Australia through Russian spectacles – year 1910

The newspaper ” Queenslander”  published a very interesting article on 13 August 1910 about the life of Russians in states of NSW and Queensland in Australia.  Apparently there was a number of articles written by the same person who found it difficult to make a living in Australia.  You will find the links below.  The articles were written in Russian and then translated for publication.  Below you will find the extract from this letter.  It will be interesting one day to find the identities of people mentioned in this article.

No, dear friend, I do not advise you to come to Sydney. The labour market  here is glutted, and it is very difficult to find something to do for a living. I myself worked for three weeks as a labourer in a factory. For another three weeks I worked as a general servant in a French family of five, the mistress herself doing the cooking. I was tidying the rooms, making beds, washing dishes, paring vegetables, serving at table, etc.  I had to work from 6 in the morning till 10 p.m., being all the time on my feet. For the whole of this I received a little hole to sleep in, my keep, and 7/ per week. .  I hope it is better in Queensland than it is here, although, to tell the truth, it is throughout Australia hard to make a living, for an educated man who knows no trade.   I left my situation as a servant in the hope of finding something more congenial. Should I fail to land it—well, nothing will be left but to revert to the house servant business again.

Then the author talks about the friend P , who was a graduate of an European university and who works now at a button-holing machine for a tailor and makes pockets.

The analytical chemist O. again has lost a job.  He used to work as a kitchen man and tried to find a place at a factory, but was not accepted.

Someone with surname starting with Sch. and his wife finished the musical school in Russia, and his wife, the St. Petersburg Conservatoire.  They wanted to get the jobs at the theatrical or garden orchestras, work at restaurants or provide the music lessons, but there were no vacancies for them.

A man with surname L. ,”who knows English well, having learned it at the University of Yakutsk (meaning while in exile among the Yakutsk tribes of Kamtchatka) has found occupation in an establishment for the cleaning of old clothes, where, for a mere pittance he inhales dust and ammonia vapors.”

A technical engineer F. was working at repulsive work for a Russian countryman making ”an essence of coffee” where there was no hint of coffee.

The author also talks about a creation of Russian Association in Sydney which is planned to provide the assistance to new immigrants.  Its purpose was to open an intelligence bureau and supply new arrivals with information about the country, support with jobs and to organise English courses.  In 1910 at the time of writing of this article there were 22 people in this Association.

As you are aware, we Russians, are not too amenable to voluntary discipline, nor are we experts in conducting public affairs. Besides, we have here amongst us a good many wasters, a fact which might easily have a bad effect on the newly formed association.”

In New Zealand Russian emigrants worked mostly on farms. They did not like searching for kauri gum, as they found the work rather heavy.

It appears that many intellectuals settled in Sydney while hard working immigrants ”accustomed to physical exertion” went to Queensland.  For them the major problem was the language.

Russian immigrants tending their cotton crop, Queensland (undated). John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland
Russian immigrants tending their cotton crop, Queensland (undated). John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

”Of the party who came from Kharbin, one, Mr. V., bought a farm some 40 miles from Brisbane ; others went out west—to Wallumbilla [T- a Russian agricultural colony of Wallumbilla was created in 1909], we believe —where they settled on some unsuitable land, which will cost them more to clear of prickly pear than would have the acquisition of good land ready for the plough elsewhere.”

Many went to Northern Territory to work for about £1 a week and the keep on the sugar plantations.  They worked for long hours in unbearable heat.

”The smartest of the lot keeps  aloof from their countrymen, not only on account of some unpleasantness which occurred among them on the voyage, but also because by working among English speaking people they will more quickly acquire a knowledge of the language. ”

Source:

THROUGH RUSSIAN SPECTACLES. IMPRESSIONS OF QUEENSLAND. I. (1910, July 9). The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 – 1939), p. 8. Retrieved October 28, 2015, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article21881269

THROUGH RUSSIAN SPECTACLES. (1910, July 16). The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 – 1939), p. 8. Retrieved October 28, 2015, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article21881474

SKETCHER. (1910, July 30). The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 – 1939), p. 8. Retrieved October 28, 2015, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article21881915

THROUGH RUSSIAN SPECTACLES.-IV. (1910, August 6).The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 – 1939), p. 8. Retrieved October 28, 2015, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article21882064

QUEENSLAND, THROUGH RUSSIAN SPECTACLES.—V. (1910, August 13). The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 – 1939), p. 8. Retrieved October 28, 2015, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article21882350

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