Friday, 28 October 2011

A bank holiday, and a little bit of history

I have always been interested in many things to do with recent history and among other things the second world war,  particularly what was happening 'at home' whether that was in the UK, France or anywhere else in Europe. What has fascinated me and often left me in awe is the sacrifices people made and how everyday life was affected for everybody.

Today Cyprus celebrates another Bank holiday, but it saddens me that so many British expats here do not even realise that it is, and even if they do they possibly have no idea why it is so. I am making this lovely country my home and so I wish to learn all I can about it's history and people and I think it is important to find out these things.

Today, October 28th is Greek Independance Day, or 'Ohi Day' as it is often known.   It commemorates the day in 1940 when the then Greek prime minister Ioannis Metaxas rejected the ultimatum from Italian dictator Mussolini that the Axis forces should enter and occupy Greece or else face war.

It was alleged that Metaxas replied with single word 'όχι'  ('ohi' meaning 'No) 


On the morning of October 28th the people took to the streets shouting 'ohi' and from 1942 it was celebrated every year as a public holiday in Greece and Cyprus.


The Greek resistance was formed following the invasion and is said to be one of the most effective resistance movements in occupied Europe. It is estimated that 311,000 people, 4.3% of the population were killed, among them 140,000 dying of starvation and almost one million Greeks were left homeless but the bravery of the nation changed the course of the war and also gave the Allies the first land victory of the second world war as Italy's inability to capture Greece enabled the British to win major victories against Mussolini's forces in North Africa.


I found a very informative and interesting post on One man's Blog, here is one story of the resistance...


One of the most touching episodes of the early resistance took place just after the Germans reached the Acropolis on April 27. The Germans ordered the flag guard, Evzone Konstandinos Koukidis, to retire the Greek flag. The Greek soldier obeyed, but when he was done, he wrapped himself in the flag and threw himself off of the plateau where he met his death.




Ohi day is now honoured in both Greece and Cyprus with student and military parades.  When Leo is at school he will be taking part and marching in these parades and I will be pleased that I understand the significance of them.




“Until now we used to say that Greeks fight like heroes. Now we shall say heroes fight like Greeks.”
-Winston Churchill 1941

Amatterofchoice

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