WASHINGTON, DC – On October 28 the Washington OXI Day Foundation celebrated the 75th anniversary of the heroic moment in 1940 when Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas rejected the Italian Ambassador’s demand for Greece’s surrender. That act, commemorated ever since as the great Oxi – No, inspired the allies and disrupted the war plans of the Axis powers, greatly contributing Allied victory in WW II and the triumph of freedom.
The gala, which both commemorates some of the heroes of WWII and shines a spotlight on contemporary fighters for freedom, began when Mike Manatos summoned the Armed Forces Color Guard.
Fr. Alexander Karloutsos, Protopresbyter of the Ecumenical Patriarchate offered the invocation and set the tone for the evening when he said they were gathered “to commemorate the historic day when the Greeks said ‘yes’ to freedom, and ‘no’ to tyranny.”
The Metropolitan Chrysostomos Award posthumously honored Princess Alice of Greece, whose courage included acts of defiance against nazi officials, and harboring a Jewish family in her home next to gestapo headquarters in Athens, and philanthropic service in the city’s soup kitchens and hospitals.
George Marcus offered welcoming remarks and presented an overview of Greece’s WWII role as “fierce fighters against aggression. Today we celebrate Oxi and all the freedom we enjoy.”Jim Chanos told of his experience of personally delivering the award to Prince Philip, whom he said was very touched. “Not many people know what my mother did and I appreciated your telling this to Americans,” he said.
Andy Manatos, the Foundation’s President, linked the atrocities of WWII and the Holocaust to Isis’s current depredations, citing recent reports that it aspires to the murder of tens of millions.
When he presented the Oxi Day Award to Khalil al-Dakhi, Andy Manatos said “We are in the presence of a man who today is unsurpassed on the planet in hi Oxi day spirit against today’s Hitler, known as Isis.”
Al-Dakhi is an attorney who has dedicated and risks his life to saving the women, largely members of the ancient Yazidi religion, Isis exploits as slaves and sex slaves. After a screening of a Frontline video about him, Khalil, speaking through a translator, said “thank you for honoring me…it means you care about the suffering of the Yazidi people,” at the hands of a criminal gang that calls itself Isis,” and perpetrates crimes in the name of religion.
The Battle of Crete Award commemorates the brave women who sacrificed themselves in the defense of their island. The 2015 recipient was Leyla Yunus, a human rights activist who has been jailed along with her husband, by the government of Azerbaijan.
The guests were impressed by the introduction of Yunus by the entertainer Bono, but they listened in rapt attention to the words of Dinara Yunus, her daughter who accepted the award.
The walls of the Institute of Peace reverberated with a daughter’s pain as she described the persecution of her parents, who were declared traitors for seeking “peace between Azerbaijan and Armenia…and demanding truth from a dictator who loves to lie.
Amb. Vassilios Kaskarellis, representing Stavros Niarchos Foundation’s (SNF) co-President Andreas Dracopoulos and its Board, tied philotimo, one of the Foundation’s themes, to the current struggles of the Greek people and those who are helping them.
After outlining the impact of the crisis on society and noting that SNF has donated $370 million to assistance for Greece’s neediest, he presented the SNF Philotimo Award to the organization PRAKSIS and its president Tzanetos Antypas, who provided an overview of its work.
SNF’s Stellios Vasilakis noted that the spotlight which usually shines on benefactors should also pick out NGO’s like PRAKSIS. He announced that SNF’s Board just announced an additional grant of almost $6 million for its social housing program that was so far helped 4,570 families keep their homes.
The Philotimo Scholarship Award was presented by Judge Theodore Bozonelis to Casey Arruda. The essay, read by Bozonelis, was inspired by the remarkable video seen by one million people and produced by the Foundation titled The Greek Secret, about philotimo, which is defined not only as the “love of honor” but also as finding pleasure in sacrificing for: the good of others.
Greek Ambassador Christos Panagopoulos, who was joined by Cypriot Ambassador George Chacalli, addressed the gathering, and Andy Manatos introduced a surprise guest, Greek MP Dora Bakoyannis, who good-naturedly discounted his praise by saying “we are both Cretans.”
After pointing out that the example of the great Oxi can induce “faith and confidence among Greece’s younger generation,” she said “on behalf of the Greeks back home I would like to thank you all for supporting us in all the difficult moments we have gone through.”
The evening’s keynote speaker George Logothetis began with thanks for those present “and for those who are not here…those 75 years ago whose pain gave us our peace, whose courage gave us our freedom, whose unimaginable valor blunted the once unstoppable nazi war machine and ultimately helped save the world.”
Mike Manatos acknowledged the Foundation’s benefactors, saying “we would like to thank those who refuse to allow Oxi day to be forgotten, for supporting the revival of the astonishing story of Oxi day in the minds of hundreds of Washington policy makers and opinion leaders.”
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who paid tribute to Yunus, acknowledged the presence of representatives Gus Bilirakis, John Sarbanes, and Dina Titus.
“It’s no wonder that the Manatos family has decided to introduce us to Oxi because the courage of your ancestors is something you still have and recognize in others,” Pelosi said.
AHEPA Supreme President John Galanis, who has studied the history of Oxi Day, was very impressed. “The Oxi speaks to the character of the Greek people,” which he said is always there, and which carries them through all crises.
The Foundation’s events included a reception hosted by Greek Ambassador Christos Panagopoulos cohosted by the National Hellenic Society, the presentation of the OXI Day Greatest Generation awards at the National WW II Memorial, and concluded with a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery on October 29.