Alexander Egoroff Reserve
Russian ANZACs and ANZAC legends
Alexander Egoroff left his native Bestuzhevo in Central Russia in 1909 and came to Australia in search of a better life. He joined the army and his granddaughter Barbara remembers that during the Somme winter of 1916–17: ‘He said that he had to sleep outside the trench as the Australian soldiers told him there was not enough room for him in the trench. So he covered himself with the blankets and slept outside the trench. It was snowing and his hands were stiff when he woke up.’ And she adds circumspectly, ‘It could have been because he was Russian, but we do not really know’.
Yet, after the war he had a special day once a year — Anzac Day. Even when, in the 1930s, he was making his living at Plumpton as a gardener and raising his ten children by himself while his wife was in hospital, every year on that day he would put on his best suit and head into Sydney for the reunion of his 17th Battalion. He bore no grudges. The men 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. And, together, they sealed their comradeship with a drink.
So, the Anzac mateship did take root, although with some delay. He died in 1940, while three of his children were serving in the Army in the Second World War. Inspired by their aspiration to find their Russian family, I helped them to contact Bestuzhevo and the miracle happened: we found the family of Alexander’s Russian brother in Moscow and soon both families had a reunion in the Blue Mountains. And translating for them a video about the humble village of Bestuzhevo in far away Russia, I felt how important for them was this rediscovery of their Russian heritage, which they missed for decades. The location of the Egoroff farm has been transformed now into the Alexander Egoroff Reserve, with a memorial plaque dedicated to the Russian Anzacs.