The courage of the Greek people during World War II and the courage of people fighting for freedom and democracy around the world today meet each year in Washington, DC. And when they do, something spectacular happens – US presidents make tens of millions aware, a Nobel Prize emerges, dissidents are released from prison and others are provided additional protection. The Washington Oxi Day Foundation, led by Greek Americans in cooperation with US and international political leaders, promotes, liberates and literally saves the lives of people fighting for freedom around the world.
Each year, through the presentation of the Oxi Courage Awards before an audience of senior American government officials at the US Institute of Peace and the WWII Memorial in the heart of Washington, DC, the Foundation calls attention to the remarkable work and legacy of individuals showcasing uncommon courage and philotimo. These efforts began in 2011, during Greece’s financial crisis, to make American and world leaders aware of the extraordinary value of the Greek people and their enduring character.
The people of Greece showed unsurpassed courage during WWII and the Holocaust. Top leaders in America and around the world who work or have worked with the Washington Oxi Day Foundation include former president Bill Clinton, musician and humanitarian Bono, HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, former president of Israel Shimon Peres, the highest-ranking woman in American history and former house speaker Nancy Pelosi, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and numerous congressional committee chairmen.
The efforts of the Washington Oxi Day Foundation are supported by a number of leading Greek Americans, including the late Michael Jaharis represented by the Jaharis Foundation, Jim Chanos, George and Nick Logothetis, George Marcus, Michael Psaros, the Honorable B. Theodore Bozonelis and Bill Crane on behalf of the Bouras Foundation, Dennis Mehiel, Michael Johnson, Ted and Jim Pedas, Steve Yeonas, John Calamos, John Payiavlas, Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks, Nikos Mouyiaris and Maria Allwin.
Three months after he received the 2017 Oxi Courage Award, Ji Seong-ho, who escaped from North Korea and is now helping others escape, was seen by over 46 million people at the president’s State of the Union address. Just weeks after receiving the 2015 Oxi Courage Award, accepted by her daughter Dinara, Leyla Yunus and her husband Arif were released from years of imprisonment in Azerbaijan for gravely needed medical care. And two years after receiving the 2016 Oxi Courage Award, Nadia Murad was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the second-youngest recipient in its history. Additionally, Khalil al-Dakhi, who received the 2015 Oxi Courage Award for his work saving sex slaves from Islamic State militants, was put in touch with those controlling US military strategy and bombing of ISIS to support his underground network and rescue efforts.
According to 2018 Oxi Courage Award recipient Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Russian democracy activist who has twice come close to death after being poisoned, the public exposure that today’s Oxi Courage Award and other such recognition provides him is the only protection he – and many other recipients – have. As long as fighters for freedom can be held, punished or killed in silence, their prospects are dim. So, for this reason, those brave Greek people who said “oxi” (no) during WWII and the Holocaust are still protecting innocent victims from untold brutality. But, as Greek Ambassador to the United States Haris Lalacos said, the Washington Oxi Day Foundation has converted what is a holiday in Greece into an event with profound international impact.
Not only did the Greek people say “oxi” to the seemingly unstoppable Axis Forces, they said it as a lone voice in the world. At the time of the first Oxi Day, Adolf Hitler had a non-aggression pact with the USSR’s Joseph Stalin, America and the world claimed neutrality and Hitler’s only declared opposition was the United Kingdom and its former colonies New Zealand, Australia and Canada, whose armies had just been sent into retreat by the Germans. They were forced from mainland France and Belgium to the beaches of Dunkirk. There, the Germans could have annihilated the UK’s total military force in one day but failed to do so only because of a miscalculation by the German generals. The extreme degree of the Greek people’s courage was explained in Ambassador Lalacos’s words at this year’s dinner: “The Greek people knew they were entering a war they couldn’t win.”
Andy Manatos is president and founder of the Washington Oxi Day Foundation and Mike Manatos is its executive director.
Oxi Courage Award
On October 25, before top US policymakers from the White House and State Department and thought leaders from think tanks and the media, the Washington Oxi Day Foundation again celebrated #OXIcourage past and present at the US Institute of Peace, honoring modern-day fighters for freedom who have exhibited the courage of the Greeks in WWII.
The prestigious Oxi Courage Award was presented to twice-poisoned Russian democracy activist Vladimir Kara-Murza and Chinese poet Liu Xia, the widow of China’s greatest dissident and Nobel laureate Liu Xaibo. The chairman of the United States Holocaust Museum Board, Howard Lorber, received the Metropolitan Chrysostomos Award, which highlights the courage of the Greeks during the Holocaust.
Earlier in the day, at the National World War II Memorial, the Oxi Day Foundation honored three remarkable WWII veterans – a Greek, a Greek American and an American – alongside Korean War veteran Michael Johnson, who received the prestigious 2018 Michael Jaharis Service Award for his service in the war and continued service to the Greek-American community. The WWII veterans honored were Celestino Almeda, a 101-year-old American veteran nominated by Senator Bob Dole (who previously received this award), Admiral Theodoros Lymberakis, a 97-year-old Greek veteran who fought alongside US troops in the historic D-Day battle, and (posthumously) Alexander Georgiades, a Greek-American member of the remarkable OSS (the precursor to the CIA).
People who have previously received the Oxi Courage Award include:
2017: North Korean defector and human rights activist Ji Seong-ho, who three months later was featured by the president of the United States in the State of the Union address.
2016: Vice President Joe Biden and his son Beau Biden (posthumously).
2016: Escaped ISIS sex slave and 2018 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Nadia Murad (nominated by Amal Clooney).
2015: Imprisoned Azerbaijani activist Leyla Yunus (nominated and introduced by Bono), who weeks later was freed from jail.
2014: Journalist James Foley, just weeks after becoming the first American executed by ISIS. (President Bill Clinton introduced Foley and Jim’s parents accepted the award.)