The commemoration of Oxi Day is as significant today as it was during World War II, and perhaps even more so now, when we see the continuing oppression and persecution of people around the world. As one by one the nations of Europe fell under the heel of Axis oppression, no one expected Greece, a relatively small nation, to stand up and derail the enemy forces.
On October 28, 1940 at 3 AM, the Greek Prime Minister faced the demand for Greece’s surrender and gave the one-word answer, Oxi, and in a matter of hours, the Axis forces descended on Greece. Expecting an easy victory, they underestimated the Greeks and were pushed back.
News of Greece’s victory against the fascist Italian forces in the mountains of northern Greece and Albania spread quickly via radio and soon covered the front pages of newspapers around the globe.
The victory was not just for the people of the Hellenic Republic but also for Hellenes of the diaspora, especially those in the United States, and for the entire world.
Greece gave hope to all the nations that had fallen under Axis oppression, forcing Hitler to change his plans, delaying the invasion of Russia (then-Soviet Union), and essentially turning the tide of the war. The valiant effort by the Greeks inspired the now famous quote from Winston Churchill, “Hence, we will not say that Greeks fight like heroes, but that heroes fight like Greeks.”
Greek-American children grow up learning about the meaning of Oxi in Greek school with the annual celebration, the songs and the plays, and especially the poems we memorized and practiced over and over again. The story was a profound one and made us proud of our heritage, but the fact that more people, outside of the Greek community, do not know about Oxi Day is a shame.
Thankfully, there are individuals and organizations trying to solve this problem.
The Washington Oxi Day Foundation hosts a series of events each year to honor the Greatest Generation and commemorate Oxi Day and all those who fight for freedom and justice around the world. As noted on the foundation’s website, “Today’s heroes around the world who – in the spirit of Oxi Day – courageously battle Goliaths for freedom and democracy are nominated by America’s policymakers and opinion leaders to be honored before international and national leaders convening in Washington, DC each October for the Annual Washington Oxi Day Celebration.”
The Washington Oxi Day Foundation is dedicated to informing American policymakers and the public about the profound role Greece played in bringing about the outcome of World War II and celebrating modern day heroes who exhibit the same courage as the Greeks did in continuing to fight to preserve and promote freedom and democracy around the world.
AHEPA’s Oxi Day Commemoration takes place on October 27 at Ellis Island. Lectures by Anna Koulouris, the communications advisor and journalist for the Patriarchate of Jerusalem who will speak about Religious Persecution in the Holy Land, and Vassilios Chrissochos, AHEPA District 6 Director of Hellenism, on the Historical Significance of Oxi Day.
A screening of The 11th Day, the story of the men, women, and children of the Cretan civilian Resistance movement and the relentless battle against Nazi occupation forces from 1941 to 1945 will also be held. More information is available at oxiday.com.
In this special issue, we commemorate that historic day and hope to continue to honor the memory of those who sacrificed all for freedom.