Vassilios Tsavaliaris was the first fallen Soldier of the 1940 Greco-Italian War

Vassilios Tsavaliaris was the first fallen Soldier of the 1940 Greco-Italian War 1

At 5:00 AM on October 28, 1940. The Italian military forces were directed to launch their first attack in the Greco-Italian War, at the Greek-Albanian border, in the Pindos Mountains.

Vassilios Tsiavaliaris, a 28-year-old Greek soldier, stands guard inside the 21st outpost in Golio height, next to the village of Pyrsogianni.

The Greek Soldiers were sadly overrun as they were outnumbered.

Tsiavaliaris was a father of three children, called George, Nikos and his daughter Alexandra. According to George Papavassiliou, a school counsellor in the region of Trikala, where Tsiavaliaris was born, the soldier’s last words before he died were: “My children! My children will be lost…”

Vassilios Tsavaliaris was the first fallen Soldier of the 1940 Greco-Italian War 2
Vassilios Tsavaliaris was the first fallen Soldier of the 1940 Greco-Italian War 3

OXI Day Story

At 3:00 a.m. on October 28, 1940, a representative of the Axis forces arrived at the Greek prime minister’s residence and demanded Greece’s surrender. The prime minister replied with one single word — Oxi — No.

A few hours later, the Axis forces descended on Greece, expecting that it would quickly fall, but the Greek resistance forced Hitler to change his plans. News of Greece’s victory flooded the radio airwaves and covered the front pages of newspapers around the globe. A grateful world celebrated — no one expected such a small nation to derail the seemingly unstoppable Axis forces.

There are many quotations by various leaders that are often repeated on OXI Day — this quote from Winston Churchill about Greek bravery during WWII probably being the most famous of the lot:

“Hence we will not say that Greeks fight like heroes, but that heroes fight like Greeks!”

Less circulated is the eloquent praise bestowed upon Greece and her people by American president Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Here is the full text of a letter by Roosevelt, a “Letter Praising the Heroism of the Greeks,” sent to the Ambassador of Greece in Washington on October 29, 1942:

My dear Mr Ambassador:

On the early morning of October 28, 1940, the Fascist aggressors handed an ultimatum to Greece. The challenge was hurled back without a moment’s hesitation. This was what might have been expected from a gallant and courageous people devoted to their homeland. You commemorate tonight the second anniversary of the beginning of the total resistance of the Greek people to totalitarian warfare.

More significant, even, than the initial reply to the challenge is the fact that Greece has continued to fight, with every means at its command. When the Greek mainland was overrun, the resistance was carried on from the islands. When the islands fell, resistance continued from Africa, from the seas, from anywhere the aggressor could be met.

To those who prefer to compromise, to follow a course of expediency, or to appease, or to count the cost, I say that Greece has set the example which every one of us must follow until the despoilers of freedom everywhere have been brought to their just doom.

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