If you’re lucky enough to be in Greece on October 28th, you will witness a proud and united country celebrate one of its most welcomed anniversaries. This annual event, known as Oxi Day, is commemorated each year with military and school parades. The day represents Greek values and the courage that was seen many years ago.
In 1940, former military general and Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas said “No” (Oxi) to the Italian ultimatum made by Mussolini, that would allow Italian forces to occupy specific areas throughout the country as strategic locations during the Second World War. Metaxas addressed the Greek people with these words: “The time has come for Greece to fight for her independence. Greeks, we must now prove ourselves worthy of our forefathers and the freedom they bestowed upon us. Greeks, fight now for your father land, for your wives, for your children and the sacred traditions. The struggle is now for everything.” Although it has been said that when faced with this ultimatum, the Greek Prime Minister replied with “Alas, c’est la guerre” – meaning “then, it is war” in French, the Greek population were reportedly shouting “Oxi” through the streets whilst preparing for war and were ready to arm themselves and protect their land.
Metaxas is noted as a deeply controversial figure in Greek history, however, his actions on this day contributed to the downfall of the Nazi empire. The Greeks fought a long and difficult battle to prevent an Italian invasion, for many months they prevented the Italian army (who were trying to impress Hitler and his military) from advancing. Winston Churchill said about this victory; “until now we would say that Greeks fight like heroes, from now on we will say that the heroes fight like Greeks.”
Thessaloniki, along with many other towns and cities on Greece, showed its solidarity and gratitude towards this day. The streets were lined with people in celebration, and many buildings were decorated with the Greek flag. October 28th is not just a public holiday, it’s a time for the country to get together and celebrate the nations bravery 76 years ago. The parades in the city, both on Thursday with the school parade, and Friday with the Military, were highly publicised. Throughout Friday people living within the city could hear the jet engines and helicopter blades as they flew over the city in the air display, a magnificent event for many people, whether they see it every year or it is the first time.