Ohi Day is celebrated throughout the world on October 28 each year by Greeks, to commemorate the rejection of the ultimatum made by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini on October 28, 1940. The village of Avliotes holds a parade by all the elementary school children of the village as do nearly every town and city in Greece to honor this eventful and historical day.
This ultimatum, which was presented to Metaxas, the Greek Prime Minister at the time, by the Italian ambassador in Greece, demanded that Greece allow Axis forces to enter Greek territory and occupy certain unspecified “strategic locations” or otherwise face war. It was allegedly answered with a single laconic word: όχι – ‘ohi’ (No!). This ultimatum was sent on 4 am on the 28th of October and the Italians forces attacked on 5:30 am of that day. The whole country mobilized and most of the able ready men fought in the mountains of Epirus in northwestern part of Greece. Within weeks, the Italians were driven out of Greece and Greek forces pushed on to occupy much of southern Albania. Greece was out numbered by the Italians 2 to 1 and had to fight a far superior Italian army. What a lot of people don’t know is that this was the very first land victory by the Allies in the Second World War, and helped raise morale in occupied Europe.
As this was a bit of an embarrassment for the Axis, Germany had to come and deal with its weaken southern flank. The German military machine had no problem defeating the Greeks but at a price which some historians say won the war for the Allies as it meant that Germany had to delay its invasion of Russia and thus suffered defeat due to the harsh Russian winter. Inspired by the Greek resistance during the Italian and German invasions, Churchill said, “Hence we will not say that Greeks fight like heroes, but that heroes fight like Greeks”.