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! We are developing a map which shows the locations associated with the lives of the Russian Anzacs. The map is under construction, and currently shows birthplaces and residence before enlistment, with the addition of residence after the war underway.
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.
February 11, 2016
- Victor Corby, a Finn from Nakkila, was in Cootamundra by the time of his enlistment in the AIF.
- He served with the 13th Battalion on the Western Front. In February 1917 he was awarded the Military Medal for his courage during the battle for Gueudecourt when, working as streatcher bearer, he made nine trips to the front lines under heavy fire to rescue his wounded mates. In April 1917, at a battle near Louverval, he was wounded in the leg; he also experienced mental illness and was repatriated to Australia.
- After the war he went back to his native Nakkila in Finland.
- Charles Gerk, a Latvian seaman from Riga, came to Australia in 1910 and lived in Sydney.
- Enlisting in the AIF, he served with the 1st Pioneer Battalion on the Western Front.
- After the war he married an Australian girl, Margaret Annie Colbert, and continued his occupation as a seaman.
- Boleslav Zbecovsky, a Belarusian from Brest, came to Brisbane in 1913 via the Russian Far East and lived in Queensland.
- He enlisted in the AIF, but was discharged soon after that. His service records have not been found.
- After his discharge he continued working as a labourer in Queensland.
- Emil Kler, from Piotrkow Province in Poland, was probably of German ethnic origin. He came to Melbourne in 1913 and worked as a farm labourer in Victoria.
- Enlisting in the AIF, he served with the 37th Battalion on the Western Front. In September 1918 he was severely gassed and repatriated to Australia.
- After the war he was farming in Loch near Kernot in Victoria.
February 9, 2016
- Michael Persin, a Russian from Tula Province, came to Western Australia in 1912, from where he moved to Victoria and worked as a turner and fitter.
- Enlisting in the AIF, he served with the 59th Battalion on the Western Front. In November 1916, at the battle on Somme, he was wounded in the arm and knee. Recovering in England, he returned to the front and was gassed in March 1918 at Amiens, and then wounded in the left foot in September 1918 at Peronne.
- After the war he married an Australian girl, Alice Stephens. They lived in Melbourne where Michael worked as manufacturer, engineer and tool maker, becoming managing director of M. Persin Ltd, Metal Stumping Manufacturers at Clifton Hill. During WWII he enlisted in the AIF and served in Volunteer Defence Corps. The Persins lost their four year son in 1932, and upon Michael’s death in 1952, he left bequest to the Children’s Hospital and other institutions.
Since January 1916 the Australian enlisting officers, at the request of the Russian Consul General, Nicholas Abaza, had to send him lists of all Russian subjects accepted for military service. Some of them, although being initially accepted, did not make it to active service abroad and were discharged from the AIF soon after enlistment. In some cases their service records with enlistment details had not been preserved and we have only brief data about them from the lists sent to the consul. In January 1916 there were ten such enlistees without service record files.
February 7, 2016
- Alexander Allekson enlisted in the AIF in New South Wales. There is no further data about him.
- Karl A. Blomquist was a Finn and enlisted in NSW.
- Theodor Cussoff was probably a Baltic German and enlisted in Victoria.
- John Grinitz enlisted in NSW.
- Otto Kampmann was, probably, a Baltic German from Estonia. He enlisted in the AIF in Victoria.
- Charles Koppel was a seaman from Arensburg (Kuressaare) in Saaremaa Island in Estonia. He arrived at Australia in 1914 and was working on coastal vessels. He enlisted in the AIF in NSW.
- William Lepama was an Estonian seaman from Dago (Hiiumaa) Island. He came to Australia in 1913, enlisted in NSW and left for England in 1921.
- Isaac Micolazyk was probably a Ukrainian. He enlisted in NSW.
- A. Nesterunka was probably Afanacy Nesternko, an engineer from Odessa, who came to Australia in 1911. He enlisted in NSW. In 1917 he was convicted for attempted arson.
