November 1, 2022
This one may be primarily for those readers who refer to themselves as “Greek” or “Greek-American.”
Greeks first started to immigrate to the United State4s in large numbers soon after 1900. The main characteristics of these travelers were their high character, belief in God (most are Greek Orthodox), and their industriousness. My parents fit that description. They successfully managed to pass their traits onto their children…and I believe it applies to me. Today, the children and grandchildren (and great grandchildren?) of the immigrants are our leaders in business, industry, education, and government. The American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA) reported 13 years ago that Greek Americans rank 2nd in per capita wealth (Jews are first) and first in earned doctorates (Jews are 2nd). Truly a success story that all Americans can be proud of.
My parents emigrated from the Peloponnese region of Greece. It is a legendary place, especially from an historical perspective. This is the peninsula where ancient Sparta was located. Paris of Troy escaped here when he and Helen eloped. The Peloponnese is also where some of the most memorable of Greece’s locations can be found, including ancient Olympia, the site of the original Olympic games, and many others.
On to the main theme of this article. It’s been 3 years since I penned my fifth article on the OHI Day. This is a special day in Greek history as it regards Greece’s heroic involvement in WWII.
My ancestors have a long history of battling and suffering with evil elements and opponents. Unfortunately, history repeated itself in 1939. The 83rd anniversary of the resistance of fascist forces by the Greek Armed Forces was recently celebrated several days ago on October 28. The day came and went without a whimper here in the United States. OHI (an emphatic no in Greek!) 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 occupation that included executions, sufferings, famine, and severe inflation; 10% of the population died. The rest is now history for some people and all Greeks.
Here are comments from two of the major players immediately following this war.
Winston Churchill: “The word heroism, I’m afraid, does not reflect in the least the Hellenes’ acts of self-sacrifice that were the defining factors 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.”
Franklin Roosevelt: “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 hurricane filled the American hearts with enthusiasm and won their sympathy.”
I dug this from my OHI files – a 11/21/1940 Newsday article.
“In a smashing drive at dawn, Grecian mountain fighters stormed the Italian defenses outside Koritza, drove the fascists back into the town and took over the new line from which they fired into the town…Despite desperate Italian efforts to stem the Grecian advances by flying in fresh reinforcements, Greek shock troops reportedly smashed through the Italian lines on the southern front, making another wide hole near Metyoni…Military observers here are of the opinion that if the present Greek progress continues, the Albanian port of Santa Quaranti itself will be threatened.”
Another reminder of the special day was a paper submitted by our 13-year-old grandson, 3 years ago, for his English class. It was titled VACHOS 1,5. Vachos is a small essentially deserted town build on a rocky terrain halfway up a mountain with no apparent means of sustenance itself. Vachos is located in Mani – the middle member of the Peloponnese peninsula – surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea on the south, the Ionean Sea on the west, and the Aegean Sea on the east, …Here was a part of Elias’s passage… “We had started our journey in Athens, and we were now in Mani, the region of the Peloponnese my great grandfather emigrated from…Excited and curious, my whole family had all been waiting for this part of the trip. As we drove into the hills, the sea disappeared. A sign ‘VACHOS 1,5’ told us to turn right and drive 1.5 kilometers to Vachos…It amazed me that my ancestors left this town for more opportunities in America, but a basketball hoop had traveled in the opposite direction…Nestled into a steep hills, the house was made of stone, most of it still intact, with a dilapidated clay roof. Trees obscured the view of the house so we walked down the hill to see it from another angle. Long, prickly brush scratched against my legs as I surveyed the place my Spartan family had lived in a century before…We wandered into the town cemetery, where we were greeted by marble stones with engravings, vibrant flowers, and food and drinks placed on graves. I share blood with all of these people…”
I talk to Elias nearly every night. He keeps asking me about revisiting Greece. Unfortunately, that kind of travel is no longer in the works for me. But we can always dream. Now a senior, I can’t wait for a follow-up paper, perhaps as a senior project.
Finally, I want the readers to know that as a first-generation Greek-American, I never forget the value of growing up in a country – The U S of A – whose economy is based on capitalism and is both democratic and free.
DECEMBER 1: On Potable Water / Desalination
JANUARY 1: On the Ultimate Quiz VII
FEBRUARY 1: On Zzzabbuu VI
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Wonderful article on Οχi Day. Brings back many memories for me and some interesting and funny facts about my trip to Vacho in 1956. Louie, you and I have the same ancestors on your father’s side. Very interesting stories there, too. I digress. I always loved watching the parade on Οχι Day….. Evzones, Cretans et al.
Looking forward to your next one.
Thank you, Helen–my second most favorite cousin!
LOU;Great Article! Joe Pellechi!
Thanks, Joe. I appreciate your attention.
Enjoy your Monthly Newsletter.
Something I found out a few weeks ago..
I always thought that I was a 2nd Generation American. I was wrong.
All four of my grandparents were born in Italy.
They all migrated to the USA around the turn of the 20th Century – a couple even in the late 1890’s.
They became FIRST GENERATION Americans.
Our parents were both born here in 1918 – one in the height of the Spanish Flu.
They were 2nd GENARATION Americans.
Also, I refer to myself, if it comes up, as an AMERICAN Italian. Not an Italian American.
I much prefer to say AMERICAN and very proud and grateful to be so.
Thanks for your indulgence
Dear Lou, A belated thank you for your comments on my newsletter and the OHI Day. I enjoyed hearing from you. Please say hello to Joe.