Elena Govor




On the 22 July 1816 an English ship with cargo of convicts – "Atlas" – entered the harbor of Sydney. Amongst the newcomers there was a tall dark-haired brown-eyed man with pale emaciated face with one blind eye. The roll call began. "Constantine Mil-cow-w!" – a local warden, receiving the live cargo, yelled with a falter. And Constantine which didn’t even try to explain that his surname in reality was "Milkov", habitually confirmed that he was Milcow, native of Moscow, 33 years of age, breaker by trade, sentenced in London on 10 May 1815, sent to Australia for seven years.

On the 26 April 1815 Constantin Milkov, wandering around the London docks, stole 17 pounds of bacon in a store in Wapping Hall, was caught by the vendor John Watkinson red-handed and dispatched to a police station. A court trial followed soon and the final verdict was given: "Guilty. To deport for 7 years for theft of 17 pound of bacon worth of 11 shillings."

This is all reliable information which may be found in documents of the trial related to the peregrinations of Constantin Milkov in London in dim and distant 1815. It is still unknown how he managed to have reached London. Maybe, he was just a seaman who had jumped his ship, looking for a job to go to sea again, maybe just an adventurer. It is not excluded that he was a Russian soldier who had found himself in Europe after the Napoleonic Wars. There were quite a few people of this kind at a time – the Russian writer Ivan Goncharov described in his book "The "Pallada" Frigate" an encounter with one of those men in South Africa. One thing may be stated with confidence – Milkov was not a professional London thief, and his theft was rather an act of desperation. All his posterior life spent in honest work confirms it.

Initially in Australia Milkov was sent to Bringelli near Liverpool as the development of this territory had just hardly begun at a time. The farmers didn’t take him as a laborer, and he caught a harder fate of a "state’s" convict. He fully did his time working in the outskirts of Sydney. Obviously he didn’t incur any penalties as in 1822 after the end of his term he was fully released and settled in Windsor – a small town east of Sydney. Here he rented a 5 acre farm. It was impossible to make living out of this lot of land and Milkov found employment with a local big landowner Archibald Bell (1773-1837), which was the Chief Police Judge of the area at a time. In 1823 Milkov was still one of his workers, but the 1825 registry already mentions him as a worker of the MacArthurs family in Argyle. The first and family names of Constantin Milkov were making themselves at home on the Australian soil with difficulties – he was mentioned as Constantine Milcow, Meliko, Meleke and even Constantin Millers in documents. The latest currently available data about him relates to the year 1825. He is not in the census of 1828 and later ones, he is not in the ‘Death, Birth and Marriage database’ of the pioneers of New South Wales. He would hardly have had enough money to leave Australia and his forgotten grave is rather somewhere amidst the Australian bush.

Obviously Milkov may be counted as the first Russian convict in Australia and, most likely, the first permanent Russian resident in Australia, but not the first native of the Russian Empire.

The pre-Australian period of life of John Potocki (1762-1824) – native of Belorussia who could speak Russian and, as he said, was an ex-servicemen of the Russian Army – is still obscured by clouds. He was arrested in England, deported to the colonies and arrived to Tasmania, which then was called Van Diemen’s Land, with the first Tasmanian fleet in 1804. When the Russian ships "Kreiser" and "Ladoga" called in Hobart in May 1823 the seamen were surprised to have found there four people who could speak Russian. One of them was a convict known as John Potaski. The famous Russian navigator captain Andrey Lazarev wrote the following about this encounter in the manuscript of his book:

We saw four people who could speak Russian in Hobart, among them was an aging native of Belorussia Potocki; if we could trust his words he used to be our army officer during the reign of Ekaterina II and had been brought by the vicissitudes of life to England, and in 1804 deported from there to the Van Diemen’s Island amongst criminals; he has enjoyed freedom since 1810, has a house in the town, wife and adult children… Prior to our departure we had sent him a Russian copy of the New Testament

