Photo above : United for the first time: Savvas Savva (L) and Nigel Connah
NIGEL Connah always knew was adopted.
But until now he knew little about his family – least of all that his father was an APOEL legend, survived by three other children, one of them an eminent Cypriot musician.
Born in April 1954 in Sheffield, Nigel Connah began to trace his biological parents after his adoptive father passed away, and with a little help of a UK adoption agency, the Sunday Mail and old family friends, the emotional first meeting finally happened in Cyprus last week.
Speaking from his French home, where he runs a holiday business with this wife Wendy, Connah tells me the story from the beginning: “For 55 years I grew up knowing I was adopted but I wasn’t really interested until after my [adoptive] dad died nine years ago… This set in motion a train of thought to trace my birth parents.”
His first step was to approach a British government service called After Adoption which began the search for his biological family.
The first breakthrough came when their researcher found Nigel’s birth certificate, which identified only his mother, June Brooks who hailed from the well-known Bristol family, the Bolloms.
Sadly Brooks died in 1991, but was survived by a daughter – herself a mother of two from Bristol – Karen Davies.
“We had our first reunion in September of 2009 – she had grown up not knowing she had a half brother,” said Connah.
It was during their reunion that Connah began to learn about his father.
“I went to meet her family and that’s when it got interesting. I learned that my father was a Greek Cypriot and a footballer for Bristol City in the early fifties.”
When Connah delved into the archives, he found that there was just one Cypriot player in Bristol at the time – George Savva.
The case for Savva as father was strengthened by the close relationship between his mother’s family, the Bolloms, who at the time were well known for their dry cleaning empire, and the club.
According to surviving family members, the Bolloms were also major shareholders in the Bristol Rovers football club.
Connah learned from his half-sister that Nicosia-born Savva was signed to play for the club in the 1952 to 1953 season, but shortly after he signed the contract, Savva met and fell in love with June Brooks, conceiving Connah.
“They were introduced by her brother and started a 12 month love affair. But unfortunately this was treated as a disgrace by the family and the club – by the standards of 1953 and with my dad being half Jewish and Greek Cypriot it was not to be.”
The family sent Connah’s mother to live in Sheffield, while the football club cancelled Savva’s contract.
Savva’s footballing career did not end there, however.
He moved Israel to play for Maccabi Haifa, before returning to Nicosia in 1957 to begin a glittering six year career as a striker, and later a coach, for APOEL.
In 1962 Savva married and had one son, divorced and remarried, living a colourful life and fathering two more children: a daughter and a son. He passed away in 1992.
Meanwhile, Connah, who was born in Sheffield on April 7, 1954, had been adopted and was being brought up by a couple. For 55 years he was unaware of his half siblings living in Bristol or Cyprus.
After meeting his half sister in Bristol for the first time, the search began to slow down, until Connah hit upon the idea of advertising in the Sunday Mail.
“The break came on November 22nd last year when your paper published my letter asking for anyone that may have heard of George Savva to contact me,” Connah said.
“In late January I got a call from a man named John Tsangarides who told me that since 1949 he had been my father’s best friend. He then proceeded to send me pictures of my dad and a copy of a DVD of a memorial service held each August in his memory.”
The next step was to fly to Cyprus. Connah and his wife arrived on March 11 for a week, and it was to prove a success.
Tsangarides had arranged a memorial at the late Savva’s grave, at which acquaintances of the family told Connah two new pieces of information.
“The main piece of the ever increasing jigsaw is that a gentleman by the name of Savvas Savva was the son from George’s first marriage in Cyprus in the late 50s. This makes him my half brother.”
Savvas Savva, it transpired is none other than the eminent composer and concert pianist.
“The second piece of vital interest was that Sigma TV ran a show bringing families together.”
Shortly afterwards the channel contacted both Connah and – without telling him the reason – Savvas Savva, inviting them to participate in a show that would unite them for the first time.
With the stage set for a reunion, Connah and his wife Wendy flew in for the surprise reunion two weeks ago.
The long-lost brothers were reunited on air and straight away began to see similarities. Childhood photographs of the pair are almost identical and they say their happy approach to life is the same, and even their fashion sense.
“We wore exactly the same shirt and colour of trousers combination for the show. Needless to say Savvas and I seem to have hit it off. Not surprising when you consider how alike we are in so many ways right down to our tailor as it turned out!”
Savva described his initial shock and later happiness to have found a sibling this week.
Taking a break from his busy schedule as a classical composer, Savva said: “ I am very happy. At first it was strange… I was shocked, but then I got used to it.”
Asked about similarities between them, he said: “Yes, we are very similar – first of all we laugh too much and have the same opinion about life – this is important.”
The two also inherited something of their father’s athletic prowess, both being enthusiastic footballers in their youth. They also share a passion for music – in Savva’s case it became his career.
“Our story is a lovely one finally meeting up after 57 years of not knowing the other existed,” Connah said.
However, there is a final piece left to complete the puzzle, and later this year the Connahs hope to return to meet his two other half siblings from his father’s second marriage, who were abroad during the last visit.
“In August I will go and visit him in France. Then the whole family will get together,” said Savva.
Nigel and Savvas’ story is due to be broadcast on Sigma TV on Wednesday, 9.25 pm
Source: Cyprus Mail