The Courage to Say No: A Message about OXI Day
By Andrew A. Athens
National Chairman, United Hellenic American Congress (UHAC)
President and Founder, hellenicare
It was a day like any other in Chicago on October 28, 1940. Fall was quickly turning into winter and I was on my way to college, then off to work. America had not entered World War II. Every night my family and I listened to the radio broadcasts. You can imagine our surprise to learn that General Ioannis Metaxas emphatically told the Italian Ambassador “OXI – NO,” German troops could not enter Greek territory under any circumstance!
My father paced the room, worried not only for the safety of his family in Greece, but what this would do to the country, the impending suffering that would follow. We were all worried. The war was escalating. Little did my brothers and I realize that soon we would be soldiers fighting to preserve freedom and democracy. December 7, 1941, the day Pearl Harbor was attacked, changed life in America and drew us into the conflict of the Great World War.
OXI DAY turned out to be a pivotal turning point in the war. Here was this tiny nation holding off the invasion of the Axis Forces. Metaxas’ outcry of “NO” rallied Greece, demonstrating the country’s enormous will to defend itself against the forces of evil. My pride as a Greek – American quickly swelled. We rooted for Greece. We were proud of Greece. That is why OXI Day continues to be one of the most commemorated days in Hellenic history and around the world.
The events of OXI Day can be applied to today, as the people who have lived in oppressive regimes have said “no more.” This is evident from the recent events in Egypt and Libya. There are many unsung heroes of human rights and religious freedom who risk their lives to say “no” to oppression. They fight for the same things we fought for in World War II – freedom and democracy.
We are grateful to Andy Manatos, President and Founder of the OXI Day Foundation for creating this new organization to remember Greece’s impact during World War II and to honor today’s champions of human rights and religious freedom. The OXI Day Foundation will make sure that this historic day of courage lives on.