Potocki presumably was born about 1762-1763. It is known, that after the second division of Poland in 1793 a national-liberation rebellion supported by many members of the noble dynasty of Potockis and led by Tadeusz Kosciuszko broke out. It is quite likely that John Potocki deserted from the Russian Army and joined the rebels, and after their defeat as well as many others, fled abroad. Potocki married an Irish woman in England about 1800 and they had a son Josef. In the winter of 1801 Potocki committed a petty theft in the town of Newhaven (County of Sussex) and in the beginning of 1802 was sentenced for seven years of exile. Three daughters were born in the Potockis family already in Australia. In 1810 Potocki was released and became a free farmer. According to his contemporaries he succesfully supplied the young colony with his products, for example, in 1816 he alone had grown more wheat than the colonial authorities needed for the annual stock. But the Potockis were destined to undergo many misfortunes. In 1821 his son Josef was executed for a robbery. Potocki himself was caught in sheep stealing during the last years of his life. He died in 1824… His surname had several spellings in Australia (for example Potaski, Potasky, Poteskie). It is noteworthy that there are about two thousands of his descendants in modern Australia. These people still hold family reunions nowadays. On their initiative a small steel plaque with inscription "John Potaski. Arrived in Hobart 18-2-1804. Died 31-8-1824" was placed in the center of Hobart in the memorial park next to the tombstones of the first settlers.

There was one more mysterious person amongst the natives of Russia deported to Australia – Joseph Aurora. Although he had called Russia his birthplace his ethnic origins remain unclear. It may be presumed, that Joseph was a Pole, but the Polish convicts, as a rule, declared themselves native of Poland, not Russia, and his looks were not Polish – black hair, dark eyes, olive skin. Even the surname "Aurora" causes doubts, as it’s typical of neither Slavic, nor other European languages. Obviously it was his alias or nickname. He was born about 1770 and called his trade as a sailor. On 5 August 1812 he was arrested in London for stealing of a pair of stockings worth of 14 shillings. Unlike Constantin Milkov, Aurora seemingly was not an alien in the London underworld. When he was caught he, according to policeman’s words, ‘made use of terrible language, and offered to knock me down’. Apparently the policeman had convinced the court in the malicious nature of the arrested man, as Aurora was sentenced to death (the seven year term given to Milkov seems to be not that serious against this background). He was saved only by the fact that he had been recognized as ‘a foreigner, and not acquainted with the law of the land’ of England. He was pardoned and his death sentence was replaced by the exile for life to Australia. He arrived in Sydney on the "Earl Spencer" ship on 9 October 1813. But over here his tracks are lost. He either changed his name once again, or died, or escaped…

The fate of another convict with a Dutch name Abraham Van Brienen, born in Archangel about 1789, Protestant, a merchant by trade, is also interesting. He was a well-educated gentleman with an excellent knowledge of English, German and French languages. He was arrested when living in London and exiled to Australia for 7 years, arrived in Sydney on 22 September 1820. On the day of arrival he sent the Governor Macquarie a letter, probably, with a request to ease his fate and an attachment of a recommendation reference written in French by ‘le compte de Lieven’ – the Russian Ambassador in London, who had written that the Van Brienen’s family in Russia belongs to the ‘une Famille de la premiere respectabeleté dimi celeé en Russie’ and Brienen himself enjoyed ‘une reputation sans pache et admis dans la premiere societe’. Initially it didn’t help and Brienen was sent to work to Emu Plains, then to Port Dalrymple in the North of Tasmania. At last in 1822 he managed to find a clerk position (his handwriting was really perfect) in the Paramatta Commissariat Office. Soon after that he wrote a petition of mitigation of sentence (in excellent French) to the new Governor T. Brisbane having enclosed a copy of the Russian Ambassador’s reference. During these years Brienen attracted attention of the authorities by unsubstantiated revelation about his management or by escape from the place of work, but somehow he managed to have got away with all that for educated people were a value for the colony. In 1823 Brienen was enjoying a comfortable life in Sydney working as a clerk and hanging around in the local high society. But in the end of 1823 he was arrested for operation with a forged check and put into the Sydney Gaol, and then sent to Port Macquarie – a convict camp for repeat offenders till the end of his term. Having done his time, he managed to return to England in 1828. But there he was arrested again for document forgery and sent to Australia again where he arrived on the "Surry" ship in 1834 with life sentence. Now he had a name of Alexander Brannon. He was only 45, but seemed to be a worn-out old man – nearly bald with grey hair, lacking half of his teeth. He was known to work on Goat Island in Sydney Harbour. He died in 1844.

There were some more people of non-Russian background among convicts who called Russia as their birthplace. Abraham Samuels, a Jew, who had been born in Russia about 1795 used to be a hawker. On arrival in England he settled in Manchester, had wife and four children. In 1826 he was arrested for possession of stolen goods and sent to England for 14 years. He arrived in Sydney in the "Manluis" ship on 11 August 1827, worked in Penrith for a man called Samuel Dow. Thereafter he became a blacksmith, then a constable. He was conditionally pardoned in 1841, died in 1846.

