This is the day of the National Anniversary of Greek Independence. It may be known as the ‘World War II National Holiday’.
History of Ochi Day
At 3 am on October 28th 1940, an ultimatum from Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini was handed to former military general and Prime Minister of Greece, Ioannis Metaxas at his home in Kifissia by the Italian Ambassador of Athens, Emanuele Grazzi. The ultimatum required the free passage of the Italian army through the Greek-Albanian border, signalling the Italian occupation of some strategic areas of Greece.
After reading the letter, Metaxas turned to the Italian Ambassador and famously responded “Ochi!” – “No!” in Greek.
That “No!” brought Greece into the second world war on the side of the Allies. Indeed, for a period, Greece was Britain’s only ally against Hitler.
At the time, Metaxas expressed Greek popular sentiment, which was the denial of allegiance. This refusal was passed through to the Greek press with the word ‘Oxi’ (No). The word ‘Oxi’ was first presented as a title in the main article of the newspaper ‘Greek Future’ of N. P. Efstratios on October 30th 1940. Locals all over Athens ran through the streets yelling “OXI”!
Not only did Greece rebuke Mussolini’s demands, but they also seized the offensive and drove the Italians back through most of Albania.
Had Metaxas not said “No!”, it is arguable that the Second World War may have lasted much longer. One theory is that had Greece surrendered without any resistance, it would have enabled Hitler to have invaded Russia in the spring, rather than his disastrous attempt to take it during winter.
Winston Churchill commented at the time of the Greco-Italian war and famously said, “Hence we will not say that Greeks fight like heroes, but that Heroes fight like Greeks.”
Speaking in 2019, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said: “October 28 is not just another opportunity to honour our glorious past; it is an opportunity to demonstrate our current understanding of the unity of Hellenism.”