Όχι (pronounced roughly ‘Ochi’, stress on the ‘O’ and with a ‘ch’ like the one in Scots ‘Loch’) is the Greek word for ‘No’. In October 1940 Mussolini asked the Greek dictator Metaxas for permission for Italian troops to at least pass through, and perhaps indeed occupy, Greece, which would inevitably result in Greece’s entering World War II on the Axis side. On the 28th, Metaxas said ‘Όχι’, with the result that Greece became an ally of the Brits, French, etc. against Germany and Italy. Ever since, the day has been celebrated in Greece as the day when Metaxas, for all that he was a dictator, made the right choice.
In every town in Greece there is a parade of the school pupils, dressed in the blue and white of the Greek (originally the Bavarian but we won’t go into that just now) flag. Each section of the parade, corresponding to the different school grades, is led by the star pupil of that grade. There is a similar parade on Independence (from the Ottoman Empire) day, the 25th of March. At the last parade my young friend Anastasia was chosen as flag-bearer for her grade. She is, like all her family except her father, physically rather small, and the flag is huge; she was worried about it: ‘One gust of wind, Simon, and I’ll be swept into the Aegean.’ In the event all went well; here she is, leading her section of the procession: