What referendum? What early elections? What 50% haircut or 100% bankruptcy? Greeks were not born two years ago. They have a long history, they fought several wars and suffered many hardships. Should they be sacrifized to save the EURO? Hm…. Enough is enough. And you know something? We are Proud to be Greeks, after all!
Here is a guest post submitted by KTG-reader and Diaspora-Greek, Michael Nevradakis on the occasion of the OXI Day celebrations. Michael is a Ph.D. Student, Department of Radio-Television-Film in Austin/Texas and Producer & Host of Austin Hellenic Radio:
Oxi Day: The present-day resonance of a simple Greek word, 71 years later
By Michael Nevradakis
Today, we are commemorating one of the most significant celebrations in Greece and in the Greek culture more broadly: “Oxi” day. “Oxi” literally translates as “no” in English, and it is celebrated on October 28th of each year.
On this day, people in Greece, Cyprus and in Greek communities around the world celebrate Greece’s rejection of the ultimatum given to Greece by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini on October 28, 1940. Mussolini’s demand was for Greece to allow Axis troops to come into Greece at the beginning of World War II and to occupy certain “strategic locations” and to safely pass through on their way to North Africa, or otherwise face war. As legend goes, the Greek prime minister at the time, Ioannis Metaxas, responded to the ultimatum with a laconic response which made history: “oxi,” or no.
In response to this refusal to allow Axis troops to pass unimpeded through Greece, Mussolini’s troops, which had been stationed in Albania, attacked the Greek border that same day, signaling the start of Greece’s participation in World War II. That same morning, the Greek population took to the streets, shouting “oxi,” and beginning in 1942, it was celebrated each year on October 28th.
What often gets lost in history is the valiant battle that Greece fought and the victory that it achieved. Greece at the time was impoverished and near-bankrupt, with armed forces that were severely lacking in manpower and supplies and which was greatly outnumbered by Mussolini’s forces: 250,000 Italian troops against 150,000 Greeks, one of the largest navies in the world against a navy that consisted of a small handful of boats and submarines, 500 airplanes versus less than a dozen. Against these incredible odds, Greece chose to fight…and Greece won. The Greek army, improbably, pushed the Italians back at a time where nation after nation had fallen to the Axis forces in Europe. Greece, a huge underdog if ever there was one, took on the biggest military power in world history and won, in what was the first Allied victory of World War II—a historical fact which is, shamefully, often overlooked by historians and in popular accounts of the war.
The Greek victory, however, did not go unrecognized in 1940. The Boston Globe wrote: “Armies cannot Slay the Spirit of Greece. The Italian attack on Greece has aroused the old Greek spirit of national pride, freedom and personal courage. This spirit expressed itself in Greek philosophy, literature and arts that have been the basis of European culture…Modern Italy, with her German ally, may defeat the Greek army, but the Greek spirit is deathless.”
President Franklin Roosevelt stated “when the entire world had lost all hope, the Greek people dared to question the invincibility of the German monster raising against it the proud spirit of freedom.”
As a result of Greece’s victory over the Italians, the German army, which had been counting on the Italians to easily crush any resistance in Greece, was forced to change its strategy, which was to attack Russia in the spring. Instead, the Germans were forced to invade Greece, diverting time and resources away from their original plans and delaying their invasion of Russia—a change of plans which ultimately sealed the fate of Hitler’s army.
All this, as a result of one simple Greek word: “oxi.”
Today, 71 years later, this simple word is as relevant and as timely as it has ever been. It is relevant and timely for Greece, and it is relevant and timely for the rest of the world, a world which finds itself facing tremendous economic challenges, incredible inequality, a growing democratic deficit, and increasing doubts in the political and financial institutions which have developed ever since the start of the post-war period.
Greece is a country which, throughout its history, has faced one challenge after another. While the post WWII period was a time of peace in most of Europe, Greece, which is still owed tens of billions of dollars in unpaid war reparations from Germany, has had to contend with a civil war in the late 1940s, a military junta imposed by foreign powers in the 1960s and 1970s, and today, a severe economic crisis which has also morphed into a political and social crisis. It is during this crisis that the word “oxi” has become as relevant and important as it has ever been. Millions of people in Greece have taken to the streets peacefully to say oxi, to say no. No to cutting salaries which, for most people, were already not very high, no to cutting pensions, no to cutting education and social services that in many cases were already underfunded, no to raising taxes at a time where most Greeks are already living under conditions of tremendous economic insecurity and are having increasingly difficulty making ends meet—or even affording the basics.
They are also saying no to a corrupt political system, domestically but also beyond Greece’s borders. They are saying no to the European Union and to certain powers who see in Greece a carcass to feast upon, a country to exploit and take advantage of at a time when it is in trouble. They are saying no to a European dream of unity which has become a European nightmare of neocolonialism, with European leaders openly, shamelessly and brazenly proclaiming that they will send unelected bureaucrats to Greece to make and impose decisions. They are saying no to an unelected, 21st Century dictatorship being imposed by the European Union and by the International Monetary Fund with the blessings of the Greek government.
