Being a bit of a Grecophile, I suppose I should know all about Ohi Day. It is celebrated in Greece on 28th October in memory of the prime minister Ioannis Metaxas who on that day in 1940 told Mussolini to go forth and multiply after he wanted to allow Axis forces, which is to say German, Italian and Japanese forces, to occupy Greece. The Nazis did, of course, occupy Greece the year after but what Metaxas said, which was essentially “this means war”, was more than mere symbolism.
That I knew literally nothing about Ohi Day until I saw it mentioned today on social networks makes an important point, at least for me. It is important to remember our own wars against tyrants, as we do on Remembrance Day every year, and it’s equally important to educate and re-educate ourselves on what happened before.
I learned much of what I know about World War Two by watching ITV’s The World At War. I was 16 when it was first broadcast and I have to say I was deeply shocked by what I saw, not least the episode titled ‘Genocide” which showed graphically the horrors of the holocaust. Until I saw it, I didn’t understand the grim realities of WW2. It educated me, it framed my thoughts and beliefs for the lifetime ahead. Man’s inhumanity to man was writ large throughout. When other wars, massacres and genocides took place in my lifetime, I was able to understand them in the context of what had gone before and, tragically, lessons had not been learned.
Happy Ohi Day, my Greek friends. If I had a bottle of Metaxa, I’d raise a glass tonight to Mr Metaxas who said “no” to fascism. Fascism is often the natural conclusion to nationalism so we need to be more cautious about what we say and what we do and by how we treat each other.