Ochi Day is a public holiday in Greece and Greek Cyprus that commemorates the resistance to the Axis powers during World War II. Ochi Day falls on every 28 October, the day in 1940 when Greek’s leader refused to surrender without a fight and, thus, brought Greece into World War II on the side of the Allies.
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After a long, bitter struggle to free themselves from Turkish domination in the 1800’s, Greece had finally become an independent nation again, but the 20th Century brought new challenges to their national existence.
A dictator named Ioannis (John) Metaxas had ruled Greece since 1936, but he refused to align Greece with the Axis Powers. On 28 October 1940, Italian dictator Mussolini demanded Metaxas allow Axis forces to occupy Greece or face war. Metaxas’ reply was “Then it is war!” In legend, this has been summarised to “Ochi!” (no! in English).
Italy’s army in neighbouring Albania immediately marched on Greece’s western border, but the Greeks counterattacked and drove them back through the Pindus Mountains and deep into Albania. Later, German forces joined in the fray, attacking from the eastern border. For four long days, the Greeks held off the Germans and forced them to bring in reinforcements, diverting German resources and costing them precious time.
In this “Battle of Metaxas Line,” the fierceness of Greek resistance won them the praise of Allied leaders. Winston Churchill remarked that no longer would it be said of Greeks that they fight like heroes but of heroes that they “fight like Greeks”.
For a time, Greece was the only nation allied with Britain against the Axis Powers, and many speculate that World War II could have lasted longer or could even have been lost were it not for the Greeks. The reason is because their resistance slowed Hitler down in his conquest of the Balkans, which then led to his invading Russia during the winter instead of spring.