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Memento : Issue 29
equated with radicalism. The process of applying for naturalisation, for example, was fraught. To be considered suitable, an applicant had to be recognised as Russian but had to also satisfy the police that they neither mixed with other Russians nor belonged to any Russian organisations. Many Russians, like Alexander, chose not to apply for naturalisation. Alexander’s wife, Lillian, suffered chronic illness requiring intermittent hospitalisation throughout their life together and in 1934, after the birth of their tenth child was again hospitalised. This time Lillian did not return home, remaining in care until her death in 1956. For the rest of the 1930s, Alexander struggled to raise the children on his own while continuing to work their small farm. Because he had never been naturalised, when World War II broke out a few years later, he was required by law to register as an alien. His photograph was posted on the board at the local police station and he had to report there every week. When he became too ill to make the trip – he was dying of cancer and could not get out of bed – the police checked on him at home. Alexander died on 18 January 1940, still an alien. At various times during the war years the younger Egoroff children were placed in foster care. Three of the older children joined the army. The eldest son, Alexander Robert, was twenty years of age when his father died; and by the time the war ended he had two children of his own. Nonetheless, when he returned, he got all of his family back together, taking them out of welfare homes. His daughter Barbara remembers them all living together in their small house. Alexander Egoroff’s children all grew up Australians but they never forgot their Russian Anzac father. Unfortunately, however, they did lose contact with their relatives in Russia. After World War II, the family tried to find their Russian relatives in Bestuzhevo but had no luck. Meanwhile, Barbara, accompanied by her father, Alexander Robert, searched archives and recorded all the snippets of recollections and memories they could find about their family. When Elena tracked the Egoroff family down, she was so impressed with their thirst to rediscover the past that she suggested to Barbara that she compose a letter detailing all of the information they wanted to know. Elena then translated the letter and sent it directly to the village of Bestuzhevo. A few weeks later they received the following reply from Andrey Kovalenko, the grandson of Alexander’s youngest brother: ‘Perhaps I should again, as in my childhood, believe in Christmas miracles – on the 10/12/01 relatives from Bestuzhevo came to Moscow to our place with your letter. My grandfather Ivan Alexeevich Egoroff ... had searched for his brothers Alexander and Gavriil without success for a long time.’ In 2002 the Russian Egoroffs came to Sydney to meet their extended Australian family of more than 150 people. In the home of one of Alexander Egoroff’s granddaughters, they had a family reunion which Elena attended as a friend and translator: ‘While we watched [a] video about the old farmhouse in Bestuzhevo on a huge screen, I was translating the Russian comments to the family, and enjoying the faces of Alexander’s children and grandchildren. They were discovering that mystical source of the Russian stream in their souls.’ Russian Anzacs in Australian History is published by UNSW Press in association with the National Archives of Australia. It retails for $44.95 and can be purchased through our website at www.naa.gov.au, by phoning (02) 6212 3609 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Alexander and Lillian Egoroff’s first-born Alexander Robert (b. 1919) and their fourth-born, Alexandra Egoroff (b. 1923) taken about 1942 in Sydney. Courtesy of Alexander Egoroff’s family Russian Anzacs acs 6 MEMENTO News from the National Archives