 1908, after serving in the Russian army. He arrived in Sydney from Japan and worked as a tailor.
- He enlisted in the AIF in Melbourne, but was discharged a few weeks later as his English was very limited.
- In 1925 he left for France and his Australian naturalisation was revoked in 1934.
- Peter Robinsky from Riga travelled all over the world before landing in Newcastle in 1913. He lived in Sydney working as a gardener.
- The first time he enlisted in Liverpool was as Peter Robaky in July 1915, but he was discharged as an absentee. He moved to Melbourne and enlisted there a year later and served with the 60th Battalion on the Western Front.
- After the war he lived in Melbourne and Sydney, working as a liftman, janitor, and carpenter. He was married to an Australian woman, Lottie Watson.
- Frank Jeschek, a Polish man from Warsaw, came to Australia as a seaman in 1908.
- Enlisting in the AIF in Tasmania, he sailed to the Western Front with the 12th Battalion, but upon arrival to England he fell ill with TB and was sent back to Tasmania.
- After his discharge he returned to seafaring but his condition deteriorated and he died in August 1919 in Tasmania.
- Oscar Yurak from Salismunde in Latvia worked in Australia as a labourer.
- Enlisting in the AIF in Sydney, he arrived with the 39th Battalion to the Western Front and requested a transfer to the Russian Army. In 1917 he was returned to Australia and discharged.
- After the war he planned to sail to New York.
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