Aris Anagnos was born in Greece and came to the States in 1946 after having served in the Greek army in World War II. He was only a young boy in his final year of high school when the war broke out in Greece. It was 70 years ago when the Greek premier Metaksas responded “Oxi” (no) when the Italian fascist Musolini asked if Greece would let the Italian and Nazi forces pass through Greek land. “It was very difficult times but you could feel that the Greeks were very proud of their decision,”Aanagnos remembers.
“I remember that day very well, everybody went out on the streets after they heard the news. Later, the army started drafting soldiers, and even several women’s clubs started working on making supplies for the soldiers. I was a teenager then, and I belonged to the national youth club. That first day, they sent me to the Greek Pentagon and made me a messenger. That day I was the first from the civilians to learn that Metaksas denied entry to the Italian and Nazi forces. I delivered that message on my bicycle to Zapeion Hall, to the national radio for broadcast.”
Less than a year later Anagnos, decided to sell all his family’s valuables in order to go to the Middle East and join the resisting forces. He risked his life many times and was thrown in jail as a hostage. He was set free after the end of the war. Anagnos fought for Greece at the time of war and continued to fight all his life for social justice and Hellenic issues. He is also an activist for peace in Kosovo and Serbia, and for human rights movements in Latin America.
Upon his return to Greece in 1945, Anagnos worked for the UN where he befriended his boss, a Navajo Indian, who suggested he leave for America. His boss gave him a letter of recommendation and an affidavit of support to leave his life in Greece behind and begin his new journey in America.
Bus boy and dishwasher were among his first jobs upon arriving in the States. “Eventually a Greek connection led me to work at the clearing house of a bank, meanwhile I was studying at UCLA.” He later began selling insurance and finally got into real estate which is where he was extremely successful.
He is one of the founders of the American Hellenic Council, which was originally formed to protect Cyprus. “In 1974, Turkey invaded Cyprus. When we heard the news here in Los Angeles we met at Agia Sophia and we formed the save Cyprus Council in order to fight for justice in the Cyprus problem. We began doing demonstrations and some lobbying in congress that we still continue to this day. Later on we renamed the organization the American Hellenic council.”
In honor of OXI Day Aris, who now resides in California with his family, asks Greeks to remember the past and to not forget because “the past has been too brutal and we have suffered too much”.