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Dynamo: Defending the Honour of Kiev Hardcover – 5 Mar 2001
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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
‘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--This text refers to the Paperback edition. See all Product description
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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!
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!
Thought-provoking and inspiring, if a tiny bit thin.
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