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.
April 20, 2017
- Stefan Morga, a Pole from Częstochowa, came to Sydney in 1915 and worked as a blacksmith.
- He enlisted in the AIF in March 1917, but deserted a month later.
- In 1922, as a result of a confrontation, he killed another Russian immigrant in Cairns, and was wounded himself, becoming blind. He was sentenced to hard labour for life, but was later released due to his blindness. In 1946 his vision returned and he worked in Wongaville Colliery in NSW.
- Kansta Airikka, a Finnish ship’s carpenter from Vyborg area, came to Australia in 1913.
- Enlisting in the AIF in Kempsey, NSW, and allocated to the 1st Pioneer Battalion, he missed embarkation. Moving to Victoria, he reenlisted, but was discharged a month later.
- After the war he moved to Sydney, working as a carpenter. During WWII he enlisted in the AIF, worked in the Army workshop, and died in an incident while serving in 1940.
- Michael Prap, a Polish seaman from Warsaw, came to Port Pirie in South Australia in March 1917 and enlisted a few days later.
- He served with the 43rd Battalion on the Western Front. He was wounded for the first time in April 1918, but continued his service. In July 1918 at the battle for Hamel he was severely wounded for the second time, was evacuated to England and had his leg amputated.
- After the war he lived in South Australia.
Swen Walter Forsblom
April 17, 2017
- Swen Walter Forsblom, a Finnish seaman from Helsingfors (Helsinki), like Prap came to Port Pirie in South Australia in March 1917 and enlisted a few days later.
- He served with the 48th Battalion on the Western Front.
- After the war he continued working as a seaman and labourer. During WWII he enlisted in the AIF and served in the garrison battalion.
- Philip Walters, a Jewish man from Ludza in Latvia, emigrated to Western Australia with his relatives as a teenager; some of them changed their original surname, Pasvalsky, to Walters. Philip worked in Perth as a tailor.
- Before enlisting in the AIF he was a sergeant major, working on troop training. Two of his uncles, Louis Pasvalsky and Isidore Walters, enlisted in the army earlier, and Louis, aged 19, was killed in September 1916, at the battle for Mouquet Farm. In 1917, when Philip was 22, he enlisted himself and served on the Western Front with the 26th Battalion. During an operation to the east of Mont St Quentin, near Peronne, on 3rd September 1918, he was engaged, according to his recommendation for award, ‘with a bombing party in bombing the enemy out of a portion of trench required to establish our line. His officer being killed early in the operation, he took charge of his party, and when it was held up by heavy machine gun fire, he decided to go forward himself, with one volunteer, to attack the position. By great courage and daring, he attacked and dispersed the enemy, thus allowing his party to establish a post at the required position’. For his heroism he was awarded a Military Medal.
- Philip married an Australian woman, Fanny Morris, before his departure to the Western Front, but she died in 1921. Later he married Sylvia Fay and lived in Perth, working as a financier. During WWII he served in the AIF in the audit section.
- Arnold Berg, whose original name was Arne Kanttinen, was a Finnish seaman from Helsingfors (Helsinki). He came to Australia in February 1917 and enlisted a few days later.
- Enlisting in the AIF in Adelaide, he served with the 43rd Battalion on the Western Front. In May 1918 he was gassed and spent several months in English hospitals.
- While recovering in London, he married an English girl, Carrie Ethel Robinson, and returned to Australia with his wife. After the war he was farming in Greenock and Kielpa in South Australia, raising a large family. During WWII he enlisted in the AIF and served with the 5th Volunteer Defense Corps Battalion, while his son Arnold Hjalmar also served in the AIF, being taken POW by the Japanese and working on the infamous Burma railway.
- Edward Hellman, an Estonian from Dorpat (Tartu), was seafaring for several years, before he came to Western Australia in 1913. He worked in Australia as a sleeper hewer.
- He tried to enlist for the first time in the AIF in March 1916, but was rejected as medically unfit. In March 1917 he was accepted and served with the 3rd Field Artillery Brigade on the Western Front.
