The amazing story of the 900 Greek women who travelled 60 years ago aboard the Begona ship from Greece to Australia to meet their future husband was the subject of a mini-documentary by Australian SBS.
Journalist Rhiannon Elston interviewed some of the women who travelled thousands of miles away from their homes to start a new life.
Anastasia Tsiorvas was among passengers of the Begona. She was sailing from the Port of Piraeus to meet a man she’d chosen to marry only by a photograph.
Speaking to SBS she said: “I was a little bit uncomfortable, but so many girls, they come like me.”
Ms Tsiorvas was one of the lucky ones. After almost a month at sea, she met her husband after the ship pulled into Melbourne’s Port Philip Bay. It had docked in Fremantle, WA, four days earlier.
“I was on the top of the ship … he had some flowers and he called me, ‘Anastasia! Anastasia!’ And I look at him and I thought, ‘oh yes, he’s nice’,” she said.
“He was very good looking, and he was young.”
Valerie Rentoulas was one of the youngest of the women on board at just 17.
“I came to find a husband later on, but I came to work, and have money, better than where I was,” she said.
“Because everybody… at the time, wanted to go away, you know, somewhere better.”
She became a mother and a matriarch and says she was very happy to settle and build a life in Australia. But it came at a cost.
“We left mum and dad, we didn’t see them again for 20 years, that was the worst thing, but everything else was good.”
Peter Photakis has spent many years researching the historic voyage.
There were three categories, there were those who were engaged before they left, there were the ones that married by photo, and of course the others who came for, sort of, family reasons and found their husbands here,” he said of the women on the ship.
“There was an amount of money paid, the photos were sent here, the man selected out of the 10 or so photos the girl that he wanted to marry then a photo of him was sent back to the girl. She accepted and they got married, went to the church and they actually got blessed by the priest, marrying them by photo.”
But some of the girls didn’t want to leave Greece.
“They were virtually sold by their families to come here, marry by photo, never to return,” he said.