Oxi Day and the power of saying “No”

On Oxi Day, we remember the power of saying, “No.” On October 28, 1940, at 3:00 am, the Axis Powers were on the march and there was nothing that seemed capable of stopping the spread of fascism across Europe. Benito Mussolini sent his ambassador, Emmanuele Grazzi, to the Greek Prime Minister Ionnais Metaxas to demand that Italian troops be given entry into Greece. While other countries had quickly capitulated, fearful of the destruction that a full-scale invasion would wrought, the Greeks refused to simply compile. According to legend, Metaxas’s answers to Mussolini was simply “Oxi.” No. By 5 am, Mussolini had amassed his troops at Greece’s border with Albania and the people of Greece had taken to the streets shouting Metaxas’s refrain, “Oxi.”

It would ultimately take Hitler diverting troops from the invasion of the Soviet Union for the Axis Powers to conquer Greece. Even then, in Greece the fascists would face one of the most well-organized and fierce resistance movements of the war. The Greek refusal to surrender, to kneel before the demands of forces of hatred, violence, and authoritarianism, inspired the world and proved a much-needed victory in the darkest days of one of humanity’s darkest hours.

This year, Oxi Day and the power of a people’s refusal to submit to forces of darkness takes on special resonance as the Ukrainian people continue their struggle against the Russian invasion and once again the world is reminded of what the true cost of freedom is.

A little over 2500 years ago, in an event that would foreshadow the heroism of the Greek resistance to the Axis Powers, a small band of Spartans stood against the enormous army of the Persian King Xerxes at the Thermopylae pass. The Spartan king, Leonidas, commanded that small band charged with saving the fragile freedom of the Greeks. Those Spartans, like the Greeks of the 1940 and the Ukrainians today, understood that their individual battles may not be won, but that the war for the dignity and freedom of all people can never be truly lost as long as there is a small band willing to continue the fight. This is a lesson part and parcel with e Hellenic legacy of freedom.

On October 26, the National Hellenic Museum will host a special NHM Discussions The Power of No: From Oxi Day to the Ukraine War that explores the lasting influence of Greece’s refusal to surrender to the Axis Powers on October 28, 1940. In this hour-long conversation, we will examine the ways the Greek “Oxi” in 1940 is connected to our contemporary world, from the Ukraine to Georgia and beyond. You can register here. We hope to see you

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