OXI Day on October 28, 1940, commemorates the anniversary when former military general and Prime Minister of Greece, Ioannis Metaxas said “OXI” (NO) to an ultimatum made by Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini, an ally of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.
It is said that at 3am on October 28, 1940, an ultimatum was handed to Ioannis Metaxas at his home in Kifissia by the Italian Ambassador of Athens, Emanuele Grazzi. The ultimatum required the free passage of the Italian army through the Greek-Albanian border and thus began the occupation of some strategic areas of Greece.
After reading the letter, Metaxas turned to the Italian Ambassador and replied in French (which was the official diplomatic language at the time) with the historic phrase: ‘Alors, c’est la guerre’ (Well, this means war), taking his stance against Italian demands.
At the time, Metaxas expressed Greek popular sentiment, which was the denial of allegiance. This refusal was passed through to the Greek press with the word ‘Oxi’ (No). The word ‘Oxi’ was first presented as a title in the main article of the newspaper ‘Greek Future’ of N. P. Efstratios on October 30, 1940. Locals all over Athens ran through the streets yelling “OXI”!
The Greek Army turned out to be a formidable force, holding back the Axis forces from entering Greece for almost six months. Greece eventually went into war, however, October 28 represents a spirit of bravery that is still celebrated by Greeks worldwide.
People all over the world admired Greece’s bravery for standing up to the Axis. Also, Greece eventually did succumb to Axis occupation, but Greece’s bravery during key battles, such as during the Battle of Crete, inspired the rest of the world. This is the first time a country stood up to the Axis Powers with any amount of success. Greece gave the rest of the world hope that the Axis could, in fact, be defeated.
Winston Churchill commented at the time of the Greco-Italian war and famously said,
“Hence we will not say that Greeks fight like heroes, but that Heroes fight like Greeks.”
October 28 is a national public holiday in Greece and most public buildings and residences are decorated with Greek flags.