On Oxi Day, Italy Will Apologize for Invading Greece in 1940

Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Sergio Mattarella (MOTIONTEAM/VASILIS VERVERIDIS)

Some 78 years after Italy demanded Greece surrender without a shot – leading to the famous response by Greek leader Ioannix Metaxas of “Oxi” (No) – Italian President Sergio Mattarella will reportedly apologize for the declaration of war on Oct. 28, 1940, during his visit to Athens.

Mattarella, invited by Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, will be in Thessaloniki for the commemoration what is now the public holiday of Oxi Day and Kathimerini said he will present his country’s apologies for bringing Greece into World War II.

The strongman Metaxas, presiding over an authoritarian regime, received the ultimatum when Italy’s Ambassador, Emanuel Grazzi left a party at his embassy shortly after 3 o’clock in the morning to deliver it, getting the one-word refusal in response, although some reports said his actual words were “Alors, c’est la guerre!” (so this is war!).

After Metaxas’ refusal, Italian troops stationed in Albania, then an Italian protectorate, attacked the Greek border at 5:30 a.m. That led Greeks of all political persuasions to take to the streets shouting Oxi!

After the military parade in Thessaloniki, the two presidents will fly to the island of Kefalonia to honor the Italian soldiers of the Acqui Division, who were executed by German troops on the island in September 1943, following the Italian armistice after a one-sided battle which the Nazi troops won.