1921 – Australian Citizenship granted

The case for Sam’s citizenship dragged on until late May of 1921, and finally, on the 23rd of that month, when all his papers were in order, Sam renounced his Romanian citizenship, his allegiance to the King of Romania, and swore allegiance to His Majesty King George V and his heirs. He signed the document: Samuel Banarsky.

The following documents present the entire story of Sam’s travails in detail. Included are three letters in Sam’s own handwriting. Note throughout these documents, that Sam used two different surnames in Australia: Banarsky and Bernhardt. It was not until Sam moved to Los Angeles several years later, that he began to use Bonar, which was his grandfather’s surname.





May 7, 1919:

In the following document Sam clearly mentions that he was ‘sometimes called Samuel Bernhardt’. In addition, it is here that Sam writes that he reached Sydney, NSW, Australia on November 23, 1910, and that he had sailed there from Vancouver, BC, Canada on the steamship, Zealandia. Sam also reports that he had been working as a Showman for 5 years, that is, from late 1914.



May 17 & 19, 1919:

In these newspaper notices, required by law for all people applying for naturalization in Australia, Sam states the he has been in the country for eight years and that he resides on Cultivation Road in West Maitland, New South Wales.


May 27, 1919:



May 31, 1919:

In this letter, Sam learns that Russians are not being accepted for naturalization in Australia.


The resolution of Sam’s illegal status hinged on him being able to convince the authorities in New South Wales, that he was now a subject of the King of Romania. At the end of World War I his homeland, Bessarabia, had changed hands and was no longer part of Russia.


16th century map showing Bessarabia as a province in the Ottoman Empire

As a point of history, Bessarabia (shown in the map above) became a province of the Ottoman Empire in 1538, a status which lasted until the Russo-Turkish War of  1787-1792 when it was ceded to the Russian Empire. In 1918, towards the end of WW I, Bessarabia declared its independence of what had now become Bolshevik Russia, and then united with the Kingdom of Romania.  Sam’s father, who was a soldier in the Imperial Russian Army, had died in 1913, so he did not have to deal with fighting for Russia in WW I, and the changeover in the government of Bessarabia which occurred thereafter.

September 11, 1919:

Sam pleads with the government officials:


This undated memorandum prompts one Mr. Waldron to obtain Sam’s birth certificate:


October 13, 1919:


October 10, 1920:

A year later, Sam writes that he has finally received his birth certificate from Romania:


November 25, 1920:


November 30, 1920:


January 27, 1921:

Sam pleads with the government officials once again:


February 9, 1921:



March 3, 1921:


March 21, 1921


May 23, 1921: Success!




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