23 February 2024

A woman's final wish: Does anyone know what happened to Bega's Colin Byrne?

| Sally Hopman
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Black-and-white image of woman and man on boat

A young Sophia Paizis (now Anastasiou) with Colin Byrne aboard the MV Aurelia en route to Greece in 1957. Photos: Supplied.

They met back in 1957. Sophia Paizis was a young girl sailing on the MV Aurelia to Greece via Egypt to visit her grandmother. Colin Arthur Byrne was a young Aussie bloke from Bega.

Today, Sophia, 92, is living with cancer, being cared for by her daughter Kathy Anastasiou, and has just one final wish – to find out what happened to Colin.

Theirs was the most special of friendships, Sophia said. But it seems Colin thought a little differently. He was completely smitten almost immediately with the young Greek girl.

Not long after he met her, Colin wrote to Sophia’s parents on 10 June, 1957: “Writing on behalf of your daughter Sophia and myself … we have developed a very strong friendship in the past two and a half weeks and at this stage consider ourselves to be in an unofficial engagement.”

Clearly, something clicked with them and they ended up spending all their time together on the 45-day voyage.

When the ship docked at Malta, Sophia got off and travelled by bus to Greece, but Colin sailed on to Germany.

They wrote to each other for months, then after about a year, Colin told her he was coming to visit her.

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“I tried to stop him getting off the ship,” Sophia said. “I was a good little Greek girl and we couldn’t have any gossip.

“I boarded the ship when he arrived and told him he couldn’t stay – I told him I was going to become a nun,” she laughed.

“I didn’t know how else to get rid of him.”

The two ended up going to a hotel, where they stayed in separate rooms.

“I said to him, ‘This is it’ and I went out to catch the bus back to Athens. He went out to his Vespa and I saw that he had a map of Australia on one side of it and my name written on the other.”

About two years later, when she returned to Australia: “I was only going to Greece for three months but ended up staying for three years – my sister told me this boy had rung up, asking for me and whether I was back in Australia.”

In 1961, Sophia married John Anastasiou and they had three children. She lost her husband last year.

handwritten letter

One of the letters Colin sent to “Sue”, as he called Sophia … “Do you ever recall some of the times we spent together?” he wrote.

“Mum has often talked about Colin over the years,” Kathy said. “She’s always wondered if he is still alive, where he is, if he has a family.”

Kathy has tried just about everywhere to find out whether Colin is still alive. She knows he lived at 10 Canning Street, Bega, and was born in 1934. His parents were Arthur William Byrne and Daisy Maud Koellner of Bega and Colin was their youngest child. He had three sisters: Una Marie, Edna Marie and Avis May.

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Kathy also believes Colin might have run the Pearly Shells Motel at Moruya in 1972, but there is no record of him on the electoral roll after 1972.

“My mother’s last wish is to know whether he is still alive or has passed,” she said. “She just wants to know what happened to him.”

Anyone with any information about Colin Byrne is asked to email [email protected] and we will pass the information on to Sophia Anastasiou.

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