Greece Says ‘No’

  ‘Oxi day’ greetings from the lovely island of Xios. On the 28th of October Greece celebrates the anniversary of the year 1940, when Greek dictator Metaxas said ‘no’ to the Italian proclamation that they would be occupying unspecified areas of Greece. This decision began Greece’s involvement in the Second World War, as Italian troops entered Greece early in the morning of the 28th, and the Greeks met and repelled the Italians along the Albanian front until the Nazis stepped in to secure their southern flank for the invasion of Russia.

At school, we’ve had a holiday since Wednesday, which is St. Demetrios Day, who is the patron saint of the suburb where the school is located. Today was a national holiday, so we got to take Thursday off too!

The school celebrated the holiday on Tuesday with a student assembly. Dramatic readings, vintage video footage, a small skills, and a few speechs – culimating in the choir’s performance of several patriotic songs and the National Anthem. If I weren’t Greek, I’d probably think it was all a bit over the top. However, these days I  thought it was especially moving. We never stop hearing bad things about Greece, and I  think the overwhelming public feeling is of exhaustion and cynicism. I was glad to be reminded of what, in my biased opinion, was a pretty great moment for Greece. Michael, the other Greek teaching fellow, and I joined in for the national anthem, and felt rather proud of our ancestral homeland.

One reason I was hesitant about leaving Athens for the holiday was because I didn’t want to miss a parade. Fortunately, we had one in Xios, but it didn’t escape the current tensions. We arrived at the route about 15/20 minutes before the parade was due to start, but were delayed significantly by a protest. I was not amused – I seriously thought a parade, which is mostly involves the best kids from each school marching down the street with a flag, was not the time to protest again. Everyone is well aware of the problems this country is facing – the daily strikes are difficult to avoid – but the kids look forward to the parades, and usually earn their right to march through hard work and study. Eventually, the protest moved away and the parade went past. I loved it, and will update in more detail when I recap our whole trip, but I learned after that the protest was actually only against the presence of public officials. When we got back to our place this evening, we learned such protests had happened all across the country – protestors blocked the route until the politicians agreed to leave.

I still haven’t digested how I feel about all of these happenings. A lot of thoughts are circulating, and at some point I hope to write a post with my own two cents. My point of view is certainly skewed, but I am observing, wondering, hoping and fearing like many others. I am glad though, today the country had a chance to remember that Greece is a lot more than economic crisis and strikes. It probably won’t make a difference in the long run, but it made me smile.



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