How Greece Stood Alone, Saying "OXI" Against The Axis
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80 years ago today, Benito Mussolini issued an ultimatum demanding control of Greek land; 80 years ago today, Greece stood alone, defiant against the Axis. When faced with this decision, Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas embodied the laconic tradition of the Spartans, responding with a single word: "Όχι" (pronounced oh-hee), which is Greek for 'no'. The same morning the Italians began their advance into Greece, thousands of Greeks took to the streets, chanting "Όχι"; while Greece would be defeated, they would go down fighting.

Greek Prime Minister, Ioannis Metaxas

The mighty Pindus Mountains dominate the geography of northern Greece, and the Hellenic soldiers that faced the Italian invasion would prove to be just as resilient as the land they defended. For two weeks after Oxi Day, the Italian army assailed the Greek defenders. Comparably, the Allies were defeated in France and encircled and Dunkirk in the same amount of time. The Greek defensive lines did not buckle or break; embodying the national identity forged at Thermopylae millennia before, they stood their ground and thwarted each of Mussolini's aggressions.

The Italians had broken themselves on the mountain defenders. Out of supplies and exhausted from weeks of combat, they withdrew from the frontlines. Seeing an opportunity, the Greeks made a bold counterattack. Against all odds, it succeeded, and Greek troops marched into occupied Albania, humiliating Mussolini on the global stage. Several Italian divisions were encircled and destroyed, while the others were forced to withdraw deeper into Albania. While the Greek success was temporary, it was still a triumphant David-and-Goliath battle; for the first time, the notion of Axis military invincibility had been shattered.

While the Greeks had won several victories early on, they could not resist the full might of the Axis. With German intervention by way of Bulgaria in April 1941, as well as the invasion of Yugoslavia that same year, the frontlines expanded beyond what the supply routes of the Greek military could maintain. Fresh German troops would break through in the east of Greece and would force a surrender by the end of the month. Greece would remain under Axis occupation until 1944, in spite of the continuing efforts of the Greek Resistance.

Typical Oxi Day Parades in Greece

Oxi Day is a day of celebration across Greece and Cyprus, and is celebrated in other nations by members of the Hellenic diaspora. It is a day of remembrance for many, who honor the ideals of democracy and the Greek nation. Even when so many others had failed in their commitment and adherence to democracy, the Greeks still fought relentlessly for the principles and independence of their nation in spite of the odds they faced. Their continued adherence to democracy in the face of powerful forces from the totalitarian right is admirable, and is certainly something we as Americans should learn from and uphold, especially in this upcoming election. If you are an American and have yet to practice the most fundamental right in our democracy, then you must do so: vote.

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