On Tuesday 10 August 1915, a 25 year old Russian named Neplen
Matanakes was allowed to disembark from the SS Empire in Brisbane,
the capital city of the state of Queensland in the recently federated
Australia. A year into World War I, Neplen’s journey had started a
few weeks earlier in the Chinese Russian city of Harbin. Like other
Russians before him, Neplen made his way to the Japanese seaport of
Dairen (or Dalny), also located on the Chinese mainland. He then
joined the SS Empire at Kobe, Japan, on one of its regular round trips
to Australia and, after brief stops in Hong Kong and Manila, the
steamer arrived in Darwin on 1 August 1915. The three unnamed
Russians on board were mentioned in dispatches telegraphed south.
Brisbane was the SS Empire’s first capital city landfall in Australia
and, by disembarking here, Neplen followed the path of thousands
of other Russians who arrived in Australia through its most northerly
state capital (Govor 1997).