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.
July 21, 2016
Alexander Barr Winning
- Alexander Barr Winning, a British subject, was born in Kharkov. His father, James Winning, conducted business in Ukraine with his brothers, drilling bores for geological surveys. He died three years after Alexander’s birth and his wife returned to England; in 1912 she emigrated with her children to Western Australia, where Alexander worked as a draughtsman.
- He served with the 11th Battalion on the Western Front and after the war remained in Glasgow for further education and professional training in the field of architecture.
- Returning to Perth, he was involved in designing many buildings there. In 1923 he married Dorothy Major and had three children. Their elder son Ian Stewart Winning served in the RAAF in WWII.
- Anthony Januski, a seaman from Kovno (Kaunas) in Lithuania, came to Australia in 1915.
- Enlisting in the AIF in Melbourne, he served with the 58th Battalion on the Western Front. In October 1917, in the battle for Passchendaele, he was reported missing in action, but later returned to his unit. In June 1918 he was wounded in the knee and evacuated to England. While in the training depot there he had numerous AWLs and was finally returned to Australia.
- After the war his life was not easy. In 1926 he was sent to Goulburn Jail for stealing. The next year his body, wrapped in a swag, was found in a paddock near Stratford in Victoria. In the pocket of his coat police found his discharge certificate and two medals.
Augusta Emelia Enberg
- Augusta Emelia Enberg, a woman born in Lovisa in Finland, came to Australia in 1913 with her brother Adolf and sister Ellen. Augusta was trained in the Surgical Hospital in Helsingfors (Helsinki) as a nurse and worked as a nurse in Australia.
- Enlisting in the AIF in Sydney, she accompanied troop ships to Egypt and England, but upon return to Australia in November 1917 she was discharged, being considered to be ‘of enemy nationality’.
- In 1924 Augusta left Sydney for Finland.
Evert Isidor Backman
- Evert Isidor Backman, a Finn from Kristinestad, came to Western Australia in 1898 and was working in the south-western areas of the state as a timber hewer and labourer.
- He served with the 16th Battalion on the Western Front. In September 1917 he was killed at the battle for Polygon Wood.
- His family in Finland was found after the war.
July 20, 2016
- Isidore Walters, a Jewish man from Ludza in Latvia, came to Western Australia in 1912 with his relatives and worked as a farm labourer. Here his family changed their name from Pasvalsky to Walters. Isidore’s younger brother Louis Pasvalsky enlisted in the AIF in 1915 and was killed in September 1916.
- He served with the 11th Battalion on the Western Front. In August 1917 he was wounded in the shoulder and returned to Australia.
- After the war he lived in Perth working as a cook and cleaner in the Embassy cabaret. During WWII he enlisted in the AIF and served in the volunteer defence corps, dying during his service in 1943.
At least 35 Russian born Anzacs participated in the attack on the Sugar-loaf salient (near Fromelles) on 19 July 1916. They were mostly Finns and men from the Baltic Provinces. Initially, the Australians were successful in driving the Germans out of their trenches right across the line, but at night the situation changed; finally, lacking in support from their British counterparts and with insufficient artillery support, the Australians had to withdraw, having suffered horrific casualties, amounting to 5533 men. The Russian losses were ten: five wounded; three killed; and two men taken prisoner, Andreas Voitkun from Latvia (also wounded) and Wolf Dorfman, from Rovno in Ukraine. The wounded were Peter Jurgenson, Edward Tomson, and George Reise from Estonia, William Stauwer from Latvia, and George Diaconescu from Romania, who enlisted as a Russian subject.
The three killed were Boris Soans from Estonia and Arthur John Savolainen from Finland, both former seamen, and Gershun Harbert, a Polish Jew. Harbert, a former tailor, had fallen sick on Gallipoli; then in Egypt, when his division made its infamous three-day march across the desert in full kit, he suffered heat-stroke. Despite his poor health he went to the Western Front, where he lasted only a few days. During the attack his 15th Brigade was in the worst position and had to cross the widest part of no-man’s-land under the German tempest of fire. Harbert found his end somewhere there among its ditches and furrows. He was reported ‘missing in action’. We shall never know what made him join the AIF, probably devotion to his new homeland. A human grain of sand, doing his bit …
July 17, 2016
- Alexander Croot claimed to be born in Dvinsk (now Daugavpils in Latvia), although in fact he was born in London in 1899. He came from a Jewish family from Dvinsk, who moved to London not long before his birth. In 1914 he came to Australia with his parents and worked in Sydney as a tailor.
