Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Patriotism on Ochi Day

Thursday, 28 October

In the wee hours of this day in 1940, the Italian Foreign Minister summoned the Greek ambassador and said Italy would invade Greece at dawn and Greece should save everyone a lot of bloodshed by surrendering now. The Greek ambassador said “No!” which in Greek is “Ochi!” And the 28th of October has been kept as a Day of Remembrance in Greece ever since.

In Athens and in Thessaloniki, there is a big, annual military parade. I’ve described it in detail before. Not only the military, but other admirable organizations also march in these parades, the Red Cross, the scouts, volunteer firemen and rescue squads. Schools are represented and kids from the orphanage always get special cheers as they, too, display their patriotism

Well, in recent years, politicians on television have been decrying the parade as a waste of money, an exercise in chauvinism, etc. Going to the parade is becoming politically incorrect. We began feeling the pressure to stay away as early as 2007, the last time we were here in October.

So of course we felt it doubly our duty to go first to the church service and then to the parade.

The church wasn’t packed, as it was on Sunday and again on Tuesday, but it was still full.

We caught a cab afterward and told the driver to take us to the White Tower (Thessaloniki’s would-be equivalent of the Eiffel Tower or Big Ben). He did and we got out and – no parade! We asked a nearby policeman, and he said the parade was already starting and we were past the end of the route, way over there, pointing to the Macedonia Palace Hotel.

It was half a mile or more away. We walked. But the point is, this year the parade isn’t being allowed anywhere near the downtown area. It’s right back in our own neighborhood, so close we walked home afterwards.

The route appears to have been considerably shortened, too, although this year I’m sure the marchers were glad of that, as it was raining and so cold Demetrios and I were wearing our winter coats. We had umbrellas, but the marchers did not, and neither did some in the crowd.

The military aspect of the military parade has been greatly diminished. Gone are the navy ships strung with lights, firing their salute from the harbor. Gone are the jets screaming overhead in multiple low passes. Gone are the thundering tanks. There weren’t even many jeeps. There were a few representatives of each branch of the military, but mostly civilians from various parts of Greece parading in their native dress. (I wonder whether the government realizes they are just as important, in their own way. They are part of the Greek identity that is otherwise under such massive attack.)

People applauded as each unit marched by, and cried, “Bravo, bravo!” and small children waved Greek flags. I was the only adult I could see waving one. (Yes, in addition to our big flag we have one for waving in your hand.) I saw my waving flag momentarily catch the eyes of quite a few marchers, too, and I hope it encouraged their patriotism at least a tiny bit.

Two of the marching bands played, “Macedonia the World-Renowned, the Home of Great Alexander”, which in previous years always made me smile; it seemed so quaint. This time it made me cry; it seemed so important. Because the Greek spirit is the one thing that might yet save this country. The “Greek” government should have staged the biggest parade ever this difficult year, to rally that spirit. But of course that’s exactly what they do not want to do. They’re the very ones the Greek spirit could save the country from.

Our walk home took us right past our favorite bougatsa place, so we went inside where it was warm and dry and sat down to have some. A white cat with grey markings rubbed itself across our legs and asked to be petted. The woman behind the counter told us his name was Kyriakos.

And as we were eating, I remembered that today is also, in Greece, the Feast of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos. I remembered all the stories of her miraculous intervention right up to and including World War II and the communist insurrection that followed. So I said we must remember not to look just at appearances. God may yet decide to save Greece somehow.

Demetrios told me Fr. Paisios predicted all this would happen, and also that “some crazy people” would cause the plan (of doing away with Greece) to fail.

Crazy people within the government, or opposing it?” I asked.

“Opposing it. People who will be considered crazy because their strategy will appear to have no chance of success.”

Then, because today I’m feeling less cowardly or more reckless than usual, I said part of me hopes God will grant us a chance to be among those crazies and the grace of recognizing that chance (since it will appear crazy) and grabbing it. Yeah, right. That “part of me” is the melodramatic fantasy to which I am so prone. I keep wanting to be a hero, if only in my own mind, while in reality I can’t even pray or fast properly. Kyrie, eleison!


Dixie said...

I was so discouraged when I read your other post. I was thinking that all the Greek immigrants in the US need to go home!!! Oh not in that anti-immigrant way (my politics trend more to pro-immigrant in that I am first generation American on one side and second on the other), but to save Greece, because the Greeks here so love their homeland and proudly fly the Greek flag.

But now in seeing that Elder Paisios had predicted the plan and it's failure...I am feeling a lot better about things. Through the prayers and protection of the Theotokos. God can work this all out in ways we can't even imagine.

BTW...I love Elder Paisios. I pray to him for a special friend of mine who is doing battles with demons.