by clicking the arrows at the side of the page, or by using the toolbar.
by clicking anywhere on the page.
by dragging the page around when zoomed in.
by clicking anywhere on the page when zoomed in.
web sites or send emails by clicking on hyperlinks.
Email this page to a friend
Search this issue
Index - jump to page or section
Archive - view past issues
Memento : Issue 29
From Bestuzhevo to Blacktown: the Alexander Egoroff story Alexander Egoroff was born in Bestuzhevo, Russia on 23 November 1880. Like many of his contemporaries, as a young man Alexander left the village where he grew up in search of a new life. He went first to Moscow where he trained as an agronomist, and later around 1905, he began to travel from one country to another before finally settling in Australia. He was not alone in his actions. In 1905, the renewed change in social and political conditions in the wake of the revolution, the end of the Russo- Japanese war and the completion of the trans-Siberian railway opened up the world for many Russians. The new railway made the trip to the East across Russia much easier. The new frontier attracted some families but it was mostly young men searching for adventure or different lives that took advantage of the new possibilities. Access to the eastern ports provided them with the opportunity to further roam the world and many did so, often ending up in Canada or Australia. Alexander Egoroff arrived in Sydney, Australia in March 1909. Despite the many reports of favourable economic conditions in Australia at the time, life was not easy for arriving Russians. Nearly all of them – educated intellectuals, professionals, peasants, labourers and seamen alike – had to engage in hard physical labour simply to survive. For some, enlistment in the army provided the only escape from unemployment and starvation. Alexander was better able to cope than many, being a thickset man used to working on the land. He worked as a gardener and in a sugar mill before joining the AIF on 7 July 1915. Alexander’s war experiences, like many Russian soldiers, differed little from the experiences of others in the AIF. In day- to-day trench life, Russianness, for the most part, was accepted as some sort of harmless peculiarity. In the face of death, Russians and other Australians were even mates – although sometimes it took time for this mateship to take root, and sometimes it only happened long afterwards. Alexander’s granddaughter, Barbara Fox, recalls his memories of life in the trenches at the Somme in the winter of 1916–17 as told to her by Alexander’s eldest daughter Lily: ‘He said he had to sleep outside the trench as the Australian soldiers told him there was not enough room for him in the trench. It was snowing and his hands were stiff when he woke up.’ Barbara adds circumspectly, ‘It could have been because he was Russian, but we do not really know’. What we do know is that Alexander Egoroff bore no grudges and after the war he always celebrated Anzac Day. Even in the 1930s when times were very tough for him and his growing family, he would put on his best suit and head into Sydney for the reunion of his 17th Battalion. The men that he as a stretcher-bearer had carried off the battlefields, recognised him and showed their appreciation, even if sometimes he himself could not remember their faces. Together, every year, they would seal their comradeship with a drink. After Alexander returned from the war permanently disabled from a gunshot to his left arm he managed to find work as a gardener and lived in Paddington, Sydney. He married Lillian Hampson on 10 July 1918, and then worked as a gardener at Mittabah near Exeter, NSW. In 1920, using money he obtained through a war grant, Alexander bought 10 acres of land at a soldier’s settlement in Plumpton (just outside of Blacktown, Sydney). The young family maintained contact with only a few other Russians. It was not a good time in Australia’s history to admit one’s Russianness, which tended to be Alexander Egoroff soon after his arrival in Australia. Courtesy of Alexander Egoroff’s family Alexander and Lillian Egoroff’s eight remaining children at the dedication of the ‘Alexander Egoroff reserve’, Blacktown, Sydney, 2004. (back row left to right) Peter (b.1927), Alexandra (b.1927), Mary (b.1925), Jean (b.1931). (front row left to right) Shirley (b.1934), Alexander Robert (b.1919), Nancy (b.1921), David (b.1929). Courtesy of Alexander Egoroff’s family Autumn–Winter 2005 MEMENTO 5