As an adopted child, I never knew my biological origins. A few years ago I entered a DNA data base and learned my father was a Greek Cypriot. Since then, I have found several distant relatives from Cyprus and, just a few months ago, I was contacted by a 2nd Cousin who knew my father (now deceased). These newly found contacts have encouraged me to learn more about Cyprus and become acquainted with their customs & holidays.
The 28th of October is a special day full of pride for Greeks all over the world. Because of their stand against Fascist and Nazi forces, WWII was shortened. There are those who think that the Greeks changed the course of history. Cities and towns across Cyprus and Greece celebrate Ochi Day with military parades that close down most centers. In Nicosia, Cyprus, school students and veterans march in a parade and carry banners and the flags of Cyprus and Greece. Political speeches are made and the day is focused on celebrating the heroes of the nation.
Cyprus particularly considers the day as one to not only remember the bravery of the people who walked in the past, but to focus on the future and to believe that their people can have a strong and independent freedom and prosperity. The country is divided because of the Turkish Occupation which began in 1974 when the Turkish army invaded Cyprus and claimed 1/3 of the island as their own.
A Little History:
In the fall of 1940, Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini decided to invade Greece from Albania. An ultimatum was delivered to Greece’s Prime Minister, Ioannis Metaxas. Metaxas read the demands on the morning of October 28th, 1940. He rejected the ultimatum and replied with the word “ΟΧΙ” (oh-hee) which means “NO”.
The Italians invaded Greece and met with the Greek army in Epirus, the northern part of Greece. In four weeks the Greek army pushed the Italian army back to Albania. They freed the southern part of Albania that is better known as Northern Epirus.
Because Hitler was forced to send troops to Greece, Germany had to delay their invasion of the Former Soviet Union. Many think without this battle, the outcome of WWII would have been different. The sacrifices made by the Greek nation ultimately changed the course of history and contributed to preventing the evils of Fascism and Nazism from dominating the world.
Some Interesting Notes:
*Hitler’s troops lost more lives in one day in Crete, Greece than had died in any single day in the 15 months prior to conquering 11 other countries.
*After the war there were 10% fewer Greeks alive than when the war started and the overall devastation of the country took years to recover from, but this small country showed the world at a time when it mattered most that freedom is not free, but worth fighting for!