Person - Edward Janshewsky

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Variants of his surname were Janitski, Janisky, Janetsky and Janswesky.

Despite his imperfect English and heavy accent, seaman turned performer Janshewsky was cast in a number of WAC and NTL productions. He played Bob Crass in The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists at Ingersoll Hall in 1933, the head of British police Sir Broadfoot Basham in On the Rocks in 1934, a bystander in Pygmalion in 1934, and a revival of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists in 1935 at 36 Pitt Street. In 1934 he delivered a monologue Vanzetti in the Death House, a presentation repeated at Pakies club in May 1935. Janshewsky returned to NT in 1948 in the role of a general in The Governor of the Province.

Born in Libau Latvia on 9 October 1883 Janshewsky at age 17 left his mother and four sisters to travel the world as a fireman on steamships. Heavily tattooed, he landed in 1915 in Sydney on a voyage from South America to Russia and met the Russian consul Thomas Welsh who coerced him into enlisting in the AIF. Giving a sister in Russia as his next of kin, he sailed on the Euripides on 2 November 1915. Janshewsky maintained that he was unpopular with his fellow soldiers because he was Russian so he turned to drink. His period of service was marked by periods spent in hospital, base depots and in detention. He was court martialled for absence without leave in December 1917 and in 1918 deserted. With war’s end his sentence of five years was remitted and on 12 June 1919 he landed in Australia before moving on to New Zealand.

By the mid 1920s Janshewsky was back in Sydney, married and working as a bootmaker. In 1942, while living in Mosman, he enlisted for war service and rose to the rank of corporal with 21 Works Company. In 1947, giving his religion as Presbyterian and his address as 139 Forbes Street East Sydney, he was naturalised.

Edward Janshewsky died aged 69 at East Sydney in 1953. His widow “Signa” Hansigna died aged 73 at Randwick in 1958.

Although Janshewsky was under scrutiny from 1916 until his death by a series of surveillance bodies (Special Intelligence Bureau, Investigation Branch, Commonwealth Investigation Service, ASIO and Federal Police), when he applied for naturalisation only one conviction against his name could be found – for drunkenness in 1942 when celebrating “with friends”.

See also Elena Govor's Russian Anzacs in Australian History published in 2005.

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