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Published on Apr 24, 2014
Over 1000 Russian-born Australian Diggers scattered throughout the 1st A.I.F. fought at Gallipoli and the Western Front. Far from "Lest We Forget," this is a chapter of history that was never read. This is the story of The ANZACs from Russia.
Russia and Australia have a long history together, going back over 200 years. In August, 1807, the Imperial Russian naval ship Neva was one of the first foreign vessels to make an official visit to Port Jackson, later known as Sydney. The infamous Captain Bligh was the Governor, the Rum Rebellion was a few weeks away, Napoleon was rattling his sabre around Europe and Britain was an ally of Imperial Russia.
Over the years, this relationship has run hot and cold, including fears of a Russian invasion of Australia in the 1870s! Yet never were the Russian people so close to the Australians as when World War One broke out in 1914.
It was a bit of a Furphy that all of the ANZACS in the AIF were sandy haired Sons of England from the Western Districts. Over 1000 Russian-born Australian Diggers scattered throughout the 1st A.I.F. fought at Gallipoli and the Western Front. As one soldier put it, there was not a single unit that didn't have a few Russians in it. One Hundred and fifty-one Russian ANZACS died in active service, roughly the same percentage as Anglo Australian soldiers. Names like Roomianzoff, Sekachoff, Kovalsky and Averkoff ... Jews and Christians alike, Tsarists, Bolsheviks or just survivors. Like all new Australians, they came to Australia to start a new life or salvage what they could of the old one. Many came as children and one of their first acts as adults was to enlist. The Russian ANZACS enlisted from the cane fields of far north Queensland, the docks of Sydney and the factories of Melbourne.
Famous names like Norman Myer, the Byelorussian cousin of the retail family who would later inherit the Emporium that bore his name. Lt. Col. Eliazar Lazar Margolin commanded the brave 16th Battalion AIF and was the highest ranking Russian Anzac and was awarded the DSO. Russian-born ANZACS continued to fight for Australia, through World War 2 up to Vietnam.
On September 25th, 2007, one of the last remaining descendants of the Romanoffs, Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, dedicated a small plaque at The Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne, remembering the 1,000 Russian ANZACS and those who have fought for this country since.