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(Βίντεο) The Story of Oxi Day

Early in the morning of October 28th, 1940, the Greek Prime Minister was awoken to respond to a series of demands from a representative of the Axis Powers which would have allowed foreign troops free reign in Greece. His response was simple, yet firm: "Oxi" --- No.

 

This video briefly tells that story of Oxi Day, an occasion routinely celebrated in Greece, and now, in Washington. First screened at the Foundation's Black Tie Banquet on October 28th, it demonstrates the grit, tenacity, and love of country found not only in Greece but in the hearts of all truly free peoples.

See the video

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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.)

Source:   http://www.greece.org/ahepa/d22/portland/vpboxi_2.html

***

Speech of 2000 Portland AHEPA's OXI Day celebration

by Greg Kavounas

OXI Day was the start of a war for Greece.

60 years ago, yesterday, Greece entered the Second World War.

War is a terrible thing.

Back then, to even go to war, you knew you would be making sacrifices.

Around you in your community, in your neighborhood, in your family,

the able bodied men would leave; stop working their jobs.

And some would not be returning back.

That’s sacrifice, and that was even if you won the war.

If you lost, it was worse.  The war came home.

When two countries are at war with each other, one of them is in the wrong.

By 1940, Germany and Italy had attacked and conquered many free countries.

Just like that.

On October 28, 1940, Italy invaded also Greece.

They said: we are way more than you – that was true

They said: we are much better armed – and that was true

They said: don’t fight us

Greece said NO to that, OXI to that.

They valued their freedom, their self determination,

values that its ancestors had taught the world.

To defend these values, the Greeks preferred war, and its sacrifice.

And the sacrifice would be worse,

because they expected to lose, and the war to come home.

But they had the courage to choose it, which is why OXI Day is special.

It is the anniversary of that courage that we celebrate today.

Back then, the “OXI” of Greece was heard around the world.

John Erskine wrote: “Today every American is a child of the Acropolis.”

The St. Louis Post Dispatch wrote that, with the word “OXI”,

“There speaks the Greece of Leonidas and the 300,

the Greece of the Greeks who never ask

how many the enemy are, but where they are.”

The Greek soldiers fought very bravely.  Churchill called them heroes.

From the military point of view, the story of OXI Day had some happy surprises.

The Greeks actually pushed the invading Italians out of Greece,

and back into Albania where they invaded from.

The world again broke out in praise.

The U.S. Undersecretary of State, Sunner Welles, said that

“the Greeks shattered forever the myth of Axis invincibility”.

Then the Germans came to help the Italians.

And they won, and they conquered Greece.

But the Germans paid an even worse price than the Italians.

Hitler’s chief of staff Field Marshall Keitel, said:

“The unbelievably strong resistance of the Greeks

delayed by two or more vital months the German attack against Russia.

If we did not have this long delay, ? the outcome of the war would be different.”

When the Germans conquered Greece, they had to station half a million soldiers there.

Because the war continued.

It was guerrilla war fighting from the mountains, attacking their convoys,

and resistance (antistasi), stabbing them in the dark of the night in the city streets.

Then came the time for the sacrifice.

The time to pay for the courage, with hunger and deprivation.

In 1942, the NY Times reported from its American correspondent in Greece:

“In Athens alone, 110,000 children are dead.

9 out of 10 babies born are dying from malnutrition.”

And these were children.  Were their lives worth standing up, to make the point of OXI day?

Tough question, which my generation has not had to answer,

thanks to what these people did 60 years ago.

We are thankful for their courage, which came from their Greekness.

Look at our youth, today, in this community.

War is still a terrible thing, but TV tries to tell them

that it happens only in far away places, and only during the 8 o’clock news.

That we are always in the right, and coincidentally the strongest.

So we celebrate OXI Day, to tell them that war was different.

That war was over principle, and it came home.

We hope our youth will understand and keep the same values as those Greeks 60 years ago.

We hope that, if need be, our youth will show the same courage.

Thank you.

Source:   http://www.greece.org/ahepa/d22/portland/vpboxi_3.html

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