- He served with the 22nd Battalion on the Western Front until he was diagnosed with heart disease and returned to Australia as medically unfit. He tried to reenlist soon after his discharge and was allocated to the 4th Australian General Hospital in Randwick, but his service did not last long.
- After the war he married an Australian girl, Ursula Stapleton, and lived with his family in Wollongong, working for Wollongong City Council. During WWII he joined the AIF and served at the Engineers depot in Moore Park.
- Antti Komula, a seaman from Oulu in Finland, came to Australia in January 1916 and worked as a labourer in outback New South Wales. By the time of his enlistment he was in his 40s.
- Enlisting in the AIF in Cootamundra, he served with the 8th Battalion on the Western Front. In October 1917 he was wounded at Ypres, the wound was aggravated by sickness and he was returned to Australia in in 1918.
- After the war he worked at Waranga Basin in Victoria, but after 1921 he moved to America where he continued seafaring.
- Michal Paegle, a Latvian from Libava (Liepaja), was a sailmaker by trade.
- Enlisting in the AIF in Melbourne, he served with the 6th Battalion on the Western Front. In May 1917 he was wounded accidentally, but recovered; in September 1917 the was reported missing in action at the battle at Mennin Road in Belgium. Later it was confirmed that he was killed in action.
- His family in Latvia was found after the war.
Hjalmar Bernard Bergroth
July 9, 2016
- Hjalmar Bernard Bergroth, a Finnish carpenter and seaman from Helsingfors (Helsinki), came to Australia in 1908 and worked as a labourer in Perth. In 1913 he married an Australian girl, Elizabeth Burke.
- At the beginning of the war he served in the Australian Navy, on the Cerberus, for two months, but failed a trade test. Enlisting in the AIF, he was allocated to the Australian Mechanical Transport Service, but got sick while in England and was returned to Australia.
- After the war he moved to Melbourne, where he was working as a carpenter.
- Peter Kusmin, whose real name was Samuel Zadorohney, was born in Kiev in Ukraine. He came to Australia in 1913 from the Russian Far East. He worked as a miner in the Newcastle area.
- He served with the 2nd Tunneling Company on the Western Front. In March 1917 he was severely wounded to the face with a fracture of the lower jaw.
- While recovering in England he married an English widow with two children, Mabel Louisa Kneller. Mabel was awaiting their child when Kusmin was rapidly returned to Australia, because the authorities intercepted his letter full of anticapitalist and antiwar propaganda. Kusmin never returned to his English family. He stayed in Sydney, becoming a waterside worker.
- Nicholas Rodionoff, a Russian from either Perm or Tomsk in Siberia, came to Australia from the Far East in 1912, leaving behind his wife. He first worked in Port Pirie, but then moved to Newcastle, working as a carpenter.
- He enlisted together with Kusmin and later was allocated to the 3rd Tunneling Company on the Western Front. In April 1918 he was gassed; in October 1918 he received accidental gunshot wounds to his hip and right arm.
- Upon returning to Australia he worked as a coal miner in Kurri Kurri.
- Nicholas Tupicoff was born in Perekopnoe in the Samara area. His family moved to Harbin, where he studied at the Commercial High School and worked as a Chinese interpreter. He could speak Chinese, Russian, German, Polish and English. In 1912, aged nineteen, he came to Australia and worked as a labourer. His younger brother Alexis joined him in 1914.
- Nicholas enlisted in the AIF in December 1915 in Rockhampton, but was discharged three months later as medically unfit. Reenlisting in June 1916 in Brisbane he served with the 47th and 49th battalions on the Western Front. While on the front he suffered of synovitis knee and received a gunshot to the right hand in August 1918.
- Returning to Australia he married Alexandra Muller, a girl from Samara. They took land in the Coominya Soldiers settlement, but later had to give it up and settled in Ipswich, where Nicholas found employment as a striker. They had a large family with six children. Nicholas’ brother Alexis, severely wounded at the front, joined them after the war.
- Joe Caplan, a Jewish man from Kovno (now Kaunas in Lithuania), went to Manchester in the UK when he was fourteen. In 1912 he moved to Australia to join his cousin Morris Gordon. He worked for him as a commercial traveller, but later found employment as a ship steward.
- He served with the 19th Battalion on the Western Front, attaining the rank of temporary corporal.
- After the war he worked as a steward in the Hawkesbury Agricultural College in Richmond.
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