The Story of OXI Day
by Greg Kavounas
By October 1940 most of Europe had fallen under the aggressor forces of the Axis of Germany and Italy. These forces justified themselves on the principles of nazism, which were against democracy, freedom of speech, equality of human beings, and other teachings of Hellenism. In the USA, the Order of AHEPA had been the first organization to publicly condemn nazism. The moral support that was welcome, but did not change the fact that Greece, a country of 8 million citizens, was poorly prepared for war.
The Italian army crossed over to Albania, Greece’s neighbor to the north. On the morning of the 28th, Mussolini issued Greece an ultimatum: Greece was to offer no resistance to his so-called 8 million bayonets, and she was to become a “protectorate” of Italy.
Any practical leader would have heeded the downside. But, echoing the sentiment of almost all the Greeks, Metaxas responded:
OXI (oh-hee), which means NO.
This was not about being pragmatic. It was about repeating a lesson that Greece had already taught to the world. This is the meaning of OXI Day.
The rest is history, although it did not go quite as Italy planned:
The superior Italian army indeed invaded. Four months later, however, they had been pushed by the Greeks back into Albania. This was the first land defeat of the Axis forces, and a ray of hope for democracies world wide. Churchill wrote “Greeks do not fight like heroes; heroes fight like Greeks”.
So, Hitler had to come to Mussolini’s help. Greece then fell, lasting longer than France and Poland and the other bigger powers before it. But the detour through Greece cost Hitler five precious weeks in the spring. So he had to delay the invasion into Russia by five summer weeks. His armies experienced five more weeks of the inhospitable Russian winter, which helped eventually defeat them. (The Russians managed to maintain a second front through 1944. The bulk of the German army remained there while D-Day took place.)
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