71 years later, Greece has come full circle, except that this time, it is the people, not the prime minister, who are saying “oxi,” who are saying “no.” 71 years later, the world has come full circle as well. The word “oxi” may be a simple Greek word, but it is a word which is resonating all over the world. The protests of the indignants throughout Europe, the voices of the Occupy Wall Street protesters all throughout the United States and the world, reflect a crisis that is hardly limited to just Greece, a global crisis that, despite what the media and European politicians would have us believe, is not Greece’s fault, but which instead reflects a global system of governance and finance that is ailing, that is coming apart at the seams.
Increasingly, throughout the world, millions and millions of people are, in their own languages, saying no. They are saying no to a system which is failing, saying no to false promises of hope and change, no to corruption and war and trillions of dollars spent in dubious military operations and to bail out banks and companies that are “too big to fail” while millions of people are out of work, have had their homes foreclosed, have lost their livelihoods, remain without any form of health insurance, and face an increasing mountain of debt. They are saying no to a culture which increasingly has its priorities screwed on backwards, where the value of an individual is measured in dollars or Euros instead of by their quality as a human being.
These are not Greek problems, they are global problems, and they are problems to which a simple Greek word, uttered 71 years ago, “oxi,” is more relevant than ever before.
For me, the most unfortunate thing about this crisis, as far as Greece and the worldwide Greek community is concerned, is the amount of Greeks who are now claiming to be ashamed of their culture and ashamed of their heritage. The amount of Greeks who are abandoning their country in the vain thought that the grass is always greener elsewhere. The amount of Greeks who have begun to state that they are ashamed to be Greek. On this day, however, it is important to reflect upon the culture and the history of Greece, the contributions Greece has made to the world—and indeed, the contributions which Greece continues to make to the world to this day.
Today, more than ever before, on the eve of this important commemoration in our culture, I state that I am proud to be Greek. I call upon all Greeks to do the same.
Thank you, Michael, for the inspiration. We seem to forget the greatness of a nation under the heavy loads of international pressure and ….taxes 🙂
Yes, when you got back to the ground where you were some years ago… there is only thing to say: We have to be proud. Why not? But admit it was also your fault to pretend you live on a hight tide. Who took the 8 bil. for retirements while the dears had alredy been dead? It were not the people living in defferent stares of EU
Who shall pay. Me, beeing totaly outside of yours proud nation – not.
that’s the corruption relations between governments-some people. I didn’t take this money either and therefore I refuse to pay as well.
When will get rid of sentimental, heroic, romantic and partly ignorant people like a greek american reporter from Texas? oxi day is one thing and was relevant in its days but does not have any significance of the same kind as would be necessary today! we have witnessed Greece being on the brink of a civil war, lead by old time violent snd manipulating KKE and unions whose leaders only act to protect their own backs and have not had the Greek people in focus. To make a default today would be a kamikaze act of incredible size, with a 50 % devaluation, with all Greek debts still in Euro, even after avtrenendous hair cut, which no Greek should take as selfexplanarory. Many of myvGreek friends also claim “we also bought the system and there are hordes of us Greeks who always got our payment with black money! ” All bull shit talk about pride, is simply for the romantics to deal with or Greek mericans who can sit in rhe US and talk about being proud of being Greek. The major problem is unfortunately the wide spread ignorance among too many Greeks who thinks it is always somebodody else’s fault that the situation is so severe as it is. To have a new election would mean chaos only and make things even more difficult and as long as too many Greeks do not understand that there are millions of orher Europeans who sympasize with the Greek people, we will come nowhere. Further, a default followed by a 50% devaluation would very soon be followed by a hyperinflation, since most Greeks would increase their prices, making the situation worse, if at all possible. the word sacrifice and harder rules and regulaion on all those who bring money out of the country, honest tax collectors etc etc and 35, at least, % less bureaucrats is but just rhe beginning of a necessary change. he unions have played outbtheir role a long time ago and should pay back rhe fees to its members and dissolve themselves. it must be over ith victimization and opportunism! The Greek people will solve this situation but not becuase of General Metaxa but through a developed solidarity with hose politicans that are still honest!
You have to live here day in, day out to experience the horror of the aveerafe Greek household to hear austerity measures 2x or 3x a week. Then you’ll desperately need some sentiment to escape the dictatorship of fiscal sheets. It’s more the collapse of the Euro that scares you than the collapse of Greece.
I live in Greece 10 months of the year! So I know what I know and experience and what most of my Greek neighbors and friends think and express!
Not being proud of our government (which in my opinion no one should be!) is not the same of not being proud of your country or your background. Even today there is still a lot to be proud of, even if it is easy to forget with all the negativity that surrounds us.
That I totally agree with you about and what I tried to express before. Too many thingsare happening behind the backs of people in general (even if there are a lot of greedy normal citizens as well) ! ride is one thing, vanity and victimizations something totally different! Gia sou Ellada!!!
Drystone, I agree 100% with you. Maybe some Greek naval gazing would be good at this time instead of blaming everyone else for our troubles. And, yes, Greek-Americans (not all of us) are some of the worst Greece apologists. Sure, Greece is great, but don’t gloss over the negative either. It just makes us look foolish to the foreigners who are providing the money we desperately need to keep our way of life going. As my father always said, “Socialism is great, until you run out of someone else’s money”….
No i certainly do not gloss over my friend! read about what I wrote re Greeks having bought the system for many years. And accepted black salaries to avoid taxation! Now there will be no money untill the referendum is done…. Dramatic moments ahead!