John Johnson, a sawyer, was born in Archangel about 1783, in 1816 was sentenced to a 7 year term in Australia for a stolen hat, arrived in Sydney on 7 November 1818 on the "Morley" ship. After the first term he was arrested for another crime and sent to Port Macquarie.

Western Australia was the last colony which accepted convicts, and the natives of Russia deported from England during the following years would arrive only there. There was another interesting person among them - Frionurg Badoski. He was born in Russia in 1827 and belonged to the Greek Church and, despite his strange name, maybe was of Russian or Polish ethnic origin. His appearance was that of a Slav or a Finn – medium height, round face, with light brown hair and blue eyes. Badoski was a literate man, soldier and … diamond polisher by trade. In 1853 he was proceeded against for money counterfeit and sent to Western Australia for 14 years. He arrived in Perth on the "Ramillies" ship on 7 August 1854. For several years he was kept behind the bars. The B&W mark is often present in front of his name in the jail penalty log book. It obviously means that from time to time he was on bread and water (B&W) for misbehavior. But eventually his life took the right direction. In three years he received ticket of leave, two years after that he was conditionally pardoned and switched to the trade of a jeweler and watchmaker. In 1861 he married Margaret Campbell, by this time he had been known as Francis. But at the time he was caught again with a forged banknote and sentenced for three years. Now he had to work in Champion Bay as a labourer and coal burner. In 1864 his second term ended, he was fully released and left for Batavia.

There were several natives of the Russian Baltic provinces amongst the convicts. Nisson or Nissen Jacobson was born about 1794 in Libava (Latvia), which then was within the Russian Empire. Ethnically he was rather Scandinavian or Lettish. His trade was recorded as ‘sigar manufacturer’. Having been arrested in 1817 in London for possession of a forged banknote and sentenced to 14 years of exile, he arrived in Tasmania on 11 June 1818 on the "Lady Castlereagh" ship. Possibly, he was one of those Russian-speakers, who were met but not named by captain Lazarev in Hobart in 1823 apart from Potocki. Jacobson worked for Mrs. Humphrey and a case of his insolent behavior towards her was even investigated by the magistrate. He had had no other infringements and in 1826 he was conditionally pardoned and in 1831 fully released.

Aaron Woolf, a Jew, was born in Riga in 1793. He moved to England, became a merchant, was arrested for stealing of 14 (!) gold watches and sentenced only for 7 years of exile. In 1829 he arrived in Australia on the ‘Layton’ ship and worked for George Barber in Goulburn. He was a rebellious man for what he once was sentenced to flogging – 75 lashes. Having done his time he himself began to work in the penitentiary system and moved to Tasmania by the end of his years.

Karl Plumback, native of Memel (now Klaipeda, Lithuania) used to be a ship carpenter. He committed a crime during a stay of his ship in London and was sentenced for life conviction in Australia where he arrived in 816 on the "Fanny" ship.

Ernst Elsnor, another native of Lithuania, used to be a book-binder in London. He got 7 years of exile for two stolen shirts and arrived in Hobart on the "John" ship in 1833.

Peter Myers, a seaman, native of Finland, shared the Karl Plumback’s fate – he committed a crime during a stay in London, got 7 years of exile and arrived in Sydney on the "Elizabeth" ship in 1816.

Natives of the part of Poland, which was within the bounds of the Russian Empire, and those who had not identified in which part of Poland they were born, comprised a large group of convicts – 18 men. Only six of them can be considered of Polish ethnic descent with certainty: they are Joseph Botegelfsky (arrested in Spain, deported to Australia in 1815); natives of Warsaw who had been servants of an English gentleman and accomplices in a case of possession of stolen items August Piotrowski and Kazimiery Szezygielsky (1838); a soldier Joseph Skewski (1838); ex-servant and soldier Norbruth Dolubowski (1838). The sixth man, a soldier from Poland Paul Stempin, was arrested in Spain in 1813 together with another soldier from Wallachia named Theodore Herenzack. They got life sentences, arrived in Australia in 1814 and became servants of the famous explorer John Oxley, later they were conditionally pardoned. Oxley referred to Stempin as to an ‘industrious, deserving’ man. One more Catholic from Warsaw Joseph Yoncasty (1840), a tailor and soldier, could have been a Czech or Pole as judged from the surname. Nine men were Jews: Joachim Boaz, Aaron Gainsborough, Thomas Harris/Herscht, Samuel Jacobs, Moses King, Jacob Levy, Moses Rochotz, Wolfe Tielzner, Simon Wineberg. Two other natives of Warsaw Gothan (Gotthard) Raake – ‘professor of languages’, and Mathias Tody (or Yody) – a sutler, obviously were of other European backgrounds.

