NOVEMBER 1, 2018
As noted in earlier OHI articles, I was baptized Elias Theodorakos since it is the Greek custom to name the first son after the paternal Papou (grandfather). Within a few years, the name Elias (our first grandson is also named Elias) was displaced by Louis, its American counterpart. Three weeks ago at Grandparents Day at the Foote School in New Haven, CT, 13 year old Elias spoke before an audience of approximately 500 grandparents. He talked about his grandfather or Papou (that’s me), my grandfather, my grandfather’s grandfather, etc. He also noted how proud he was of his name and his Greek heritage. I teared up.
In second grade, my immigrant parents were told by several public school teachers that it would be in the best interest of the family to Americanize the last name. The name was soon legally changed to Theodore. About that time, my Uncle Jimmy who came to America with my father changed his name to Theodore while Uncle John chose Theros. My Aunt Stavroula also chose to change her married name from Apostolakos to Lake. I know our children and grandchildren would have preferred that our last name had not been changed. They are also disappointed – along with Mary (who is not Greek) – that I did not insist that they go to Greek school. But, such were those times. Although I am an American first, I remain proud of my Hellenic roots. And, it is for this reason that another OHI article was written.
On to the theme of the article. The 79th anniversary of the repulsion of fascist forces by the Greek Armed Forces was recently celebrated several weeks ago on October 28. (The day came and went without a whimper here in the United States.) The Greeks refer to this as the OHI (an emphatic NO!) Day. OHI was Prime Minister Metaxas’s response to Hitler’s order to peacefully surrender. What followed Metaxas’s response was 219 days of fierce battles. That in turn was followed by intense guerrilla warfare that resulted in a brutal occupational that included executions, sufferings, famine, and sever inflation. The rest is now history for some people and all Greeks.
For comparison purposes, the days of resistance of the various combatants to the Nazi-Fascist invasions are listed below:
- Belgium 18
- Czechoslovakia 0
- Denmark 0
- France (the supposed superpower of that time) 43
- Greece (13,696 Greek soldiers died) 219
- Luxembourg 0
- Norway 7
- Poland 30
- The Netherlands 4
- Yugoslavia 3
The total number of human losses in percentage of total population are also listed below.
- Belgium 1.5%
- France 2.0%
- Greece 10% (750,000)
- Poland 1.8%
- Soviet Union 2.8%
- The Netherlands 2.2%
- Yugoslavia 1.7%
Here is what four of the more important players of that time had to say (citations available on request) about the heroic Greek accomplishments against the armies of not only Germany but also the armies of Italy, Bulgaria and Albania.
- Adolph Hitler: “As a matter of historical truth, I must ascertain that only the Hellenes, of all the adversaries that confronted me, fought with daring courage and the highest disregard for death… “
- Sir Winston Churchill: “The word heroism, I’m afraid, does not reflect in the least the Hellenes’ acts of self-sacrifice that were the defining factor of the victorious ending of all the nations’ common struggle during the 2nd WW for human freedom and dignity. If it were not for the bravery of the Hellenes and their courageous hearts, the ending of the 2nd WW would not have been clear. Until now we were saying that Hellenes fight like heroes. Now we will say: Heroes fight like Hellenes. The Hellenes in fighting against the common enemy will share with us in the prosperity of peace.”
- Josef Stalin: “I’m sad because I’m getting old and I will not live much longer to express my gratitude to the Hellenic people whose resistance determined the 2nd WW. You fought without weapons and you won, being small before the great ones. We owe you gratitude, because you bought time and, thus, we could arm ourselves. As Russians and as fellow humans, we thank you.”
- Franklin Roosevelt: “For Hellas there was granted a delay of 3 hours on the 28th of October 1940 so that she can decide on war or peace, but, even if a delay of 3 days or 3 weeks or 3 years was granted, the answer would have been the same. The Hellenes have taught dignity throughout the centuries. When the entire world had lost all hope, the Hellenic people dared to doubt the German monster’s invincibility fighting back with the proud spirit of freedom. The heroic struggle of the Hellenic people against the German attack, having so thunderously won the Italian attempt to invade the Hellenic soil, filled the American hearts with enthusiasm and won their sympathy. A century and a half earlier during the Greek War of Independence, our nation expressed its sympathy for the Hellenes and was hoping for the Hellenic victory.”
Yep, I still get that special feeling when someone refers to me as a Greek-American.
Note: Thanks are due my first cousins Helen Lake Anton and Harry Lake, aka Apostolakos, for providing some of the background material for this article. Helen was stationed in Greece during part of her CIA career. Harry served on the National Board of Directors and was Finance Chairman of AHEPA (American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association).”
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