It’s a shame that most of the world doesn’t celebrate the important holiday that is so popular in Greece. It was on this day in 1940, that the Greek government replied, “No!” Do any of us remember being taught about the significance of October 28, 1940 from our history courses?
At 4:00 in the morning of the 28th, Greek dictator Ioannis Metaxas was awakened by the ambassador from Fascist Italy, Emanuele Grazzi. A consortium of Germans and Italians demanded that the nation of Greece permit military forces of the Axis powers to enter Greece and to occupy unspecified strategic locations. The ambassador gave Metaxas three hours to comply with demands or face military invasion by the Italians.
The reply to the Italian ambassador was short and curt. Tradition says that Metaxas answered with the Greek word for no, “όχι !” (pronounced “ohee”). Official Greek sources, however, say the actual statement was, “Alors, c’est la guerre (Then it is war).”
An hour and a half later, very heavily armed Italian divisions began moving from Italian occupied Albania towards the Greek border. The Italian army had more than ten times the technical advantage over Greece plus overwhelming sea and air superiority.
More than 200,000 Italians advanced about 25 kilometres across the Greek border but were soon ensnared by the much smaller, poorer Greek military.
After hearing the news about the Italian threats and actions, Greeks began mass demonstrations on the streets of Athens and other Greek cities. The unifying shouts and cries were the simple word, όχι!
The Greek forces managed to not only engage the Italian military, but the Hellenic army enjoyed territorial gains by advancing into Albania during the initial six-month battle against Mussolini’s forces. By the end of the half-year Italian effort, over 12,000 Italians returned home as war casualties. Almost 14,000 Italian dead were buried in Northern Greece, about 25,000 were missing in action. An amazing 40,000 prisoners of war were imprisoned by Greece.
Dictator Benito Mussolini and his generals were shocked and outraged by the humiliating defeat. On the other hand, the demoralized allied countries were cheered by the actions of the Greeks. This victory was the very first one of World War Two for the Allied Powers.
The six month long Greek resistance that began on October 28, 1940 against the Axis Powers is considered to be the one crucial turning point in the war. Because of the obstinant Greeks, Hitler was forced to delay his invasion of the USSR. During the delay the Soviet Union was able to recover and refortify themselves. In turn, the Nazis lost the Soviet campaign. There were also repurcussions for Axis forces in North Africa because of the delay.
Unfortunately for the Greeks, Hitler was enraged by Greece. in April 1941, Nazi Germany began their own invasion of Greece and Crete. After two months of resistance fighting, Greece finally submitted to the Nazis. Despite the defeat, Cretan partisans continued an underground, guerrilla war against the German occupiers until the ultimate Allied victory.
So it is that the nation of Greece and people of Greek heritage around the world celebrate the day when Greece said, “όχι” (No!).
The Blue Jay of Happiness enjoys the fact that “no” was a positive word to say.