The patriotic spirit of 11-year-old Greek-Australian Hector Vasyli is still alive, and is honored by many people even a century after his death.
The newspaperboy was much loved in his time, and his accidental death in the midst of welcoming home soldiers who fought in World War I elevated him to the status of a hero.
Hector did a lot of patriotic work for returned soldiers during the war. He was among the first in the welcome home parades in Brisbane and he gave gifts of cigarettes or chocolates to returned soldiers with his pocket money.
In a cruel twist of fate, the 11-year-old boy was also a casualty of war as he lost his life in one of these same parades when a vehicle swerved suddenly in order to avoid a car in the procession, and hit him. Hector died on the scene.
However, for many patriots, Hector Vasyli’s spirit is still alive. Members of Brisbane’s Greek community still lay wreaths at a stone tablet commemorating Hector every Anzac Day.
A memorial tablet commemorating the beloved newspaper boy is placed on an abutment at the southern end of Victoria’s Bridge. It features a relief of the boy’s face cast in metal, and an inscription which reads:
“During his brief sojourn on earth he devoted much of his time to patriotic work for Australian Soldiers during the Great European War.
“In his veins ran the heroic blood of Greece, and in the breast of a child he carried the heart of a man.”
According to Hellenic Returned and Services League sub branch president Vlas Efstathis, the memorial remains a significant focal point for the Greek-Australian community celebrations every Anzac Day.
“For as long as I can remember, for some 30 years, we’ve always been meeting there,” Efstathis told the Australian broadcaster ABC.