Greek parade recalls past victory
Oxi Day commemorates when the country said 'no' to invading Italian soldiers
While protests raged on in Greece over the country’s current economic woes, a peaceful celebration of Greece’s past triumphs took place on the Danforth.
On Oct. 28 the annual Oxi Day Parade commutated Greece’s defiance of, and eventual defeat of Italian forces at the beginning of World War II.
Since 1939, the Greek Community of Toronto, a 102-year-old, non-profit, charitable organization representing over 150,000 people of Hellenic decent in the GTA, has put on Toronto’s Oxi Day Parade, which originally began downtown and ended at city hall.
Several Greek schools and churches took part in the parade as well as Ward 29 councillor Mary Fragedakis, MPP Peter Tabuns, MPs Bob Rae and Jim Karygiannis and the Consul General of Greece Dimitris Azemopoulos.
The parade ended at the Alexander the Great Parkette where respects were paid to fallen Greek soldiers.
“After the parade we have a wreath-laying ceremony and we honour the fallen of Ohi Day and the subsequent battles that happened after that,” said Tim Prattas, secretary of the organization’s education department, who was at the parade.
Oxi Day, or Ohi Day as it is called in Greek, is celebrated by Greek communities across the world every year on Oct. 28. It marks the date in 1940 when then Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas said no, or ‘ohi’, to Italian dictator Benito Mussolini’s ultimatum to allow
Italy to occupy Greek land.
“It’s a source of national pride because we said no to corruption and to fascism,” Prattas said.
According to historians, the Greeks had expected and prepared for a potential Italian attack. Despite being outmanned nearly two to one, having one sixth as many aircraft and no tanks, the Greek forces were able to stop the ensuing Italian invasion and push them deep into southern Albania, which Italy had occupied in 1939.
An Italian offensive in 1941, lasting from March 9–20, did not dislodge the Greeks from Albania, but the Germans began to move on Greece the following month. Refusing to abandon their newly acquired territory in Albania the Greeks did not have sufficient forces stationed in Greece to defend the country and eventually surrendered to the Germans on April 20, 1941.
This year’s Oxi Day, like its history, was bittersweet. Extreme economic uncertainty led to protests that cancelled the Oxi Day parade in Athens. Here in Toronto, the festivities made many parade-goers stop and think about what was happening in their ancestral or actual homeland.
“The parade is now in perspective,” Prattas said. “Our country is going through difficulties just like it did then and we’re waiting for someone to say that ‘ohi’ again, that ‘no’ again.”
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