article Greece history

The historical ‘Ohi’ (No) day

Today is a bank holiday in Cyprus and Greece.

Not many know why. I’m not sure what went wrong with the educational system since my generation left school.

We were not just aware of what we celebrated on each national holiday, we knew details, the nitty gritty.

So, what do we celebrate on the 28th of October?

On this day, in 1940, 80 years ago the Greek dictator and Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas (we were not taught he was a dictator until we were 15-16, before then we grew up to think of him as a national hero) said the historical NO to the Italian ambassador in Athens, Emanuele Grazzi, when he presented Metaxas with an ultimatum, either allow Italy to enter Greece and occupy strategic locations (so Italy can conquer more countries during World War II) or face war.

Apparently Ioannis Metaxas’ immediate response was actually in French, the official diplomatic language, “Alors, c’est la guerre!” (Then it is war!). He then used the historic phrase NO when the Italian ambassador tried to persuade him to change his mind. (This part I couldn’t remember, I admit).

After Ioannis Metaxas’s rejection of the ultimatum, Italy invaded Greece and that was the start of the Greek-Italian war of 1940-41 in which the Greeks fought heroically and actually managed to keep the Italians away until Germany came to the rescue and then Greece were under German occupation until the end of World War II.

It just goes to show that the power of the spirit and soul is undefeatable and historically we humans always seek our freedom and we will fight to death for it. Sometimes we forget this.

But we shouldn’t. We should always fight for our freedom, in any form or shape, financial, spiritual, physical.

Anyway, here’s to the 28th of October and the historical ‘Ohi’.

Eleni

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