By Lauren Kelly- Jones
For Greek and Cypriot communities throughout the world, Oxi Day (“No!”) is celebrated on October 28th. On this day 1940, the Greco-Italian War began when Greek dictator Ioannis Metaxas rejected Benito Mussolini’s 3:00 a.m. ultimatum – in which Italy demanded that Greece allow Axis forces to enter Greek territory and occupy strategic sites without opposition – with a terse refusal.
At 5:30 a.m. Italy invaded Greece through the Greek-Albanian border, and encountered fierce resistance. The Greco-Italian War is viewed as a triumph in Greece and in 2009, Mark Mazower wrote that the Italian invasion of Greece was a disaster and the “first Axis setback” of the Second World War – it shaped the power structures of the conflict significantly.
Some accounts suggest that Metaxas’ response was not “Oxi!” (there are claims that it was “Alors, c’est la guerre”/ “Then it is war”), but Greece celebrates it – the bravery, the negative impact it had on Adolf Hitler’s timing for approaching the Russian front, the rejection of fascism – as a kind of Hellenic battle cry. In some sense, this is still the case – the term “Oxi” has been adopted as the nomenclature for recent anti-austerity protests.