New book released April 2017
Falling Stars: The story of Anzacs from Ukraine is a collective biography of the men and women who came from the territory of present-day Ukraine to Australia at the beginning of the twentieth century, fought in the Australian Army in the First World War, and made their post-war lives in this strange and distant country. Through interviews, material history, and archival research, it brings their stories back to life.
Elena Govor, Falling Stars: The story of Anzacs from Ukraine, Canberra, Alcheringa Press, 2017, 239 p., ills
Watch this space for more news about the new book!
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.
October 17, 2017
John Joseph Kensman
- John Joseph Kensman, a seaman from Libava (Liepaja) in Latvia, was living in the Sailors’ Home in Port Adelaide by the time of his enlistment in the AIF.
- Enlisting in the AIF in Adelaide in October 1917, he was discharged two months later as medically unfit.
- In 1918 he returned to the USA and attempted to enlist in the US Army; by that time he was working as a riveter in the Submarine Boat Corps.
- Wilhelm Lottanen, a Finnish seaman from Vyborg, came to Australia in 1915 and by the time of his enlistment was in Sydney, working as a labourer.
- Enlisting in the AIF in Sydney, he served with the 3rd Battalion on the Western Front, where he was gassed in August 1918.
- After the war he married an Australian girl, Catherine McGirvan, and settled in Newcastle, where he worked as a labourer.
- Anton Rytko, a Finnish seaman from Sakkijarvi, came to Sydney in June 1916 and worked as a labourer.
- Enlisting in the AIF in Sydney, he served with the 4th Pioneer Battalion on the Western Front.
- After the war he lived in Sydney, working as a labourer.
Oscar Emmanuel Farm
- Oscar Emmanuel Farm, a Finnish seaman from Helsingfors, came to Australia in 1905 and lived in Sydney.
- Enlisting in the AIF together with Rytko, he served with the 4th Pioneer Battalion on the Western Front.
- After the war he lived in Sydney and died early.
October 8, 2017
- Frederik Smitt, an Estonian seaman from Piarnu, came to Australia in December 1916, deserting from his ship.
- He enlisted in the AIF together with Rytko and Farm and served with the 4th Pioneer Battalion on the Western Front.
- After the war he lived in different cities in Australia and continued working as a seaman.
- John Alto, a Finnish seaman from Varkaus, came to South Australia in 1909. He worked as a seaman and labourer in the port cities of the state, but later moved to New South Wales.
- Enlisting in the AIF in Sydney in September 1917, he was discharged a few days later as medically unfit.
- After the war he married an Australian girl, Martha Margaret Williams, and lived with his family in the Newcastle area, working as a fitter.
- Alexander Jurgens, an Estonian seaman from Piarnu, came to San Francisco in 1915 and then sailed to Sydney where he worked as a labourer.
- He enlisted in the AIF in Sydney the same day with Alto and was similarly discharged a few days later.
- In January 1918 he was already in San Francisco where, being unemployed, he tried to enlist in the American Army.
- He stayed in the city, serving on the ships, and naturalised in 1925.
October 3, 2017
- Stanley Zygas, a Lithuanian sailor from Survilishkis, came to South Australia in 1909 and worked as an agricultural labourer and handyman.
- Enlisting in the AIF in Adelaide, he served with the 32nd and 50th battalions on the Western Front.
- After the war, in July 1919, he married Kathleen Green in London and returned to Australia with his wife. They lived in the Adelaide suburbs, where Stanley worked as a mechanic.
- Mik Atoff, an Ossetian from Khristianovskoe (Digora), was working as a miner in Queensland and New South Wales.
- Enlisting in the AIF in West Maitland, he served with the 1st Battalion on the Western Front. He was recommended for an award for the battles of August 1918, setting ‘a fine standard of devotion to duty and soldierly bearing in action’. He never got the medal as in September he joined his mates in protest, as they were sent to battle instead of being relieved. He was court martialled, but the sentence was suspended after the war.
- After the war her was returned to Australia, but later left for Russia.
- Daniel Baeff, another Ossetian, would later tell Australians that he served in a Cossack regiment in Russia. He came to Sydney in 1913 and was working as a colliery wheeler with Mik Atoff in Kurri Kurri. He also was known as a trainer and jockey.
- He enlisted together with Atoff in the AIF, but was discharged a few days later as medically unfit.
- Although he had left his wife behind in Russia, after the war he stayed in Australia, working in Queensland and New South Wales.
- Vallance Johansen, a Finnish seaman from Tenala (Turku), came to Newcastle in 1911.
- He enlisted in the AIF in Broken Hill, but was discharged a month later as medically unfit, as his foot had been crushed in an earlier accident.
- After the war he lived in Adelaide working as a labourer. He married an Australian girl, Dorothy Langley, and died early, leaving three young children.
September 28, 2017
- John Costin, a Russian seaman from Riga, came to Australia in 1914 and was working as a labourer in country NSW.
- Enlisting in the AIF in Grafton, he served with the 53rd Battalion on the Western Front. Soon after his arrival to the front, in April 1918, he was gassed. Recovering in England, he returned to the front in August 1918 and was killed two weeks later in the attack on Peronne.
- His mother in Riga was never found. When enlisting in the army he made his will out to the Red Cross in Sydney.
- Lionel Rappeport, a Jewish man from Nikopol in Ukraine, came to Western Australia in 1902 with his parents; he was trained as a tailor, but settling in Australia, he worked as a boot salesman and later as a keeper of a wine and soft drink saloon and as a fruiterer.
- He enlisted in the AIF in Perth but was discharged four months later as medically unfit.
- After the war he continued working in Perth as a fruiterer and greengrocer. He was married to a woman named Miriam and they had four children.
- Walerian Lindquist, a Finnish seaman from Tavastehus (Hämeenlinna), worked in the USA, came to Australia in January 1916, and lived in Newcastle working as a rigger, sailor and labourer. In February 1917 he asked for money for a drink posing as a returned soldier, and was sentenced to six months hard labour.
- Upon release from prison he enlisted in the AIF in September 1917 in Newcastle, but was discharged a week later as medically unfit.
- After the war he returned to the USA.
- William Malberg, an Estonian from Revel (Tallinn), by 1917 was working as a labourer in Salter Springs in South Australia.
- Enlisting in the AIF in Adelaide, he served with the 48th Battalion on the Western Front. In September 1918, at the advance south of Peronne, he was wounded in the arm. Recovering, he received some training in the workshops in England and returned to Australia.
- After the war his trail disappears.
- Gustav Nyman from Finland was working in Merredin, Western Australia, as a farm hand by the time of his enlistment in the AIF.
- Enlisting in Merredin, he served with the 16th Battalion on the Western Front. In August 1918, at the Amiens advance, he was wounded in the arm and returned to Australia.
- After the war he lived in the mining areas of Western Australia, working as a labourer.
Read more on the blog