“Hence we will not say that Greeks fight like heroes, but that heroes fight like Greeks.”
— Winston Churchill, 1941
On October 28th, a significant historical event took place. As many of us were busy planning last-minute, Halloween costumes, this date was largely disregarded. However, what you do not know is that OXI day is one of the most important dates in modern history, a true game-changer.
In Greek, OXI (pronounced ohee) means “no”. Although this simple word may seem to have no significance in our everyday lives, OXI day presents one instance where the mere utterance of this word changed the course of the Second World War.
On October 28, 1940, Greece’s Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas was awoken by a message from Italy’s Prime Minister Duce Benito Mussolini. Mussolini asked Metaxas to support him and to allow Greece to be occupied by the axis powers. Thus, the axis powers could obtain vital and strategic locations to attack neighboring European countries.
Metaxas’ replied simply with one word, “OXI”. Less than three hours later, Italian forces invaded Greece from Albania, thinking this would be a quick defeat.
Unfortunately for the Axis forces and their leader, Adolf Hitler, the Greek army pushed back Italian forces into Albania with ease. Mussolini did not expect such resistance from Greece, and neither did Hitler.
Hitler decided to intervene directly and invaded Greece in April 1941. Since Greek forces had been weakened by the last takeover attempt, the British army aided them in this battle. Alas, the British army made a fatal mistake; they expected the Germans to attack from the sea and neglected to account for an aerial assault.
Because of this, allied forces were defeated in Crete in June 1941. Nevertheless, the battle was not fought in vain, as the Allies had managed to deal serious damage to the Axis forces. Hitler vowed to never use paratroops in military strategies again, as heavy losses were sustained.
Moreover, and more importantly, the resistance of Greece was large enough to gain Hitler’s attention, delaying his plans to invade Russia.
Even though they were defeated and dying due to food shortages, the Greeks continued to resist against Germany.
A prime example happening on May 30th when two soldiers, Manolis Glezos and Apostolis Santas, removed the Nazi flag from the Acropolis.
The Second World War profoundly influenced Greek culture, especially affecting its music industry. Patriotic and satirical songs were written to keep Greece’s spirits up.
Additionally, these songs still inspire Greeks today to commemorate the hardships their country had been through in World War II. Notable songs include An Figoume Ston Polemo (If We Go To War), Koroithomussolini (Silly Mussolini) and probably the most popular Greek song, Sinnefiasmeni Kyriaki (Cloudy Sunday), which was inspired by the tragic events that took place in Greece during the German occupation.
The importance of October 28 is to recognize the efforts of Greece in its resistance against Germany during the Second World War. It should not only be recognized by Greeks, but by all cultures, to commemorate the heroic actions of the Greeks during the Second World War.
Article by Anthony Georgaros