- Returning to Australia, he settled in Sydney with his wife Gertrude, working as a restaurant keeper and chef. During WWII he enlisted in the AIF and served in the 1st Motor Regiment.
April 14, 2017
- Alexander Harast, a sailor from Revel (Tallinn) in Estonia, came to Australia about 1913 and by 1917 lived in Ravine in New South Wales.
- Enlisting in the AIF in Sydney, he was allocated to the machine gun reinforcements, but in August 1917 he deserted the camp.
- The following years he spent hiding in the Snowy and Blue Mountains in Victoria and New South Wales. He lived in caves and to survive stole weapons, blankets, and food from settlers; later he started stealing horses. He used several aliases and his description in Police Gazette mentioned that he ‘speaks several languages, fond of sketching and writing religious passages in his notebook’. The police apprehended him several times; he served several years of hard labour, but as soon as he was released the crimes resumed. In 1934, when he was terrorising the Nawendoc area of New South Wales, a policeman whom he threatened shot him dead.
John Vaina Wilenius
- John Vaina Wilenius, a Finnish seaman from Helsingfors (Helsinkli), sailed around America, the West Indies and Africa. He lived in Sydney, working as a rigger.
- Enlisting in the AIF, he served with Field Squadron Engineers in Egypt as a sapper.
- After the war he lived in Queensland and probably moved to America in 1922.
- Alexander Corsair, born in St Petersburg, came to Newcastle in Australia in 1887, most likely as a seaman. He moved to Western Australia, where he worked as a miner and mining carpenter. He became part of the tough world of outback mining communities, living in the mining camps and fighting for the rights of his mates.
- Although he was over fifty, he enlisted in the AIF and was allocated to the tunnelling companies as a sapper, but seven months later he was discharged as medically unfit.
- After the war he continued working as a carpenter for the railway department.
March 16, 2017
- Joe Ipp, a Jewish man from Kovno (Kaunas) in Lithuania, emigrated with his family to South Africa. In 1914 he came to Melbourne and worked as a fruit merchant.
- Enlisting in the AIF he served as a gunner and a driver in the 1st Artillery Brigade on the Western Front and was discharged in England after the war.
- In 1921 he returned to Australia, where he married Ethel Fabricant and continued working in the fruit business.
Roland Arthur Cooper
- Roland Arthur Cooper came from a family of a British engineer who was working in Russia. He was born in Mariupol in Ukraine and later lived in Volsk, but in 1909 the whole family moved to Sydney. Cooper was trained as a draughtsman, and with the outbreak of the war, he served in the Militia in Sydney before his parents allowed him to enlist in the AIF in 1917, when he was nineteen.
- He served as a gunner and a driver in the artillery regiments on the Western Front in 1918.
- Returning to Sydney after the war, he worked as a newsagent, taking over his father’s business. In 1932 he married Eileen Emily Moss.
- Alexander Rayzner, a Jewish man from Odessa, had lived in Hong Kong for four years prior to his arrival in Australia. Coming to Australia in 1913, he worked as a tailor in Sydney.
- Enlisting in the AIF in Sydney, he was assigned to the Light Trench Mortar Battery, serving in a Depot, and was discharged half a year later as medically unfit.
- After his discharge Rayzner moved to Victoria, living in Melbourne and Armadale, where he settled with Ethel Bennett in 1918 and continued his occupation of a tailor.
Nicholai Charles Uppeneeck
- Nicholai Charles Uppeneeck, a Latvian from Riga, who had some experience of service on the submarines in the Russian Navy, came to Australia in 1911.
- Enlisting in the AIF in Adelaide, he was discharged four months later as medically unfit.
- After the war he married an Australian girl, Ettie Lavinia Grigsby, and raised a large family, working as a bicycle mechanic.
- Gilbert Solomon, a Jewish man from Siberia, came to Australia around 1911 and settled in Perth.
- He was discharged from the AIF soon after his enlistment as medically unfit.
- After the war he lived in Katanning, working as a tailor.
Read more on the blog