The Forgotten Books of Oxi Day

An accurate history of the Greek diaspora will never be written until the community-produced publications ignited by Oxi Day are finally taken into account. Immediately following the Italian invasion of Greece an as yet uncounted number of book-length publications were issued and distributed by Greek immigrants in the United States and Great Britain. These books were often bilingual compilations of articles written by notable academics and politicians, sections of the U.S. Congressional Record, newspaper articles of the invasion and aftermath, as well as a host of editorial cartoons all aimed at documenting the Greek contributions to the world war then underway. Politicians and prominent local citizens were given these volumes in the hopes that Greece's sacrifices, contributions and post-war claims would be understood and remembered after the war. Unexpectedly these volumes also continue to throw light on what remains unwritten in Greek-American historical accounts – to this very day.

Without question these books were explicit political tracts. Scattered among these volumes were arguments for the post-war claims by Greece. I first became aware of the existence of these volumes some fifty years ago. At that time, I searched through archives, library reference services and questioned many prominent individuals from the Greek-American community who had participated in the Greek Relief. At that time, I found roughly some 200 individual volumes of this sort issued both in the United States and Great Britain. While I saw and read through a number of these volumes I now own only one.

Since I first learned of these Greek diaspora community publications I have never seen any mention of these World War II volumes in any subsequent historical account. Without rancor, but rather after cool reflection, I am now of the opinion that these publications are ignored by virtue of the very fact they were independently issued by the diaspora communities. These volumes were and remain ‘guilty’ of documenting points of view that ran counter to the goals of Allied politicians. The 'rights' of the nation state of Greece as expressed by these numerous locally-based organizations clearly did not agree with those of the Allies. While certain claims for the repatriation of various Italian-held island groups to Greece were acknowledged, other claims such as those for union with Cyprus and specific regions in the Balkans as well as North Africa were clearly not to be considered.

This ignoring of the evidence, opinions and beliefs of those whom historians write about is not new nor restricted solely to Greeks. Not until the late 1960s did the notion of, what has become called, 'a history from below,' even entertained by scholars. Such a historical narrative is one 'that attempts to account for historical events from the perspective of common people rather than leaders. There is an emphasis on disenfranchised, the oppressed, the poor, the nonconformists, and otherwise marginal groups.

Nevertheless, with few exceptions, the history of Greeks in the United States is still written as if the 1960s and alternate interpretations of history were never considered or even published. In these standard historical texts, only White Anglo Saxon Protestants 'made' America. All other arrivals merely benefit from the existing system. Somehow, these non-Anglo/Western European immigrants never contributed anything of significance to the nation or its culture. With the only consequences for these later arrivals being a sort of second-class citizen whose only possible option is complete assimilation. From this point of view 'Becoming White' is the only possible option for the waves of immigrants who arrived between 1880 and 1920. And this academic viewpoint remains, even in new writings about Greeks in the United States, the acceptable explanation for daily reality in current immigration studies.

The Greek War Relief for the Greeks living in the United States was nothing less than our Trojan War. Fear for the lives and wellbeing of family members back in Greece, the Balkans and the western Mediterranean brought out the best among the Greeks in the United States. Month after month, fund drive after fund drive individual Greeks were leaders in war bond drives. In point of historical fact, AHEPA was allowed to sell war bonds with their circular stamp on each of these bonds. In 1980, I saw such bonds still held by proud Greek families living in Grand Rapids Michigan. Tons of food, clothing and other essential items were gathered via the all-volunteer Greek Relief chapters scattered across the nation. Viable, consistently successful relief efforts were conceived and brought to conclusion by Greeks across the United States – throughout World War II.

The heroism of the Greeks facing the Invasion of Italy and then Germany is an accepted fact of world history. So, why are the political aspirations and general relief efforts of Greeks in the United States, Britain – and I suspect wherever Greeks were then found in any numbers – still ignored?