MUDr. Marco Grigorjevič (Grigorievich) BRAUNSTEIN / Lieutenant of the Australian Army Dr. Mark George BRUNTON


Mark George BRUNTON

Basic data:
* 23. 2. 1893, Odessa (Ukraine)
† 5. 9. 1963, Melbourne (Australia)
Former profession:
General practitioner, dentist

Emigration and exile:
Czechoslovakia (1920–1939)
Australia (1939–1963)

Army service (Australian Army):
1941–1945: 106th Australian General Hospital


Nansen passport was an internationally recognised document that enabled refugees to settle legally in a new country or return to their original homeland, introduced by the first High Commissioner for Refugees of the United Nations, a Norwegian scientist, polar explorer and diplomat Fridtjof Nansen).


Let’s take a look at the life of a descendant of a Russian Jewish family, whose lengthy journey through internment camps ended in Czechoslovakia; he studied medicine here and got married - only to run again before long, this time to the other end of the world.

Marco Braunstein was born on February 23, 1893 in a Jewish, but mainly Russian-speaking family of Grigori Braunstein in Odessa (at that time in the Russian Empire). As a 21 years old student, he was enlisted in the tsarist army when the Great War broke out in 1914, and for one year took part in battles against the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In one of these battles, Braunstein was taken prisoner; he was moved to Hungaria afterwards and spent the rest of the war in camps in Komárno and Dunajská Streda (today Slovakia). When the war ended, his imprisonment on the territory of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire continued until 1920: at last, he managed to get to Czechoslovakia as a refugee in that year.

He didn’t return to Russia even after the war’s end; he decided to stay in Czechoslovakia instead and continue with his university studies, which he was forced to abandon after enlistment. At first he studied at the Faculty of Medicine at the Charles University in Prague (1920–1924), later at the Faculty of Medicine at the Komenský University in Bratislava (1928–1934), where he was awarded the academic title MUDr. He began working as a general practitioner and later a dentist in Bratislava, still however with the status of a refugee and since 1930 as a holder of the Nansen passport.

MUDr. Braunstein, already a Czechoslovak citizen, was married to Chaia Faiga ((born on January 29, 1909 in Warsaw (Poland)), a Polish Jew and a physician who had also studied at the same Faculty of Medicine, in Bratislava (Slovakia) on March 5, 1938. However, the First Czechoslovak Republic was quickly getting to its end; the Czecho-Slovak state definitively broke up in March 1939. The political atmosphere in the newly established Slovak state with its strong inclination towards Nazi Germany wasn’t favourable at all, especially for a young Jewish couple. When the Second World War broke out and the racial laws were announced in Slovakia, they decided for emigration.

Mr. and Mrs. Braunstein left Slovakia on October 2, 1939. Their long journey for freedom led through Hungaria and the Yugoslavian isle of Susak to the Italian port city of Nervi and to nearby Genoa. From there, they travelled on the board of a ship called Romolo (Romulus) to Australia.

Mr. and Mrs. Braunstein reached the Australian shore on December 26, 1939. They landed in Melbourne (state Victoria), and being Jewish exiles, they decided to change their German-sounding family name, deemed rather unsuitable for contact with the Australians – Australia had been at war with Nazi Germany since September 1939. Marco Grigorievich chose an English version of his name, Mark George, together with a new surname Brunton, and his wife introduced herself as Felicia Brunton.

Mr. and Mrs. Brunton settled in Melbourne and established contacts with the Czechoslovak honorary consul E.R. Peacock. According to the records of the Czechoslovak consul general Solanský, they lived in flat no. 19 at 20 The Esplanade, St. Kilda, Melbourne.

In September 1941, when another war in Europe had raged already for two years, M.G. Brunton decided to enter voluntarily the Australian Army. He was enlisted on September 26 with service number V19714, and as a university-educated physician placed in the 106th Australian General Hospital unit, based at the large Bonegilla camp nearby Lake Hume and the towns of Wodonga and Albury (state Victoria). He remained there in the rank of a lieutenant until the end of the war.

The 106th army hospital served as a central hospital for the whole military base, consisting of 848 buildings, and it also received Australian and American soldiers from the battlefront to convalesce there from exhaustion and illnesses, particularly malaria and tuberculosis (655 patients with tuberculosis were hospitalized in 1944 only). The hospital took care of Italian prisoners of war from the nearby camp in Myrtleford as well.

More detailed information about lieutenant Brunton and his life after the war are yet unknown. We only know that he was demobilised after four years of service on October 5, 1945 and that he didn’t return to freed Czechoslovakia; in February 1946, he was granted the Australian citizenship, continued to live in Melbourne, and died there at the age of 70 on September 5, 1963.

Primary and secondary sources:

Archiv Ministerstva zahraničních věcí Praha, fond Londýnský archiv (obyčejný).

Národní archiv Praha, fond Policejní ředitelství Praha II – všeobecná spisovna (1931–1940).

Národní archiv Praha, fond Ministerstvo vnitra – Londýn.

National Archives of Australia, Passenger arrivals index (1921–1950).

PENNAY, Bruce: The army at Bonegilla 1940–71. Wodonga 2007.