More than 150 members of Evangelismos church in Philadelphia gathered to watch as their Greek school celebrated OHI (greek: ΟΧΙ) day. The two hour performance featured children from the Greek school classes performing dances, reciting poems and singing songs about the historic day, October 28th 1940 and Greek culture of the time.

Father Alexandros credited the parents and teachers for their effort to help preserve the historic day, by teaching their children about the Greek military effort during WWII.

The Meaning of Ohi Day

On October 28th, 1940, the Italian army crossed over to Albania, Greece’s neighbor to the north. On the morning of the 28th, Mussolini issued Greece an ultimatum: Greece was to offer no resistance to his so-called 8 million bayonets, and she was to become a “protectorate” of Italy. Any practical leader would have heeded the downside. But, echoing the sentiment of almost all the Greeks, Metaxas responded:

OHI (oh-hee), which means NO.

This was not about being pragmatic. It was about repeating a lesson that Greece had already taught to the world. This is the meaning of OHI Day.

The rest is history, although it did not go quite as Italy planned.The superior Italian army indeed invaded. Four months later, however, they had been pushed by the Greeks back into Albania. This was the first land defeat of the Axis forces, and a ray of hope for democracies world wide. Churchill wrote: “Greeks do not fight like heroes; heroes fight like Greeks”.

So, Hitler had to come to Mussolini’s help. Greece then fell, lasting longer than France and Poland and the other bigger powers before it. But the detour through Greece cost Hitler five precious weeks in the spring. So he had to delay the invasion into Russia by five summer weeks. His armies experienced five more weeks of the inhospitable Russian winter, which helped eventually defeat them. (The Russians managed to maintain a second front through 1944. The bulk of the German army remained there while D-Day took place.)