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Dynamo [Paperback]

Andy Dougan
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
Price: £11.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

22 July 2011

In 1942 at the centre point of World War II an extraordinary event took place not on the battlefield but in a municipal stadium in Kiev. This is the true story of courage, team loyalty and fortitude in the face of the most brutal oppression the world had ever seen.

When Hitler initiated Operation Barbarossa in June 1941, he caught the Soviet Union completely by surprise. At breathtaking speed his armies swept east, slaughtering the ill-prepared Soviet forces. His greatest military gains of the entire war were made in a few short months, and the largest single country that he conquered was the Ukraine, roughly the size of France. Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, was circled, assaulted and overrun, and among the city’s defenders who were captured and incarcerated were many of the members of the sparkling 1939 Dynamo Kiev football team, arguably the best in Europe before the war. Captured Kiev was a starving city whose population were deported in vast numbers as slave labour.

However one man determined to save not just the surviving players from the Dynamo side but other athletes. He offered them work, shelter and, most valuable, bread, as workers in his bakery. Inspired by the charismatic goalkeeper Trusevich, the Dynamo side was re-formed as Start FC and a series of fixtures was arranged, all of which the team win handsomely, to such an extent that they inspired Kievan spirits. The final fixture against the Luftwaffe was agreed by the German authorities: a well-fed team from the Fatherland would vanquish the upstart Ukrainians, especially if the game was refereed by an SS officer. The match is an allegory of resistance; its consequences are brutal. Andy Dougan has discovered the truth behind a legendary encounter, sorting fact from fiction and restoring to the centre of World War II a moment of extraordinary poignancy and complex bravery, of which the cliché is demonstrably true: football is not a matter of life or death; it’s much more important than that.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate; New Ed edition (22 July 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841153192
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841153193
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.7 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 394,889 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

The Nazi occupation of Kiev during World War II was a singularly brutal period in the history of the Ukraine. It is hard to imagine how the outcome of a football match could matter to a people who lived under constant threat of starvation, disease and death--but it did. In Dynamo--Defending the Honour of Kiev, journalist Andy Dougan tells the extraordinary story of how the players of Ukranian club side Dynamo Kiev--renamed FC Start--were saved from exportation to Nazi labour camps and became a beacon of hope for a city under the heel of the jackboot. Their finest hour was to be when a team of malnourished former Kiev stars took to the pitch against a Luftwaffe XI, and sought to deliver the propaganda coup of the war.

Dougan puts this extraordinary match in context, sketching the bloody history of the region, and reflecting on the roots of a fierce, nationalist spirit which was to express itself in the first half of the 20th century in the face of the totalitarian ideologies and genocidal instincts of both the Soviets and the Nazis. Dynamo became a popular focus of that spirit and its role as an embodiment of Ukrainian pride was never more significant than during the Nazi occupation, in face of astonishing brutality:

The Nazis had such institutionalised contempt for their prisoners that on some occasions they did not even consider them worth a bullet. Some sick prisoners who could not work were savagely beaten senseless and buried alive, in the knowledge that if they did regain consciousness they would not have the strength to free themselves from their shallow graves.

But this is no glamourised, Escape To Victory-style account of sporting pluck and stiff upper-lips. As in any chronicle of an occupation, the moral certainties of peacetime sit uneasily with the necessities of survival, and Dougan is an unflinching observer of the reality behind the legend. The result is a moving, challenging book, which will put the importance of your team's next match into perspective. --Alex Hankin --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


‘Just as you think you've read every good book about the war another one is published…I cannot help but think that it would seem wrong to try and forget what happened during the last war until all stories such as this one have been told.’ Philip Kerr, Sunday Times

‘This is clearly a labour of love.’ Independent

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine football book 28 Sep 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I think that many people have heard part of this tale, at least the more popular version: the Ukranian footballers who in Nazi-occupied Kiev defied the Wehrmacht in what was to be a friendly football match they were supposed to lose, and died for it. Much of the myth around the legendary side Dynamo Kiev is built up on this. Andy Dougan largely follows the story; he tries to demystify the myth of the heroic players who defied all odds for their love of the game; most were men trying to survive a war, and had been working at a bakery managed by a sports-crazed Ukranian, who decided to make a football team from all the former stars to play in a football tournament set up by the German occupiers.
The team outperformed all, even humiliating a German side. But that is where the story somehow questions whether the team actually was torn apart because of that victory: many of the players continued in Kiev, some survived the war, and some were sent to Siretz, a prisoner camp known for its barbarism on the outskirts of Kiev. Three of the great players of Dynamo Kiev were executed at Siretz, a part so well described in the book that one feels the grueling suffering the prisoners went through. The ones shot were Ivan Kuzmenko, Alexei Klimenko and the great Nikolai Trusevich, who had been one of the best goalkeepers in the world at the time. And here, Mr. Dougan adds to the legend telling how Trusevich last words were "red sport will never die" and wearing his goalkeeper jersey!
The book is excellent, as it puts the dilemmas of the war into the trivial world of football; how football was seen both as a means to motivate people, and as an outlet for political protest in an environment where life was worthless (this book is interesting to read in conjunction with Simon Kuper's "Ajax, the War and the Dutch", also about the world of football during WWII).
If one is interested in sports, football and history, this is well-worth a read!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Football, Life and Death: A Cliche Reviewed 18 Mar 2001
By A Customer
Andy Dougan has produced a fascinating account of how one of the Soviet Union's finest sides was reborn under the German occupation of Kiev as a bakery XI - FC Start - which then proceeded to beat every team that their occupiers could throw at them. This not really a book about football - the account of the 1942 'season' is covered in less than a fifth of its content - it is more about what war can do to ordinary people, driving them to acts of horrific brutality, of dignified heroism and of all shades of behaviour in between. It is at its best in describing the terrible sufferings of the people of Kiev during the occupation and how during a few months of 1942 a team of footballers regained them a sense of civic and national pride. Also interesting is its account of the uneasy relationships between Nazism and Ukranian Nationalism and between the Gemans and their Hungarian and Romanian allies during this period. An attempt has been made to portray most of the central characters in as even-handed manner as possible - the bakery manager who assembled the team is showns not as some Schindler-type saviour, nor as a man out simply for personal gain, but as a complex, damaged sports fanatic who surrounded himself with his heroes to help massage his fragile ego and also boost his standing with both the local population and the Germans. I have some criticisms: Dougan's prose is sometimes over-enthusiastic and awkward. He also glosses over what happened to the surviving players during the post-war years. In particular he seems unable to reconcile the official Soviet mythology - that the entire team team were shot in their football strip for daring to beat a Luftwaffe XI - with the fact that most of them survived the war, treated at first as collaborators and then later lionised as reluctant heroes. Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best football book ever 28 Feb 2007
This is probably the best historical football book ever!!!

