Posted: 10/12/2008


      On arrival a Kiev's glorious new main train station I was met on the platform by Eugenie and his 16 year old son Sergie who is a Manchester United fan. Outside, taking a photo of the most modern building I had yet to see, was a giant video screen showing a promo. for Christina Aguillera in concert, live at the Sports Palace the next weekend for 2 nights.

     We drove off to the football stadium of Dynamo Kiev, Lobanovsky Dynamo Stadium, capacity 16,500, who weren't playing because of the international World Cup matches. Lobanovsky was an immortal coach of both Dynamo and of the USSR national team and there is a statue of him sitting on an arm chair on top of the world outside the main entrance. It's in a leafy park full of long walks and chestnut trees. I tried to explain the kid's game of conkers where children get a fallen chestnut, bake it in the oven or soak it in brine and drill a hole and attach a string and try and break their opponents 'conker'. Well, I tried. Next to the park were parliament buildings and the Presidential Palace-an unhappy place these days with Parliament dissolved.

    Next stop was the centre of the city and the Olympic Stadium, called that because during the 1980 Moscow Olympics, Kiev hosted football matches when it was part of the Soviet Union. It used to be called Republic Stadium, and I took a photo of the original name. It became  Kiev Central Stadium, V.I. Lenin Stadium, Nikita Kruschev Stadium, as politics changed. There was contruction next door for new offices, but still an argument as to who will decrease capacity of the stadium from 100,000 for EURO 2012 to 83,000 and make major improvements when it is due to host the final.

   The third stadium was one I never thought I would ever see. You might remember my blog a few months ago (4/24/2008-Escape to Victory)-about the Sylvester Stallone movie with Pele, Bobby Moore and others - VICTORY, based on the true story about THE GAME OF DEATH, in 1944 in Kiev. FC Start had a great team, even if they were hungry, and played a German team refereed by a Nazi SS officer. At half-time when they were ahead they were told to lose, but didn't and most finished up in prison and dead. 

    So I took many photos at the tiny FC Start Stadium in a leafy suburb, with a friendly match going on and children and mothers and babies watching from the sidelines in the leafy surrounding with chestnut trees. There is a large statue in one corner of a Ukrainian soccer player stomping on the German eagle. There were no stones on the ground so I picked up 3 chestnuts and put them on the base as I had done with real stones at the memorial to the slain Israeli athletes in Munich.

     We went to the Motherland statue, a tribute to the Great Patriotic War victory on the banks of the Dnieper River, and I had my photo taken wearing my navy sailor's hat which said Black Sea Fleet, which I had aquired in Yalta. We are only 100km south of Chernobyl, but luckily the prevailing winds were in the other direction and so this city of 2.5 million did not suffer from this disaster.

   I had a great meal in a beautiful and busy cafeteria in a square with the statue of Bohdan Khmelnytsky a 17th Century Cossack leader and warrior on horseback.  A small ham and vegetable salad, borch made with beetroot, onions and more, which was delicious, Chicken Kiev, in it's home city, and another national dish, cherry turnovers with cream, washed down with apple juice. WHAT A MEAL!  So, I was as full as could be after 2 nights on a train, and I was dropped of at Boryspil International Airport for the 50 minute flight to Lviv, and said my fairwell to Eugenie and Sergie, great hosts.