Dear Epirotans and other Hellenic Compatriots,
Today, It has been 80 years since Ioannis Metaxas and the Hellenic Nation cried out “OXI” to the fascist invaders of our country!
The strength of our people fighting the intruders didn’t derive from strong and mighty weapons, it emanated from their heart and inner spirit to defend their Nation, protect their families, the land of their ancestors, and the Hellenic identity! This is a ‘strength’ that weapons cannot match!
Our beloved Epiros was in the forefront of the battles! The Italian artillery started pounding on the Epirotic mountains in Kalpaki early in the morning of October 28th, 1940! A piece of unprecedented history was about to be written. The Hellenic Forces not only defended their positions, but also managed to counter attack and liberate the land of Northern Epiros! One-by-one the North Epirotic cities and towns of Korytsa, Premeti, Delvino, Aghioi Saranta, Argyrokatro and Himara were seeing the soldiers of the VIII (8th) division of the Hellenic Army liberate them!
It was not ‘just’ a victory for the Hellenic Nation; it was the first victory against the advancing axis powers in Europe. People of nations like Poland, France, Czechoslovakia, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark and others, which were under Nazi occupation, saw for the first time a spark against the axis powers, a slap on Mussolini’s & Hitler’s ‘face’! Subsequently, Hitler had to delay his invasion of the Soviet Union by 3 months in order to ‘capture’ Greece first, with all the consequences of battling during the Russian winter and of the historical defeats that followed.
Today, I commemorate my grandfather Ioannis, who fought with the 51st Battalion in the battle of Vasilitsa under Colonel Davakis and in the battle of Premeti under General Katsimitros! As Hellenes, we commemorate our ancestors fighting for our Nation and our Ideals!
As Americans, we commemorate the Hellenic struggle, which consequently lead to the liberation of Europe from the axis powers!
As citizens of the world, we commemorate the Hellenic spirit, which initiated the defeat of fascist and nazi ideologies!
The lessons of ‘OXI’ day are today more contemporary than ever!
Let the struggle of our ancestors and the battles in the blood drained land of Epiros be a reminder to every aggressor and invader that the Hellenic spirit of humans defending their freedom and ideals cannot be defeated by weapons or other material means!
ΖΗΤΩ Ο ΕΛΛΗΝΙΣΜΟΣ! ΖΗΤΩ ΤΟ ΕΘΝΟΣ!
Ioannis (John) Katsimbaris
President of Panepirotic Federation of America