28 October 1940: “Ohi Day” – What do Greeks Celebrate


Historical Overview of the Facts

The “NO” Anniversary commemorates the refusal of Greece to the Italian claims contained in the ultimatum delivered by the Italian ambassador to the Greek dictator Ioannis Metaxas on October 28, 1940. The consequence of this refusal was the country’s entry into World War II and the start of the Greco-Italian War of 1940. This date was established to be celebrated in Greece and Cyprus every year as an official national holiday and holiday. Also, many Greek communities worldwide celebrate the Anniversary of “NO”.

Ioannis_Metaxas_1937_by Wikipedia_ohi day

Ioannis Metaxas – Image by Wikipedia

Who said “NO” in 1940

Shortly after 3 am on October 28, 1940, the then-Italian Government sent an ultimatum to Greece, through the Italian Ambassador in Athens, Emanuele Grazzi, who personally delivered it to Ioannis Metaxas, at the latter’s home, in Kifissia, which demanded that free passage of the Italian army from the Greek-Albanian border to then occupy some strategic points of the Kingdom of Greece (ports, airports, etc.), for its supply needs and other facilities, in its subsequent promotion to Africa.

After reading the text, Metaxas turned his gaze to the Italian Ambassador. Answered him in French (official diplomatic language) the historic phrase: “Alors, c’est la guerre”. (translation: “well, that means war”). Thus manifesting the negative position on the Italian demands.

Grazzi himself in his memoirs, published in 1945, describes the scene:

“As soon as we sat down, I told him that my government had commissioned me to make an extremely urgent announcement. Without another word, I gave him the text. Metaxas began to read it. His hands holding the paper were shaking slightly. Through the glasses, I could see his eyes watering as he used to when he was moved. When he finished reading, he looked at me in the fac. He said in a sad but firm voice: “Alors, c’est la guerre!” (so, we have a war).

I replied that the Italian government hoped that the Greek government would accept its demands and let the Italian troops pass freely. Which would begin their movements at 6 in the morning. Metaxas then asked me how I could think that even if he intended to surrender it wouldn’t be possible for him within three hours to receive the king’s orders and give the necessary instructions for the free passage of the Italian troops.”

— Emanuele Grazzi, The beginning of the end, Hestia. 1980, p. 285

tsolias - ohi day

OHI – NO

Metaxas at that moment expressed the Greek popular sentiment. The then-Greek press received the refusal of submission with the word “NO”. The word “NO” made the headline for the first time in the main article of the newspaper “Helliniko Mellon” by N. P. Efstratiou on October 30, 1940. Subsequently other newspapers adopted it as a slogan for the following occasions as well. Such as the cover of the newspaper “I Vradini”. On April 6, 1941, on the occasion of the German invasion of Greece.

The Start of the Greco-Italian War

At 5:30 in the morning, the Greco-Italian War began with the surprise invasion (the ultimatum stated that the attack would begin at 6 a.m.) of Italian troops in Epirus, so Greece entered the war on the defensive. The so-called “Epic of Saranda”, which followed, and the great victories won by the Greek army against the Italians, were established to be celebrated every year on October 28 the day of the delivery of the Italian ultimatum and the refusal of Ioannis Metaxas to consent.

ohi day_greek flag

Celebrations all over Greece

Every year on this day, the official celebration takes place in Thessaloniki 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 memory of the patron saint of Agios Dimitrios. In Athens and other cities, student parades take place, while public and private buildings raise the Greek flag.