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.
New book! Falling Stars: The story of Anzacs from Ukraine continues the story of the Russian Anzacs. Read more about it here.
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 20, 2018
Alexander Eisy Belfort
- Alexander Eisy Belfort, a Jewish man from Odessa, came to the USA in 1907 and worked on the ships as an electrician and marine mechanic. In 1917 he tried to enlist in the US Army. Later he travelled to New Zealand and then to Australia, disembarking in Melbourne in January 1918.
- He enlisted in the AIF in Rockhampton, Qld, in July 1918, but was discharged six weeks later as medically unfit.
- After the war he returned to the USA and continued working on ships until 1926, when his ship visited Odessa. He deserted the ship there and stayed in the Soviet Union.
Otto Emil Kohl
- Otto Emil Kohl, a Finnish seaman from the Turku area in Finland, came to Australia in 1910. He had the trades of a boilermaker and fitter and worked in Newcastle and various places in Queensland.
- In July 1918 he enlisted in the AIF in Rockhampton together with Belfort. He was allocated to the Flying Corps, but did not see active service and was discharged in December 1918 as medically unfit.
- After the war he lived in Chippendale and Glen Davis in New South Wales, working as a fitter.
- Joseph Jankiewicz, a Polish man from Warsaw, first emigrated to the USA, where he naturalised. In 1911 he came to Sydney and worked as a hat maker.
- In August 1918, lowering his age, he enlisted in the AIF in Sydney and in October 1918 sailed with one of the last troopships to the Western Front. As they were sailing, the news of the Armistice came, the ship was recalled and Joseph returned to Australia.
- After the war he lived in Bankstown with his family, working as a hat maker.
October 7, 2018
- Samuel Gunzburg, a young Jewish man from Minsk, grew up in Palestine and enlisting in the AIF claimed Mulabbas in Palestine as his birth place. He arrived in Perth, where his relatives lived, in 1913, and worked as a shop assistant.
- In September 1918 he enlisted in the AIF, but Armistice was signed while he was still in the training camp, and he was discharged in December 1918.
- After the war he worked as a wine saloon keeper and a garage proprietor. In 1931 he married Rose Ferstat. During WWII he enlisted in the AIF and served in the Volunteer Defence Corps.
- 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.
- 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.
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