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In the past few days, images of signs with the Greek word, oxi, meaning “no,” have been in the news. It’s interesting to note that the word oxi as a political statement has a significant history in Greece.

Victoria M. Lord, M.A., Founding Editor of The Ultimate History Project writes that the origin of Oxi Day goes back to World War II. On the morning of October 28, 1940,  the Italian ambassador to Greece delivered an ultimatum from Benito Mussolini to Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas. They demanded that the Italian army be allowed to pass freely, unopposed, to occupy strategic sites in Greece.

The answer unequivocally delivered in the diplomatic language, French, was “Then, it is war.” The citizens of Athens quickly turned the phrase into “Oxi.”

Within hours, before the ultimatum had expired, the Italian army entered the Pindos region of Northern Greece, where they unexpectedly met fierce resistance. Lord recounts the heroism of the Greeks, including Greek women. Her article contains ad description and photos of the brutal winter in the rough terrain where war was being waged. The role of the British in freeing Cretan troops so they could go to defend their country in the Pindos Mountains is also mentioned.

As time went on, the Greeks were worn down by attacks from the Germans and Italians. Before the end of six months, Metaxas and his successor were dead, and Greece had fallen to the Axis powers.

Despite their defeat, the Greeks had fought long and hard. Moreover, they had occupied the Italian army and kept them from advancing. This forced the German army to delay the invasion of Russia while they helped to subdue the Greeks. By the time the Germans extended their campaign into Russia, they were at the mercy of the brutal winter. The consequences were fatal for the Germans.

Hitler’s Chief of Staff, Field Marshall Wilhelm Keitel admitted that the “unbelievably strong resistance of the Greeks delayed by two or more vital months the German attack against Russia; if we did not have this long delay, the war would have been different in the Eastern Front and the war in general.”

Greeks around the world honor Oxi Day once a year, on October 28.

PHOTO: By MikeTheo (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)