Wednesday, 28 October 2009
The Man Who Said "No"
Today is the 28th October, which is celebrated as Οχι day in Greece. Οχι means "no". Ioannis Metaxas was Prime Minister of Greece, when a little after 3am on the 28th October 1940, Emmanuele Grazzi, the Italian Ambassador visited him at home with a message from the Italian government.
The message demanded that the Italian forces be allowed to enter Greece and take control of strategic locations, such as ports. If the Greeks didn't agree by 6am then the two countries would be at war.
Metaxas read the message, and without hesitation replied, "Then it's war." The ambassador started to try and persuade him, but Metaxas wasn't having any of it. "Οχι!", he replied, though as he showed Grazzi to the door he acknowledged "You are the stronger force."
Greece was eventually taken over by the Germans in April 1941, after a tough fight. Churchill, Roosevelt and even Hitler, praised the Greeks for their bravery. "We will not say that the Greeks fight like heroes, but that heroes fight like Greeks", declared Churchill.
I'm not sure if Ioannis Metaxas was related to Spyros Metaxas, who invented the famous Greek spirit half a century earlier. I saw some in a supermarket a few months ago, and bought a bottle out of curiosity. I'm not quite sure if you're meant to drink it, or wear it, as it has an aromatic taste, rather like aftershave. Unlike Ouzo and Retsina, I suspect this is one Greek drink I won't be able to get used to. Even if it does come in a fancy bottle.