This week marks the 67th anniversary of the arrival of the ship ‘Begona’ in Melbourne, a significant event that brought hundreds of Greek brides to Australia.

On June 16, 1957, the ‘Begona’ sailed into Port Phillip Bay, Melbourne, carrying 900 young Greek women, aged 17-20, leaving their families behind to start new lives in Australia. The ship’s arrival was a moment of hope and anticipation, filled with the promise of new beginnings. There were three categories of brides on board.

Pre-arranged Brides: Over 250 women were already engaged “with a photo” to Greek men living in Australia.
Hopeful Brides: Around 350 women carried photographs, intending to meet their prospective husbands for the first time.
These young women faced the anxiety of whether their chosen partners would be kind, young, and strong, as depicted in the photographs they held close to their hearts.
Independent Brides: About 300 women traveled freely to start their lives near relatives in Australia.

Greek-Australian Panagiotis Fotakis, who traveled on the ‘Begona’ as an eight-year-old boy with his mother, has spent years tracking down many of these brides. He organised a reunion for those still residing in Australia and continues to research the grooms of the ‘Begona’, Greek men who sought better lives during challenging times.

Fotakis recalls the mixed memories of the journey, one that highlights the courage and resilience of these young women who ventured into the unknown for a chance at a new beginning in Australia.

“I still remember finding seaweed in the water when the drinking water ran out. The brides were distant yet friendly. Many were almost children, holding photographs they showed to others, displaying the ‘man’ they were to marry. As we approached the port, their demeanor changed, becoming anxious and almost fearful,” he told Neos Kosmos in an earlier interview.

The ‘Begona’ had only 33 male passengers and a few families, mostly mothers with young children. Fotakis and his family had a cabin with amenities, but many brides traveled below deck in less comfortable conditions.

“Some slept on the deck for a month, traveling on a $10 ticket that allowed them to return within 30 days if something went wrong,” he said.