National OXI day is one of the most important historical dates in the Greek calendar, not just for Zakynthians, but for Greeks worldwide. Every year it is remembered and traditionally celebrated, staying firmly in the hearts and minds of Greeks everywhere.
But what is National OXI day?
The 28 October 1940 is the date when Greece officially found themselves at war with Italy during World War Two. Greece refused to bow to Mussolini however and by doing so they found their borders invaded by the Italians, and their country at war with the Axis occupiers. Italian soldiers based on the Albanian border attacked Greece by crossing it and pulling Greece into a war they had desperately hoped to avoid.
As history goes Emanoule Gratsi, the Italian Ambassador to Greece, presented an ultimatum to Ioannis Metaxas (pictured below) on 28 October 1940 at 3:00am, demanding that Greece allow Italian (Axis) forces to enter Greece via strategic locations along the border. Part of the ultimatum was that if Greece refused the demand, then the Italian Army would enter the country by force. Stories of that day state that the only answer Ioannis Metaxas gave to Emanoule Gratsi’s ultimatum was just one word – “OXI!” (No). Emanoule Gratsi accepted the answer from Ioannis Metaxas and left.
The result of Ioannis Metaxas’ response was an attack on the Greek border in Albania at 5.30am, that resulted in Italian troops crossing the border, officially invading Greece bringing the country into World War Two. Newspaper headlines on 30 October 1940, by the paper “Elliniko Mellon” by Eustratiou, were printed with a huge OXI spread across the page. When the Greek people heard what had happened they made their feelings known. Greeks filled the streets and responded with a simple protest, OXI!, regardless of what political side they fell on. All over the country the Greek people stood up for themselves and vocally protested at the invasion that had taken place, resisting the Italian Army where they could.
Sadly the war in Greece became worse, and eventually the whole of the country, including Zakynthos, was invaded by the Italians. This pushed the country into a war that would last for years. The Greek people fought bravely, and hard, and didn’t make things easy for the Italians, but in the end the enemy won and Greece finally fell becoming a conquered country under Axis powers, and eventually, Germans rule.
In 1942 the Greek resistance, who had become a strong enemy to the Axis powers created OXI day – on the 28 October – as a reminder of Metaxas’ brave response to Gratsi, and they continued to celebrate it every year throughout the war. It was an important celebration that continued after the war ended, and still does today.
National OXI day is now celebrated all over the world throughout Greek communities. It’s a day that reminds Greek people of what their families fought for, how they voiced their brave protest, and how they tried to stand up for themselves for what was right. It’s a day to honour Greek values and the passion for all that Greece stands for. National OXI day is incredibly important and it’s a day that will always be remembered and stay in the hearts and minds of every Greek.
Nowadays Greeks celebrate by marking the day by laying wreaths and parades and official residences/buildings proudly fly the Greek flag.
However you choose to spend your National OXI day, we wish you a wonderful day.