Elena Govor, My Dark Brother, Sydney, 2000




About the author


Contents and excerpts


National Biography Award nomination

TV documentary


The Ngadjon people

Мой темнокожий брат



I would like to express my gratitude above all to Flora Hoolihan — granddaughter of the Russian intellectual, daughter of the Ngadjon Aboriginal woman, grandmother of the young Aboriginal Australian intellectuals — she has opened her heart to share with us the unique and painful story of her family. Among other members of the Illin family who especially contributed to the book are Henry Illin and his family, particularly Alec Illin and Leanne Illin; Ernest and Maud Hoolihan and their children — Derek, Dynzie, Allison and Hilary; Margaret and Frank Gertz and their family; Richard Hoolihan, Glenda Illin, Vera Ketchell, Essie Morganson, Nola Smallwood and Hazel Illin. I am grateful to Jessie Calico, the Ngadjon Aboriginal elder, for telling me the myths of her people and to Emma Johnston (née Raymond) for providing some information about her Ngadjon country.

Material from the Honduran and American branches of the Illin family also significantly contributed to the book, particularly contributions from Ellen Dale Flores, Leandro Illin Jnr, Somerled Mackay Jnr, Hector Mackay, Olga Rodgers, and René Mackay.

I wish to express my deep appreciation to Marian Hill (the Australian National University), who for years patiently edited drafts of this book, as English is not my native language. Marian was more than just an editor for me — she was my first supporter in moments of despair and the first tactful critic, contributing her precise style of expression and her vast knowledge to this book. She also helped me to transcribe all tape-recordings of my interviews.

Roderic Campbell, the editor, further improved the manuscript with his highly professional and constructive editing. His contribution as a stylist, a creative writer and experienced linguist was vitally important in dealing with the diverse voices and sources used in the book. He also contributed to the translation of many of the Russian poems cited and the Spanish sources.

I am grateful to the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, which, although unable to fund my research, provided me with facilities to write the book as a visiting scholar there and gave me access to the resources of its library. I also acknowledge the support of the Queensland State Archives, particularly of archivists Margaret Reid and Dianne Duroux, and manager Moira Bligh, who made a thorough search of the documents relating to the Illin family in the files of the Chief Protector of Aboriginals. Among those who provided me with advice and help in my research are Nikolai Dmitrovsky, R.M.W. Dixon, Peter Kershaw, William A. Douglass, Ric Throssell, Roy Phelps, George Butcher, Brian McNamara, Kevin Windle. I also appreciate the support of Bill Homenko, Peter Gadaloff, Igor Gadaloff, Sheila Gadaloff, Basil Strelnikoff, and George Balias, who are all descendants of the first Russian settlers of ‘Little Siberia’ in the Atherton Tablelands; and of Delphia Atkinson, Bim Atkinson, Giles Atkinson, and Henry Atkinson, all members of the Atkinson family.

I would like to begin the list of people who provided assistance with Russian materials with Lena Nitkina, who, under the constant pressure of Moscow crises, having two children to look after and two jobs to work at, for years patiently and honestly fulfilled all my requests: she made telephone inquiries, collected materials from the researchers, prepared copies, found reliable people to carry the papers to Australia. Among those who assisted me in the research — which, besides ordinary archival and library references, often included preparation of handwritten copies — are Professor Aleksandr Ia. Massov, Zaiara Veselaia, Dr Anton Valdine, Natalia M. Iudenich, Dr Olga Artemova, Sergei V. Chernov, Professor Boris A. Starkov, Dr Stanislav Dumin, Dr Galina Kanevskaia, and (at the Russian State Library) Nadezhda Ryzhak. I also owe deep appreciation to the enthusiastic support of Valentina Provodina, director of a tiny local museum in the village of Turki (Saratov province), situated near the village where Nikolai Ilin, one of the heroes of my research, was born.

I am deeply grateful to my husband, Professor Vladimir Kabo — the first reader of, and advisor on my drafts. His interest in my research, his professional, moral and financial support were essential during all these years.

My son Ralphie Kabo shared with me my fieldwork in Queensland when he was four years old, and, I hope, has learned a lot from our trip, once even being privileged to hear the myth of the Rainbow Serpent from Ngadjon Aboriginal elder Jessie Calico at the very spot in the Ngadjon country where it is believed the events of the myth took place. He and his young Aboriginal friends, to whom this book is dedicated, are to build the new Australia free from racial prejudice and thus fulfil Leandro Illin’s dream.