Photo from armyrecognition.com
Oxi Day on October 28 commemorates the anniversary when former military general and Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas said, “No” to an ultimatum made by Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini to allow Italian forces to occupy strategic locations in Greece or otherwise face war back in 1940. That makes 2014 the 74th anniversary.
The motivation behind Mussolini’s ultimatum was an attempt to impress his ally Adolf Hitler, by securing what was thought would be an easy victory and expanding his fascist regime. But when Italian Ambassador Emanuele Grazzi presented the demands at dawn after a party at the German embassy, it was clear that Greece was destined to enter WWII with Metaxas’ unwavering refusal.
Though there is no documented proof that Metaxas responded with a simple “no” or “oxi,” the word perfectly encapsulates the longer reply said to be either “You shall not pass” or the French phrase “Alors, c’est la guerre” (“Then it is war”). Residents were reportedly shouting ‘oxi’ as they ran through the streets to arm themselves and prepare for war. Less than two hours later, Italian troops stationed in Albania attacked the border.
Initial success by Italians was fiercely countered by Greeks, causing Mussolini to embarrass himself and call Hitler for help. Greek and British forces continued to fight and decimate German troops, which was considered to be the most powerful army in Europe, until Greece surrendered in Epirus to conclude the Greco-Italian War lasting six months. The extent of casualties caused Hitler to delay an attack on Russia, thus subjecting his troops to harsh winter conditions and contributing to the defeat of Germany.
For many, Oxi Day is more than an anniversary commemorated with parades of schoolchildren in Thessaloniki, military grandstanding and flag waving. It is a day to remember Hellenic values, passion and ‘filotimo,’ and the courageous words and deeds of ancestors who fought for this land with flesh and blood. May we one day honor this country by mirroring the virtues set forth for us in decades past and be worthy to inherit its rich legacy.
Photo by Giorgos Konstantinidis/Eurokinissi
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In the News
“Spectators still banned within a 500 meters of parade” — AP
“Greek protesters call president ‘traitor’ at parade” — Reuters
“Greek politicians feel wrath of public” “Will skip Oxi Day parade” — Kathimerini
“Thessaloniki military parade canceled after protesters block route” — Kathimerini
“Student gives military the moutza” — Eleftherotypia
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