As to the people with Slavic names we have to mention another mysterious person – in 1838 17 year old Daniel Detloff/Von Ranzow was deported to Australia from the Prince of Wales Island. The surname was spelt in German way but it can be read as Russian surnames of Diatlov and Vorontsov too. Who was he? There are several Islands of Prince of Wales in different parts of the world. Apparently Detloff was native of the island in the Alexander Archipelago in the Russian America. There are many Russian place names in the vicinity of this island – Kutuzov Island, Baranov Island (on which Novo-Archangelsk (Sitka) was situated), and even Town of Petersburg. Perhaps he was a Russificated Indian-Tinklit. He had certainly non-European looks – yellow skin, dark hair and dark chestnut eyes. It is known that he was a literate man and had served as a captain’s mate on a ship, been arrested for an attempt to murder, sentenced for life in Bombay and deported to Australia. In 1841 he was released on parole.

Thus, between 1804 and 1862 31 (it’s not the final figure) natives of the Russian Empire were deported to Australia. Only three of them were born in Russian cities – Moscow and Archangel. Four more men called Russia their birthplace but never told from which part of Russia they had come. Two were born in Latvia, one – in Lithuania, one in Finland, one in Russian America. And, lastly, 18 men called Poland their birthplace. John Potocki, whose place of birth had not been named in documents, was, according to his own words, native of Belorussia. The ethnic origin of these people is even more complicated. The only man who can be confidently identified as Russian was Constantin Milkov from Moscow. John Potocki was Belorussian or Polish. Six men from Poland were certainly Polish. Possibly two other men who had called Russia their birthplace were Poles as well (John Aurora and Frionurg Badoski). One was presumably Czech or Slovak. At least 11 were Jews (one from Russia, one from Latvia, nine from Poland). Lastly, there was even an American Indian. Besides, there are at least 9 more people, who, as judged from their names and surnames, may be considered as English, Dutch and Scandinavian (Abraham Van Brienen, John Johnson, George Moneylaws, Nisson Jacobson, Ernst Elsnor, Peter Myers, Gothan Raake, Mathias Tody). It suggests that already at the end of the eighteen – beginning of the nineteenth century Russia was closely connected with Europe having numerous foreigners living within its bounds, especially at seaports. Thus Abraham Van Brienen, native of Archangel, was fluent in three European languages and enjoyed patronage of the Russian Ambassador in London, belonged to the Russian elite despite his Dutch name.

Nowadays it is customary to be proud of convict ancestry in Australia. These sentiments are briefly expressed in the slogan "Proud of Convict Blood!". Well, the natives of the Russian Empire – the USSR – Russian Federation - living now in Australia can proudly say that their countrymen were among the founders of the Australian nation too.








Joseph Aurora 

Earl Spencer



Frionurg Badoski 




Abraham Van Brienen




John Johnson




Constantine Milcow 




George Moneylaws




Abraham Samuels




Nisson ( Nissen) Jacobson

Lady Castlereagh



Aaron Woolf




Ernst Elsnor




Carl Plumback




Peter Myers




Theodore Herenzack




Joseph Yoncasty 




Joachim Boaz 




Joseph Botegelfsky 

Marquis of Wellington



Norbruth Dolubowski 

Earl Grey



Aaron Gainsborough 

Lady Harewood



Thomas Harris/Herscht 




Samuel Jacobs 




Moses King 




Jacob Levy 

Countess of Harcourt



August Piotrowski

Bengal Merchant



John Potocky




Gothan (Gotthard) Raake  

Lady Franklin and Parkfield



Moses Rochotz




Joseph Skewski 




Paul Stempin




Kazimiery Szezgielski 

Bengal Merchant



Wolfe Tielzner 




Mathias Tody (Yody) Warsaw




Simon Wineberg 

Bengal Merchant



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