- August Veedof was an Estonian seaman, who came to Australia in 1910 and worked in Sydney as seaman and wharf labourer. He enlisted in the AIF in NSW. After the war he moved to England.
- J. Wienburg enlisted in NSW. No data was found about him.
Guss Oscar Lear
- Guss Oscar Lear, a Finnish sailor from Nystad, by the time of his enlistment in the AIF was in Western Australia.
- Three months after his enlistment in the AIF he was discharged for disciplinary reasons and disappears from the Australian records.
- Andre Tolstoi, a Russian born in Warsaw, grew up in France and ‘served five years in the French Foreign Legion and a dozen scraps in South American republics’. He came to Australia in 1900 and was mining in Boolboonda and then growing sugar cane in Ambrose in Queensland. In 1905 he married Agnes Tucker and had a daughter.
- A month before enlisting in the AIF he published a passionate letter appealing to Australians ‘to defend your country, Humanity and Justice’. He served with the 15th Battalion on the Western Front. In April 1917 he was reported missing in action at Bullecourt.
- His body was never found and wife hoped that he was POW for a long time and sent numerous inquiries. Later he was confirmed to be killed in action.
John de Raupak Ropenberg
- John de Raupak Ropenberg, a seaman from Riga in Latvia, after studying in a nautical school in Russia, came to Geelong in 1916; three weeks later he enlisted in the AIF.
- He served with the 22nd Battalion on the Western Front. In July 1918 he was gassed, but rejoined his battalion.
- After the war he received some education in nautical schools in London and Leith and returning to Australia continued serving on the ships. In March 1923 he perished aboard the ship ‘Amy Turner’ on which he served as the 1st mate and which was lost in a typhoon near Guam.
February 6, 2016
- Emerick Shimkovitch, a Polish seaman from Novo-Aleksandrovsk (Zarasai) in Lithuania, came to Australia with Raupak Ropenberg and enlisted in the AIF together with him (serving as Schimkovitch).
- He served with the 22nd Battalion on the Western Front and was awarded the Military Medal for his bravery.
- After the war he married Jean Lilian and worked as a motor driver in Melbourne. His wife died in 1931 leaving him with a young daughter. Later he married Esther Gladys Corden and worked as a lighthouse keeper.
- Andrew Tripp, a seaman from Piarnu in Estonia, served for two years in the Russian army. By the time of his enlistment in the AIF he lived in Sydney.
- He served with the 18th Battalion on the Western Front.
- After the war he continued his seafaring occupation. During WWII he was employed on American small ships in New Guinea waters.
- Joseph Tworek, a Polish man from Warsaw, came to Australia in 1913, probably as a seaman, and worked in Sydney as a ship’s steward.
- He enlisted in the AIF, but was discharged six months later as medically unfit.
- After the war he lived in Sydney, marrying a Polish woman, Phyllis Sthrowzki.
Erik Reinhold Katajisto
- Erik Reinhold Katajisto, a seaman from Abo (Turku) in Finland, deserted his ship in Melbourne in 1914. When enlisting in the AIF he gave his occupation as a bootmaker.
- He served with the 46th Battalion on the Western Front. He was wounded in June 1917 near Messines and rejoined his battalion after recovery. In March 1918 he left his battalion, and was court martialed and sentenced to 5 years penal servitude.
- He was released in 1919 and returned to Australia. He settled in South Gippsland, married an Australian girl, Hilda Sofia Simpson, and worked as a bootmaker. During WWII he enlisted in the RAAF.
- Leo Oberman (served as Abramam), a Jewish man from Goldingen (Kuldiga) in Latvia, came to Australia in 1913 and worked as a salesman in Perth.
- He enlisted in the AIF as Leo Abramam and served with the 5th Battalion on the Western Front. In August 1916 he was wounded at Mouquet Farm and returned to Australia.
- After the war he lived in Adelaide and Melbourne and worked as a robe manufacturer.
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