Greece had a tough time during World War II, and at the beginning of the war when they were drawn in by the Italians, they knew they were in for a possible huge defeat. Indeed, the Prime Minister at the time indicated that he did not expect victory over the Italians, but nevertheless, Greece had to fight for their honour. And indeed they fought with more than just honour against the fascism that Mussolini wanted to impose, surprising the Italian side with their tenacity, courage, and determination. Hitler and Mussolini both expected the Greeks to crumble for many reasons, including a poorly armed force with low military supplies including munitions. Almost all of Greece’s arms at the time, dated back to WW1.
On October 28th, 1940, during the night, Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas responded to an ultimatum from Mussolini demanding to be allowed to occupy parts of Greece, with “Alors, c’est la guerre!” (Then it is war!).
By early morning, the Italians had begun to attack at the northern border of Greece and Albania (the latter being an Italian protectorate at the time). The Greek forces responded with vigor, while the civilian population of the country took to the streets shouting “Ohi!” meaning, “No!” in support of their Prime Minister and rejecting Italian occupation.
It was a long war for the Greeks, and while they were courageous, they also suffered a great deal as eventually, the Nazis would come to occupy Greece before the Allies could help the Greek forces liberate the country. Large exterminations of Greek people were carried out by Nazi and Axis forces with whole villages being massacred.
I’m not about to write a history of Greece’s involvement in WWII – there’s plenty of information around if you want to read more. What is important though is that to this day, October 28 is an important holiday in Greece, known as “Ohi Day” and is celebrated and remembered with parades in cities and villages and much patriotism. The beautiful blue stripes of the Greek flag are seen everywhere on this day, and is a day off work for almost everyone.
In Nea Ionia, there were literally thousands out lining the avenue to take in the parade that mostly consists of students from all the schools marching (some with their own marching drum sections) as well as groups proudly wearing traditional clothing. While not quite as disciplined as military marching, these kids do a pretty darned good job in their school uniforms – and its good to keep in mind that many of the males will soon be off to do their compulsory (but today, not enforced) years of military service.
Some Photos From Ohi Day Parade, Nea Ionia, Attica
When I arrived, the parade had already started and there was no way with all the people lining the route that I was going to get much of a view. So we walked to the end of the parade route, where there was a bit more room and an opportunity for photos. The first group that I was able to see was this one, including some beautiful ladies wearing beautiful traditional Greek dress (you can click the images for a slightly larger view):
This was really cute watching these children walk with a large Greek flag:
Some Of The Nea Ionia Schools Represented
Children of all ages march in the parade with a special significance on what we would call “Junior High” and “High School.” It seems the schools all are identified by a unique number, something like “3rd High School of Nea Ionia” but I am not clear on that.
A lot of the schools had their own marching drum section and I was impressed by the number of girls that participated in this section! With a little practice, they’d do well in the drum section of a Highland Pipes & Drums military band! 🙂
Ending The Parade
The parade ended with the music of a “philharmonic” marching band, in their smart looking red uniforms:
May the people of Greece always seek out individual freedom and liberty, and never again have to say “Ohi!” to invaders who would tyrannize.