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 only birthplaces beginning with the letters A-O.


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.

Welcome!


Latest Posts


Kirvalidze, Puris, Mathewy

August 1, 2015

Paul Ippolit Kirvalidze

  • Paul Ippolit Kirvalidze was born in the Kutaisi area in Georgia and came to Australia via the Russian Far East in 1913. Later he would tell his neighbours that he escaped from a prison there. In Australia hesettled in Gordon, north of Sydney, working as a grocer. He actively participated in Russian political organisations in Australia.
  • Enlisting in the AIF, he served with the 2nd Battalion on the Western Front, where he was wounded in July 1916. Recovering, he returned to the trenches, attaining the rank of sergeant.
  • After the Armistice, he joined the British Army and was sent to Russia with the British Military Mission. Later he worked for the American Relief Mission, helping famine stricken districts of Russia. In 1923 he was arrested by Soviet security forces and sentenced to death as a British spy, but luckily, with the help of British authorities he was released and returned to Australia in 1925. He lived in Mackay and Mount Isa, working as a wharf labourer and tobacco grower. Later he married a Russian woman, Nadia Priadko, settled in Brisbane, and became the owner of the Paddington Hotel.

Anthony Puris

  • Anthony Puris, a Lithuanian from the village Padustis in Kovno Province, served on the ships as a fireman. The earliest records about his voyages in Australian waters relate to November 1914. By the time of enlistment he lived in Newcastle and gave his occupation as a miner.
  • He came to the Western Front with the 4th Battalion and was wounded in the left knee at Mouquet Farm in August 1916. Recovering, he returned to the front and was killed at the Battle for Bullecourt in May 1917.
  • His family in Lithuania was found after the war.

Charles Mathewy

  • Charles Mathewy from Libau (Liepaja) in Latvia, by the time of enlistment, lived in Western Australia, working as a labourer.
  • He came to the Western Front with the reinforcements to the 16th Battalion and was killed in September 1916 in Belgium.
  • His relatives in Latvia were found after the war.

Rosenfeld, Aalto, Lindman, Broon, Jurgenson

July 31, 2015

Reuben Laman Rosenfield

  • Reuben Laman Rosenfield was born in Raiseinai in Lithuania in 1872, but before the early 1880s his family moved to Simferopol in Crimea, where his younger siblings were born. In 1888 the family with six young children came to Melbourne. To make a living, 16 year old Ruben was trained as a saddler, but in the evenings he attended classes in the Working-man’s College. This allowed him to finally enrol into the University of Melbourne to study medicine, becoming one of the first natives of the Russian Empire to have a university education in Australia. Graduating from the university he worked as a medical practitioner (an eye and ear specialist) in Whitecliff, NSW, and Melbourne.
  • Enlisting in the AIF, he served in the Australian Medical Corps, attaining rank of Major. During the first service in 1915-1916 he worked in hospitals in Egypt. Being reappointed in 1917 he served in Britain.
  • After the war he continued his medical practice in Melbourne. His notes about his work during the war are preserved in the Australian War Memorial.

Atolf Aleksanter Aalto

  • Atolf Aleksanter Aalto was born in Nystad (Uusikaupunki) in Finland and came to Australia in 1912 as a sailor together with John Lindman from Nystad. They worked as miners in Nar Nar Goon and Eaglehawk in Gippsland, Victoria.
  • In June 1915 they applied for naturalization and in July enlisted in the AIF together in Bendigo. They came to the Western Front with the reinforcements for the 5th Battalion. In June 1918 during the battle near Strazeele Aalto showed bravery by protecting his platoon’s flank with a Lewis gun until, ‘having fired 600 rounds his gun was red hot and stopped’, as wrote his commanding officer. He was awarded the Military Medal.
  • After the war Aalto seems to disappear from Australian records. Considering that his medals were returned to the Military authorities in 1923, he might have died or left Australia.

John Lindman

  • John Lindman came to Australia together with Aalto and in his case it is known that he deserted the ship.
  • Serving in the AIF together with Aalto on the Western Front Lindman was wounded in the hand in July 1916 at Pozieres. The second time he was wounded at Ypres in September 1917, this time in the foot and arm.
  • After the war he worked as a waterside worker living in Melbourne, where he married Edith Lidia Ford and had a family.

Hyman Broon

  • Hyman Broon, a Jewish man from Kherson in Ukraine, was a tailor by trade.
  • Enlisting in the AIF in Sydney in July 1915, he was discharged in April 1916, being convicted for theft. In July 1917 he enlisted for the second time, as Brwon; by that time he was working as a kitchen-man in Melbourne. While sick in hospital he developed delusions of persecution and attempted suicide. By that time he was in his 40s and was discharged on medical grounds.
  • He disappears from Australian records after the war; he probably left for Egypt to reunite with his wife Lieba, who was stranded there during the war.

Herman Jurgenson

  • Herman Jurgenson was born in Pärnu in Estonia. By the time of enlistment in the AIF he lived in Adelaide working as a butcher.
  • He served on the Western Front in the Anzac Provost Corps (military police), attaining the rank of Corporal.
  • At the end of the war he married a French woman, Dorge Antoinette Marie Germaine, in Etaples, and was discharged from the AIF in London in 1919.

Anderson, Backman, Kroeber, Ahl, Balhorn

July 28, 2015

John Elias Anderson

  • John Elias Anderson was a carpenter from Abo (Turku) in Finland.
  • He enlisted in the AIF in Sydney, but was discharged for ‘disorderly conduct’.
  • He disappears from Australian records after that.

