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October 28, 2020

The OHI (NO) Day

What happened on the day of OHI.

Every year Greeks around the world celebrate this day. In 2020, this time has come, after so many years, for this day not to be celebrated as it has always been. Nevertheless, the same feeling and pride for this NO remain after 80 years.

At 3 a.m. on Monday, October 28, 1940, the Italian ambassador to Athens, Grazi, would finally meet with Metaxas, but to deliver an ultimatum to him at his home in Kifissia, in which Mussolini demanded for Greece not to block the army coming to occupy certain strategic positions in our country. The Athens government had three hours to respond. However, this was self-evident to the dictator: "Donc, Monsieur c'est la guerre" ("Well, mister we have war!"). With these phrases in French, the NO was said by Metaxas, which reflected the moods of the Greek people. Shortly afterward, Metaxas informed the British ambassador Paleret and asked for the help of the United Kingdom.

The Italian attack manifested itself with the invasion of strong military forces in the areas of Pindos and Epirus (from Grammos to the Ionian) and with local clashes in the region of NW Macedonia. The Italian general Visconti Praska had 135,000 men at his disposal and his Greek counterpart Alexandros Papagos only 35,000.

At 9:30 in the morning, the first aerial bombardments take place in Piraeus and Tatoi without consequences, while in Patras there will be dead. The Corinth Canal and the naval base of Preveza were also bombed. On the afternoon of October 28, Mussolini proudly announced to Hitler, with whom he met in Florence, the attack on Greece.

The NO is accepted with unprecedented enthusiasm by all the Greek people, who wake up at 6 in the morning from the sirens and pour into the streets, holding the blue and white flag.

Greece's decision to resist provokes the same day of admiration, especially in Great Britain and the Commonwealth countries. Dozens of messages of support are gradually arriving, with the first being that of King George VI of England, who emphasizes: "Your case is also our case." In the same vein as Churchill's telegram: "We will give you all possible help in the fight against the common enemy and we will share the common victory."

Every year on this day in Thessaloniki, the official celebration with all its splendor, in the presence of the President of the Republic and other officials, with a large military parade, which coincides with the celebration of the liberation of the city during the First Balkan War and his memory patron saint of Agios Dimitrios. In Athens and other cities, student parades take place, while public and private buildings raise the Greek flag.

The anniversary of "NO" was celebrated for the first time during the years of Occupation. The first celebration took place on October 28, 1941, in the main building and in the courtyard of the University of Athens. There were speeches by the students, while Professor Konstantinos Tsatsos also spoke about the anniversary, but he refused to take a class on the day of the anniversary, as a result of which he was fired from the University. On the second anniversary (28/10/1942), the celebration took place in Syntagma Square on the initiative of the organizations EPON and PEAN. There was concern about how the Italian occupation forces would react, but they did not intervene. Events and demonstrations that day took place in other cities as well. In Piraeus, small gatherings took place, someone climbed on a chair, gave a short speech, and then disbanded, to avoid the intervention of the carabinieri. There is not much information about what happened on October 28, 1943. According to Elias Venezis, the anniversary was celebrated in the building of the National Bank, in Kotzia Square (Venezis was then an employee of the bank). However, the Germans arrived, who were now in charge of policing, forcing those involved to stand with their hands up until nightfall, and sending about twenty of these men to concentration camps. Some did not return.

For the first time, the anniversary was officially celebrated on October 28, 1944, with a parade in front of the Prime Minister George Papandreou. The Church of Greece decided, in 1952, to postpone the feast of Agia Skepi from October 1 to October 28, on the grounds that the Virgin Mary helped the Greek Army in the war in Albania.

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