October 28, 1940 The Day Greece Scored Victory for Allied Forces
The following is an excerpt from the: http://politismosmuseum.org/en/exhibitions/current/300-oxi-day curated by the CSUS Department of Hellenic Studies
See the Oxi Day Exhibit here: http://politismosmuseum.org/en/exhibitions/current/300-oxi-day
Seventy five years ago, Ioannes Metaxas was awoken at 3:00 in the morning by the Italian Ambassador, Emanuele Grazzi. Metaxas escorted Grazzi to the sitting room on the right side of the main entrance to Metaxas’ Kifissia residence. Here, Grazzi reluctantly delivered an Italian ultimatum to Metaxas. The ultimatum stated that either Greece allow Italy to occupy certain strategic parts of Greece, or face invasion. Metaxas responded with ‘Oxi’ (No) and ‘alors, c’est la guerre’ (therefore, this is war). Metaxas’ response brought Greece into World War II, 1939-1945.
Ioannes Metaxas had tried to avoid war during his four years in power. He understood that the European conflict resulting from Hitler’s invasion of Poland in September 1939 would prove devastating for Greece no matter which side Greece allied itself. However, in the current situation, Metaxas did not have the option of neutrality. Metaxas would either condone the dismemberment of Greece or fight for Greek territorial and national integrity. He chose the latter.
Within hours after Metaxas rejected the Italian ultimatum, he contacted King George and then assembled his cabinet. By early morning, Metaxas had signed the formal declaration of war and all of the Greek newspapers carried this decision on their front page. All sectors of Greek society supported Metaxas’ decision; even KKE General Secretary Nikos Zachariades wrote an open letter expressing his party’s support for Greece’s entry to war.
Fighting on the Albanian border proved successful for the Greek military. Within weeks, the initial Italian advances were repelled. By mid-November, Greek offenses began pushing their way through the Italian and Albanian lines. In the process, the Greek troops secured a critical piece of territory, Klisura Pass. This gave the Greeks a defensible and strategic location to continue the conflict successfully.
As the war continued between Greece and Italy, Metaxas’ health deteriorated quickly. The enormous stress and declining health of Metaxas took their toll on the Greek leader. On 29 January 1941, Metaxas died. His funeral witnessed an outpouring of grief for the man who revived the prestige of the Greek military and orchestrated one of the first Axis defeats in World War II. Metaxas’ ‘Oxi’ of 28 October 1940 has continued to be one of the major national holidays in Greece.