Seventy years ago in Kiev, then part of the USSR, was invaded by Hitler's Nazi Wehrmacht, June 22 1941 to be exact.
Dynamo Kiev were the most famous club, part of NKVD, the police and security sports society, along with Dynamo Lokomotiv, part of the railway workers sports club.. 600,000 Soviet soldiers were captured by the Germans and most put in labour camps. Within weeks 30,000 local Jews were taken to nearby Babi Yar, a ravine, and murdered. The football league was cancelled among the fog and mayham of war.
People had to eat and the Kiev No. 3 Bakery was very busy and the Ukrainian born German manager Otto Schmidt, a Dynamo fan, employed some of the formers players, and others used to meet there. Under goalkeeper Mykola Trusevyck ex Dynamo player who was was employed there as a floor cleaner, they formed a team called FC Start and played some matches in 1942 which the Germans allowed.
They used a nearby stadium Zenit Stadium, and were quite successful. On August 6th they beat Flackelf, (Flack-11),a team made up of German anti-aircraft battery soldiers 5-1. The Germans challenged them to a rematch on August 9th and printed posters and put them around the city. An SS officer was the referee and went into their changing room to suggest that they come out and give the Nazi salute. They refused to do so.
The Germans scored first but FC Start led 3-1 at half time. Again the referee visited the team and reminded them of 'difficulties' if they won. They ignored his warning and came out victorious 5-3.
I visited that stadium, just one kilometre from the Olympic Stadium where the EURO 2012 Final was played. It's a pleasant little park in a hollow with lots of chestnut trees. There is a small dilapidated stand on one side, with a fading sign saying Zenit Stadium. Walking around the track to the other side I watched a small practice from some benches by the track, as mothers pushed prams and watched their kids ride bikes and run around in the sunshine.
In 1971 a huge statue was designed by sculpter Ivan Horovy; A naked athlete kicking a ball into the mouth of an eagle, and there is a sign in Ukrainian:
Forever beautiful presence; They fell in a fight; For ages your glory won't fade; The fearless hero-athletes..
In 1981 the stadium was renamed FC Start Stadium.
As I have previously done at Jewish memorials in Jeruselem, Dachau and Munich's Olympic Park I placed small stones and stood silently in thought to the memory of those dark days.
Many myths, many rumours, many books and movies. In 1981 the Hollywood movie 'VICTORY', or in USA, 'Escape to Victory' was made in Budapest, Hungary, with an Allied prisoner of war camp setting near Paris. Sly Stallone as a not very convincing goalkeeper, Michael Caine, Pele, Bobby Moore and other pro players as prisoners. They had dug a hole in the floor of their wooden cabin, and protected by the French spectators, escaped after the match.
Some players in Kiev were later imprisoned, some killed, but after a 30 year period a Hamburg court could not agree whether they were killed for winning the match called THE DEATH MATCH. In early 1944 the Germans were routed, and before Ukrainian independence two decades ago, Dynamo Kiev won the Soviet Championship 13 times.