WASHINGTON, DC – On the 81st Anniversary of OXI Day, the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) hosted a Virtual Speakers Forum with guest speaker Dr. Constantine Arvanitopoulos, professor and Karamanlis Chair of Hellenic and European Studies, The Fletcher School, Tufts University. AHI President Nick Larigakis moderated the discussion.
Professor Arvanitopoulos offered a detailed historical account of the circumstances prompting the then-Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas to declare to the Italian ambassador that given the ultimatum of surrendering, Greece had no option but to enter the war. Prof. Arvanitopoulos described the legendary bravery and heroic courage of the Greek people, soldiers and civilians alike, who sacrificed their lives for the love of liberty and the honor of defending their cherished homeland. The loss of resources and human life was immense and irreparable for Greece during World War II. Greece lost not only its gold deposits, but most importantly, over 10% percent of its population, proportionately the third highest number of civilian casualties for a country in the Second World War after Russia and Poland.
According to Arvanitopoulos, “the Greek virtues of filotimo, bravery, love of freedom, dignity, and disregard for death” were once again at full display for the world to see. Arvanitopoulos noted that many world leaders at the time acknowledged all the aforementioned qualities of the Greek people during the war effort, reflected in the praise of world leaders who such as U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the latter whom famously remarked that: “Hence we shall not say that the Greeks fight like heroes but that heroes fight like Greeks.”
The invaluable contribution of the Greek resistance managed to arrest the advance of the German forces for over seven months. Stalin praised the Greek army for their bravery in holding down the far superior German force, thus giving the Russian army time to prepare. The Greeks “changed the course of the war,” Stalin remarked.
In the Q&A session, Larigakis commented on the fact that despite the heroic struggle of the Greeks there is limited reference of their pivotal role in the outcome of WWII in historical accounts. Regrettably, the immeasurable contribution of the Greek army in delaying the advance of the enemy, thus costing Germany the sure victory that it expected, seems to be forgotten.
In concluding remarks, Larigakis commended the guest speaker on his “vast knowledge on the subject” and sent his warmest wished to all the Greek people celebrating this most important national holiday.
In addition to the online event, AHI also worked with U.S. Representative Chris Pappas (D-NH) who introduced a resolution commemorating OXI Day. Congressman Pappas’ official press release on the introduction of the resolution included a quote from AHI President Larigakis: “Greece’s role in WWII is truly significant, and may have tilted the tide of the war against the axis powers. However, Greece’s pivotal place in history in this respect is not well known or understood. As such, I am glad that Congressman Pappas is highlighting Greece’s historical importance in World War II through a congressional OXI Day resolution.”
Lastly, AHI President Larigakis and AHI representatives attended OXI Day festivities, such as the annual OXI Day Foundation dinner.