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
The book is available from the following stockists:
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 7, 2018
- Wolfe Greenstein, a Jewish man born in Odessa, arrived in Australia in 1913 at the age of fourteen with his family from England, where they had been living for thirteen years. They settled in Canterbury, NSW. Wolfe gained an apprenticeship and worked as a printer.
- At the age of eighteen he enlisted in the AIF in Sydney in June 1918. He sailed with reinforcements to the Western Front, but arrived in England three days after the end of the war.
- After the war he lived in Sydney working as a newspaper compositor. He married Jean Piraner in 1924 and they had two children. Greenstein re-enlisted during WWII and served with the 1st Battalion in Egypt and Greece as a Lance Corporal. He was captured by the Germans on Crete, but survived and was returned to Australia; his marriage, however, did not survive the ordeal. His daughter Esther also served in the 2nd AIF.
Carl Alfred Vasele Claeson
September 25, 2018
- Carl Alfred Vasele Claeson, a Swedish seaman born in Helsingfors (Helsinki), came to Australia in 1914, deserted his ship and worked on farms in New South Wales as a labourer; in 1918 he married an Australian girl, Violet Ethel Thompson.
- Enlisting in the AIF in June 1918 as a native of Sweden, he arrived in London with reinforcements three days after the end of the war. He stayed in the army making a trip to Sweden to see his mother before return to Australia.
- After the war he lived with his wife in Penrith, working as a fruitier and playing an active role in the local community. During WWII he enlisted in the AIF and served in a Garrison Battalion.
Otto Alexander Forsberg
- Otto Alexander Forsberg, a Finnish seaman from Mariehamn, came to Australia in about 1902 and continued serving on ships in Australian waters. In 1903 he married an Australian girl, Mary Allen Semple, in Victoria and lived with his family in Melbourne, working as a labourer.
- Enlisting in the AIF in May 1918, he sailed with reinforcements to England, disembarking in London three days after the Armistice; nevertheless he spent some time with the troops in France.
- After the war he returned to Melbourne, but died early, in 1922.
- Paul Smirnoff, a young Russian man from Vologda, came to Australia in 1914 and worked as a labourer, wheeler and miner in New South Wales.
- He enlisted in the AIF in May 1918 in Cessnock and sailed with reinforcements to the Western front, arriving there after the end of the war. In 1919 he joined the Middlesex Regiment of the British Army, the North Russian Relief Force, as an interpreter and acting sergeant, and served with it in Northern Russia.
- After the war he returned to Australia, but most likely later moved to the UK.
Vaino Alexander Simula
- Vaino Alexander Simula, a Finnish seaman from Helsingfors (Helsinki), was serving on the ships in Newcastle during the war.
- He enlisted in the AIF in February 1918, but was rejected on medical grounds. In May 1918 he enlisted once again in Newcastle, as Alexander Simula, and was accepted. He sailed with reinforcements to Western Front, arriving in France in January 1919, and served there in the graves registration department.
- After the war, returning to Australia, he married an Irish girl, Mary Janetta Stewart, and lived in Parramatta and Sydney working as a labourer. They had three sons; their elder son Roy Alexander served in the Australian Army during the Second World War.
September 16, 2018
- David Wishman, a Jewish man from Sheduva (now Lithuania), probably came to Australia as a seaman on the Russian ship Lawhill, deserting it in South Australia in 1917. During the war he lived in Sydney working as a bicycle builder.
- Enlisting in the AIF in May 1918, he sailed with reinforcements to the Western Front, arriving in France in February 1919.
- After the war he returned to Sydney, but it has been impossible to trace his life in the following years.
- John Kasak, a Latvian or Estonian sailor from Riga, came to Australia during the war. Before that he had already registered for military service in the USA in 1917.
- In May 1918 he enlisted in the AIF and was sent with reinforcements to England. In October he became severely ill with pneumonia and was returned to Australia.
- After the war the continued serving on ships in the USA.
- Daniel Nazarow came from the village Zaplavnoe, near Astrakhan. Ethnically he was Russian, but belonged to the Judaizing Talmudists by denomination. He spent two and a half years in Palestine and came to Western Australia in 1912, leaving behind his wife and two children. In Australia he worked as a labourer, clearing land, and then as a miner in outback areas; in 1917 he was injured in a dynamite explosion.
- In May 1918 he enlisted in the AIF, but was discharged soon afterwards due to medical reasons and lack of English.
- After the war he worked as an umbrella mender, and then again as a miner, living in Sydney and different areas of Western Australia.
- Joseph Goldberg, whose true name was Joseph Albert Rosen, bas born in Warsaw and came to Australia in 1902 as a seaman. He lived in South Australia, working as a pastry cook.
- In May 1918 he enlisted to the AIF and was sent with reinforcements to England, but arrived after the armistice.
- After the war he married Margaret McInerney and lived in Sydney, working as a salesman.
September 4, 2018
- Antti Helppi, a Finnish seaman from Vyborg, came to Australia in 1916 and served on the ships in Sydney and Brisbane.
- In May 1918 he enlisted in the AIF in Brisbane and sailed with reinforcements to the Western Front. He was sent to France on 6 November 1918, a few days before the armistice.
- After the war he continued serving on the ships in Australia and died in 1927.
Frederick August Dambelis
- Frederick August Dambelis, a Latvian seaman from Riga, came to Australia in 1913 and lived in Sydney, working as a rigger and motor driver. In 1917 he married a widow, Mary Raymond Goddard.
- Enlisting in the AIF in March 1918, he was allocated to the Australian Flying Corps as a 2nd class mechanic. He was not sent to Europe and discharged after the end of the war.
- After the war he worked in the Australian Gas Company; he lost his wife in 1924.
Anton Wicktor Henrickson
- Anton Wicktor Henrickson from Vardo, Aland Islands, in Finland, came to Western Australia as a seaman in 1908. He was working as a timber worker in the south-western areas of the state, but later moved to Newcastle.
- He tried to enlist in 1916, but was rejected because of insufficient English. He got in the trouble with the law several times and after finishing a 3 month prison term enlisted in the AIF in March 1918 in Newcastle and was accepted. He was sent to England with the reinforcements to the 55th Battalion but arrived too late to fight on the Western front.
- He died in 1921, soon after returning to Australia and his discharge.
- John Warro, a young Estonian seaman from Revel (Tallinn), by the time of his enlistment in the AIF, was working as a labourer in Port Pirie.
- Enlisting in Port Pirie, he sailed with reinforcements to England, but his unit reached France only after the end of the war.
- After the war he stayed in Australia, working as a fireman on the ships, but by the 1920s moved to the USA and continued seafaring there.
Erik Hugo Eriksson
- Erik Hugo Eriksson, a Finn from Mariehamn, by the time of his enlistment was working as a labourer in Sydney. During the war he served in the 5th Light Horse unit in Citizen Forces.
- He enlisted in the AIF in March 1918, but was discharged soon afterwards.
- It was impossible to trace his life after the war.
- Aron Traub, a Jewish man from Pilica, Poland, came to Australia in 1900 and worked as a hairdresser. After 3 years in Sydney, he moved to Albury, where he married Kathleen Miller. They had two daughters, later moving to Melbourne.
- Enlisting in the AIF in Melbourne, he sailed to England with the reinforcements to the 58th battalion, but his unit landed in France 11 days after the Armistice.
- After the war he lived with his family in Melbourne, working as a hairdresser and warder.
Read more on the blog