Onnie Backman

  • Onnie Backman from ‘Yarkup’ in Finland was farming in Bunbury in Western Australia before the war.
  • He came to the Western Front with the 28th Battalion and was killed during the battle at Pozieres in July 1916.
  • All attempts to find the non-existant ‘Yarkup’, and Backman’s relatives in Finland, were unsuccessful.

Waldemar Franz von Kroeber

  • Waldemar Franz von Kroeber was born in a Russianised German family in St Petersburg. He came to Western Australia as a sailor in 1909 and worked on Bunbury jetty as a lumper.
  • He served with the 16th battalion on the Western Front. In August 1916 he was gassed and suffered shell shock at Mouquet Farm, but recovered and returned to the trenches. He fought to the end of the war, being several times in hospital with different diseases.
  • After the war he lived in Fremantle working as a labourer. In 1933 he married an Australian, Eva May Cook. In 1925 he joined the Communist Party of Australia, but although he later left it, he and his family were under observation of the Australian security forces.

Victor Ahl

  • Victor Ahl, a Finn from Borga (Porvoo) came to Australia in 1889. He lived in New South Wales and Queensland, working in Kingaroy in Queensland by the time of his enlistment in the AIF.
  • In spite of his age (he was 45 years old in 1915), he was accepted into the AIF and sailed to the front with the 31st Battalion. However in Egypt he became sick, was returned to Australia and discharged.
  • After the war he lived in Queensland, occasionally getting into trouble with police for his drinking problems. In 1924 he succumbed to sickness and died in Roma Hospital.

Vaino Armos Balhorn

  • Vaino Armos Balhorn was born in Finland and, emigrating to Australia, lived in Sydney and Muswellbrook, New South Wales, working on the railway.
  • Enlisting in the AIF, he served on the Western Front in artillery detachments as a gunner. In January 1917 he remained ‘in telephone dugout to maintain communication whilst their battery was being shelled, after the detachment has been ordered to a flank owing to no cover being available’, as wrote his commander. The dugout was blown up by a direct hit, killing Balhorn’s comrade, while Balhorn sustained a fracture of the base of the skull. He was saved by the gunner Kelly, who dug him out. While Balhorn was in hospital in England came the announcement that he was mentioned in despatches ‘for devotion to duty by remaining’ on his post ‘under heavy fire’.
  • Repatriated to Australia as medically unfit, Balhorn married an Australian girl, Gladys Louisa Smith, had a family, and worked in the Naval Store department on Garden Island in Sydney. Both his sons served in the Army during the WWII and he himself was awarded the Imperial Service Medal in 1954 ‘for marked devotion in his 35 years service with his department’.

Josephson, Crook, Kovalsky, Filip, Sank

July 26, 2015

Axel Valentine Josephson

  • Axel Valentine Josephson, a Finnish seaman from Abo, came to Australia in 1910 and worked in Victor Harbour in South Australia on railway construction.
  • He served with the 27th Battalion on the Western Front until he was severely wounded in the right eye, arm and leg in March 1917. He was repatriated to Australia.
  • After the war he married an Australian woman, Elizabeth Anne, had seven children and lived in Adelaide working as a carpenter.

Louis Crook

  • Louis Crook, a Jewish man from Belostok in Poland, moved to England with his family as a child. Migrating later to Australia, he lived in Townsville, working as a tailor.
  • Enlisting in the AIF he served with the 9th Battalion on the Western Front. In July 1916 he was wounded at Pozieres and in August 1918 gassed during the advance at Chuignes.
  • After the war he lived in Temora and then in Sydney working as a tailor.

Vachalar Kovalsky

  • Vachalar Kovalsky (his correct first name must have been Viacheslav), was said to be from Moscow. He came to Queensland via the Russian Far East and worked as a labourer in Brisbane and Toowoomba.
  • At the first attempt to enlist in the AIF he was rejected, but was accepted in July 1915. With the 9th Battalion he fought on the Western Front, but after Pozières his sight began to rapidly go; in the end he was taken to London. There, in November 1916, nearly blind, he was discharged. Three days after Christmas he poisoned himself: the police report stated he had ‘no known friends in this country’. No friends of his were found in Australia either.
  • He is missing from the Australian Roll of Honour.

Edmund Filip

  • Edmund Filip was born in Talsen in Latvia and came from Canada to Melbourne in 1909, probably as a seaman. Here he worked as a labourer in the agricultural settlements east of Melbourne.
  • He served with the 12th Field Company Engineers on the Western Front as a sapper.
  • After the war he returned to country Victoria, married an Australian girl, Ethel May, and lived in Orbost, working as a labourer.

Alexander Paul Sank

  • Alexander Paul Sank came from a Jewish family in Aleksandrovsk (Zaporozhe) in Ukraine. In 1906, after the pogroms, his family moved to Harbin. In 1912 Alexander followed his brother to Australia. A motor mechanic by trade, he worked as a labourer and driver.
  • Enlisting in the AIF, he came to the Western Front with reinforcements to the 9th Battalion in April 1916 and was wounded soon after that at Rouge de Bout in both arms. After treatment in a British hospital, he was evacuated to Australia and discharged, but reenlisted in the AIF and in 1917-1918 was on home service.
  • After the war he lived in Queensland working as a motor driver and tram guard. In 1921 he returned to his mother in Harbin and in 1922 went to live in Khabarovsk in Russia where he worked as an interpreter on the Ussury Railway. Later he married, moved to Novosibirsk and worked as supply agent for industrial enterprises. In 1951 he was arrested and sent to GULAG for ‘espionage’ and ‘anti-Soviet agitation’.

Read more on the blog