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 newspaper boy 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.
State Library of Queensland senior research librarian Christina Ealing-Godbold told ABC news recently that Hector nearly reached saint status following the accident because of his actions before he was hit.
“Hector had a habit of collecting his pocket money and spending it on cigarettes, chocolates and flowers to give to the returning troops,” she said.
“We might look back and think cigarettes weren’t good for these injured soldiers, and chocolate was probably worse, but in those days it was just a sign of respect and knowing the luxuries they missed out on during the war.”
Hector Vasyli’s spirit alive among Greek-Australians
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:
“Every land is his native land to a brave man
Near this spot as a result of a lamentable accident whilst welcoming returned soldiers, Hector Vasyli, was killed 9th June 1918
Aged 11 years.
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.”
This tablet was erected by the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League, Hellenic (Greek) Association, and citizens of Brisbane.
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.