Father Valentin Andreevich Antonieff
Valentin Andreevich Antonieff was born in Ekaterinoslav, Ukraine, on 7 March 1878, the son of a Russian Orthodox priest. After graduating from Ardon theological seminary, he was appointed as a sexton to the estate of the Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaivich and then soon afterwards appointed as a deacon. In 1910 he was ordained as a priest. In 1913 he was appointed to the Spassk garrison in the Far East, and upon outbreak of war, was appointed as dean of the 1st Siberian Infantry Battalion. During the war, Antonieff was wounded twice and was awarded the Order of St Vladimir 4th degree with swords and the Order of St Anna 3rd degree with swords. He was also personally decorated by Tsar Nicholas II with the cross and ribbon of the Order of St George.
After civil war broke out in Russia, Antonieff joined the White Army as dean of the 3rd Steppe Corps. He was later made head priest of the 2nd Siberian army, with 108 priests and four deans under his command. At the conclusion of the civil war, in 1922, Antonieff escaped with the army through Vladivostok into Shanghai; he was soon joined by his wife, Maria, and five children.
Ten months later, Antonieff and a son-in-law travelled to Australia to find work, later bringing the rest of the family over to Australia. They worked in various jobs in Queensland, including the Townsville railroad and Mt Mulligan mines before settling in Brisbane, where Antonieff assisted Father Alexander Shabashev in the first Russian parish. In 1932 Antonieff was appointed priest, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Brisbane and Queensland. After extensive fundraising, St Nicholas Cathedral was completed in 1936. In 1939 Antonieff was naturalised.
From the mid-1930s, Antonieff scandalised many of his congregation by his outspoken support of fascism, including distributing Russian Fascist Union publications and raising a collection for fascists, and for preaching pro-German sermons. His close associate and the church’s librarian, Ivan Rodjestvensky, was one of the few Australian members of the Russian Fascist Union and had been the Australian representative at the Third Congress of Russian Fascists in Harbin, China, in 1935.
Antonieff was the subject of many denunciations to Australian authorities, and he was interned in Loveday in March 1942, along with 26 of his parishioners. Two months later he wrote to the Commandant of Loveday:
The act of unnecessarily depriving my Queensland parishioners of their spiritual leader, as a result of my humiliating arrest and internment in spite of my position and age, I consider unjust and unworthy of a Christian state.
After his second appeal in early 1944 was unsuccessful, Antonieff complained to the authorities that ‘it is really cruel to keep a sick old man in an unheated iron hut, the more as I have not deserved the treatment’.
Antonieff was released from Loveday on compassionate grounds – due to his own ill health and that of his wife, in Brisbane – in July 1944. He returned to a mixed welcome from his parishioners but in 1951 was appointed protopresbyter of the Church in Australia. He died in 1962 and was buried in Toowong cemetery.
Barbara Winter, The Most Dangerous Man in Australia? (Glass House Books, 2010).
David A Gibson, ‘Antonieff, Valentin Andreevich (1877-1962)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/antonieff-valentin-andreevich-5041.
Digital image of Father Valentin Antonieff, SLQld: 62025.
Maria Kravchenko interviewed by Elena Volkova in the Australian Generations Oral History Project, 28 November 2013, NLA: ORAL TRC 6300/238.
NAA: D1901, A39, ANTONIEFF, Valentine Andrew – Internment.
Sheila Fitzpatrick, White Russians, Red Peril: A Cold War History of Migration to Australia (La Trobe University Press, 2021).
Author: Jayne Persian
 Letter from V Antonieff, Archpriest, to the Commandant, No. 10 Internment Camp, 4th Military District, South Australia, 23 May 1942, NAA: D1901, A39, ANTONIEFF, Valentine Andrew – Internment.
 Letter from V Antonieff, Archpriest, to the Deputy Director General of National Security, Adelaide, 23 May 1944, NAA: D1901, A39, ANTONIEFF, Valentine Andrew – Internment.