October 28 is an important day in Greece’s calendar – it is the day when then Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas (in power from 1936-1941) rejected the demands made by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini – October 28, 1940. It also marks the beginning of the country’s participation in the Second World War.
The Italian dictator had made an ultimatum to the Greek government to allow the Axis forces to enter Greek territory and occupy a number of “unspecified strategic locations” within or otherwise, the country had to face war.
This demand was allegedly answered by Prime Minister Metaxas with the single terse word “όχι” which means “No!”, thus, the origin of the name “Ohi” or “Ochi” Day. However, Metaxas’ exact answer was “Alors, c’est la guerre” (Then, it is war).
After World War II, October 28 became a public holiday in Greece and Cyprus and was celebrated with much fanfare with parades done by the military and Greek students to commemorate the event and public buildings and homes put up Greek flags in honor of this day.
But for the last three years, due to the financial crisis the country is battling, Ohi Day had been celebrated in more ascetic means. In 2010, 2011 and 2012, only people marching on foot were allowed to join the parades.
However, this year’s celebration was a remarkably different, thanks to a generous donation made by a private Greek oil company.
The donation provided covered enough for the jet fighters and the tanks to once again re-enter the Ohi Day scene in Thessaloniki city. The parade’s traditions had also been brought back to life because of it.
Thousands of police were deployed during the celebrations last Monday as there was a high anticipation for demonstrations by left-wing parties and opponents of the country’s austerity principles. But only a few protesters showed up in the celebration that day.