My wife is Ukrainian, and I am intrested to learn about her history and culture, and most History books on Ukraine I have seem to repeat the same stuff over and over agian, but this book I can get a short straight-forward history of Ukraine and about a football match!

It does read like a Hollywood script (Nazi's come in and a bunch a footballers beat them over and over again in a football match) but is really gripping and shows a great deal of the suffering of the people of Ukraine and Kyiv before and during the war!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Account: Great Story 22 April 2002
By A Customer
A little thin perhaps, but nonetheless an inspiring account of resistance in the most trying of cicumstances. The story of FC Start, mythologised by the leadership of the USSR, is told in full for the first time here, from the 1941 battle for Kiev, through a harrowing account of life in the city, to the liberation and the comeback of Dynamo Kiev after the war. In between, we are told how Start, a team composed mainly of ex-Dynamo players, played a heroic series of games against axis teams in Kiev, winning all of them.
Thought-provoking and inspiring, if a tiny bit thin.
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I really enjoyed this book. It's a great combination of Ukrainian and Football history. I've never read much about the Russia and the ex-Soviet bloc, but this not only part-filled a gap but opened up a desire to find out more. More of a gap-creator than a gap-filler.

This book tells the history of Ukraine up to and during the 2nd World War. Whilst the main focus of the book is on football, a large part of the book also deals with pre-WWII history and how Ukraine fared during the German occupation. That Ukraine is an incredibly resource rich country has meant that it has been invaded many times and was one of the first countries entered when Hitler went into USSR.

The football side of the book recounts the establishment of the game in Ukraine and Russia and the forming of the Soviet league. It tells the story of Dynamo Kiev, who were one of the first teams to be established in USSR. They were one of the top pre-war teams, but after the abandonment of the league following Hitler's invasion, the team, like most other teams, was broken up.

Then during occupation, a bakery owner and sports-lover employs a number of ex-sports stars at his bakery to keep them in employment and away from trouble. Working at this bakery are the remnants of the Kiev team and players from other teams. To increase morale in Kiev, the occupying German forces allow a league to be formed and this is where the joy of the book comes out. As expected, the bakery team demolish all other other teams, culminating in a game against the Germans which they can't afford to win....

If you love football or Soviet history, or if you want a different type of book to read, this book is worth looking at.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect If You Like Football and War History
This is a great read, takes you through the tangled web of football in occupied Ukraine during the second World War. I was hooked, it is the quickest I have ever read a book. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Mr. R. G. Brown
5.0 out of 5 stars " A Very Moving Account"
I have read this account several times and never fail to be moved by it especially the account of the players treatment in Siretz. Read more
Published on 28 Jun 2011 by A. Flynn
4.0 out of 5 stars Defending the Honour of Kiev
An well researched and well written book. It's also a bit of an eye opener regarding life under Nazi occupation coupled with the brutal Soviet rule. Read more
Published on 12 Jan 2011 by Cazshie
4.0 out of 5 stars Football against the enemy
Dougan's clear, well-written account delves behind the myth to present the truth about FC Start's brief expression of defiance and solidarity under the yoke of Nazi... Read more
Published on 6 Dec 2007 by PrideParkforever
3.0 out of 5 stars Frustrating
For the first 200 of the 250 pages this is a great book, giving a real human dimension to the harshness of life in both pre-war and occupied Kiev. Read more
Published on 22 April 2007 by David Browne
1.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating tale let down by the telling
The story of FC Start is a fascinating one but it is let down badly by the poor quality of the writing. Read more
Published on 29 Mar 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Recommendation: Read this book!
I just finished reading this incredible book called : Dynamo, Defending the honour of Kiev. It's the true story about FC Start, a football team created in Kiev during the second... Read more
Published on 6 Mar 2003 by Konstantinos Konstantas
4.0 out of 5 stars Eye-Opening effects of football
This is an uplifting story of the effct football can have on a war torn city. Despite starting a bit slow this book thrust you directly into Kiev at the time of the German... Read more
Published on 23 April 2002 by Jeremy D Haag
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrifying...
I could never imagine that somebody would "dare" to raise that day once again... Nevertheless, "Dynamo" uncovers the unknown history of the Second World War and... Read more
Published on 21 Dec 2001 by Elena Bessonova
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