The Meaning of OXI Day

by Litsa Stathacopoulos

OXI Day parade, Athens, 2004

Greece, the birthplace of democracy, said OXI (NO) to fascism and defended its birthright, despite overwhelming and unfavorable odds. I wanted to write this article to share with you all my feelings and impressions about this historic celebration.

On this particular day we give honor to the many men and woman who stood up to the fascist Mussolini, and this was no small thing to do. First of all, Mussolini had 44 million people, and Greece had 7 million. Italy had ten times the fire power of Greece in its army navy and air force which had total air superiority, since Greece had only a small defensive force. The demands from Mussolini were sent to Prime Minister Metaxa. He gave Greece three hours to reply to his demands to surrender, and for the Italian troops to occupy Greece and raise the Italian Flag on top of the Parthenon. But Mussolini never even waited for Metaxas' reply. He had five heavily armed divisions of Italian soldiers moving from controlled Albania over the border into Greece.

In the early hours of Oct 28th Metaxa gave his reply loud and clear: OXI (NO). The "OXI" cry has become a Hellenic battle cry that blooms defiantly every 28th of October. This cry of "OXI" is repeated by every Hellenic Community around the world, numbering more than ten million Greeks. Though the Italians out numbered the Greek soldiers by more than two to one, the Greeks astonished the Italian generals with their courage, their tenacity, and their limited artillery precision. The Greek forces had six mortars for each division against the invaders' sixty. Within four weeks of the invasion those Greeks drove the Italian army back into Albania and kept on going, continuing the pursuit until they were 60 kilometers into Albania which is known as Northern Epirus. By this time Mussolini had replaced his commanding generals several times and finally assumed command himself. He tried to rouse his troops to victory with speeches of the great legacy of the Romans, but the Greeks kept on pursuing and there was great concern that the Greeks would cross the Adriatic Sea and invade Italy.

OXI Day parade, Athens, 2004

United States periodicals such as the Time and Life magazines carried cover stories about the Greeks and the history they were making in Europe. The Greeks and Greek-Americans in this country were respected and admired at school and work, because of these historic events.

OXI Day parade, Athens, 2004

No free country around the world believed that Greece would survive the attack. As a small country Greece faithfully and courageously met her obligations to her allies with heroism and self-sacrifice. Greece suffered much more than other countries that were on the victorious Allied side. Greece lost the highest percentage of her population, about 12%, which means about one million people. That is why the world leaders of that time recognized the contribution of the Greeks. Mr. Churchill of England said "Today we shall say that the Greeks fight like heroes, but form now on we shall say that heroes fight like Greeks."
All those who believe in freedom and democracy give honor to the heroes who died on October 28, 1940 which is 63 years ago. Let us all say a big OXI to wars, to terrorism and to hate, and a big "yes" to freedom, democracy and love. This is history, my friends.

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