Recognizing the Australian support of the Greek and other Allied forces in the Battle of Greece and the Battle of Crete in 1941, members of the Hellenic Presidential Guard (Evzones) will visit Adelaide next month to commemorate Oxi Day and unveil a memorial supported by the South Australian government.
During their visit, Evzones will partake in a week-long series of events, including the unveiling of a memorial at St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Thebarton. The state government has provided one hundred thousand dollars towards the memorial, which honors both last year’s bicentenary of the Greek War of Independence and Oxi Day itself.
Tom Koutsantonis said in an official statement, “As a multicultural State, it is crucial to encourage and support our diverse communities to celebrate important events and anniversaries that keep them connected with their heritage, history, and cultural background.”
He added, “We are very excited to be welcoming the members of the Hellenic Presidential Guard to South Australia, and we look forward to commemorating Oxi Day with the Greek people, as well as celebrating them through the new memorial at St. George Greek Orthodox Church.”
The members of the Hellenic Presidential Guard will visit South Australia as guests of the Foundation for Hellenic Studies. The visiting party will also include Greece’s Deputy Minister of National Defence Mr. Nikolaos Chardalias, who will attend a Service of Remembrance and wreath-laying ceremony on Saturday, October 29th at South Australia’s National War Memorial in which members of the Presidential Guard will stand in honor of the sacrifice made by many in various wars.
Harry Patsouris, trustee of the Foundation for Hellenic Studies said, “We are grateful to have the members of the Hellenic Presidential Guard return to South Australia for the first time in three years” and “we see this as an opportunity for those in the South Australian Greek community who haven’t been able to get back to Greece because of the COVID-19 pandemic to reconnect with the Hellenic culture and tradition.”
“We’re also extremely thankful for the support of the state government in making this happen,” he concluded.
Oxi Day is celebrated annually on October 28th by the nations of Greece and Cyprus as the day that Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas rejected Mussolini’s ultimatum in 1940 and declared they would not surrender to Axis powers. Greece’s stand became a symbol of resistance and courage not only across Europe but also across the world. The day is also honored by many nations worldwide as a day of justice and courage.
The Hellenic Presidential Guard is distinguished as the last unit of Evzones in the Hellenic Army. The unit was comprised of elite light infantry and mountain fighting units and was established by royal decree on December 12, 1868.
Thousands of Australians sacrificed their lives in Greece
The Battle of Greece was one of the first engagements of the Australian Army against the Axis forces.
Over seventeen thousand brave men served with distinction in the Battle of Crete and the Greek Campaign.
The Greek and Crete Campaign included Australia’s highest ranked Indigenous Australian soldier Captain Reginald Saunders, who was saved and supported by the Cretan people for nearly a year.
The relationship the Australians developed with the Greek people during the war saved over one thousand Australian lives.
It is estimated that the descendants of Australians and New Zealanders who fought in Crete and Greece together with Australians of Greek heritage are in the range of over 1.5 million people.
Of the 1,686 Anzacs (Australian and New Zealand ) 646 Australians are buried or memorialized in Greece in Phaleron, Athens, Rhodes, and Souda Bay in Crete. Over fifty percent of deceased Australians have never been found or are unidentified and are memorialized at the Athens Memorial.
About 8,900 ANZAC prisoners of war were captured in the Battle of Crete and Greece, representing eighty-three percent of the Australian soldiers captured by the Nazis in World War II.