The movie focuses on the football match played on 9 August 1942 in Kiev’s Zenit stadium, where the soldiers of the Wehrmacht (“Flakelf”) and the players of the dissolved Dinamo Kiev (“FC Start”) clashed with each other. Although before the match in the locker room (or, according to another version, in “the concentration camp” where the footballers were “detained”) the SS warned the Ukrainian team that it would be better for them to lose, nevertheless the Ukrainians held on, and beat the guests at 5:3. After the match, the Germans executed the whole team (and in Alexandr Borshchagovsky’s scenario of 1946, even the whole public). The players died cheering the Soviet Union and Stalin. Their martyrdom has been commemorated by Petr Severov’s short story The Last Duel (1957) and his book (1958), the official version of the myth, as well as by the statues erected in 1971 in the Dinamo stadium and in 1981 in the Zenit stadium, renamed Start on that occasion. And from now on by this movie as well.
The tear-jerking story, as a host of Russian blogs and articles have pointed it out on the occasion of the presentation of the film, is completely fake. The Dinamo players worked as civilians after the German occupation of Kiev, and founded an “amateur” team called Start, which in 1942 played eight international matches with the occupying forces. They won all of them, and it was followed by no retaliation. The Russian football site Terrikon has even published the results of the matches:
|team of the Hungarian garrison |
team of the German air force
team of the Romanian garrison
RSG (German army)
MSC WAL (Hungarian army)
GK Szero (Hungarian army)
Flakelf (German army)
Flakelf (German army)
As the witnesses have recalled, the meetings were held in a friendly atmosphere, and in contrast to the official Soviet version (and the present movie) the referee was usually no German but Romanians, who were not overly sympathetic to the Germans. While in the Soviet version the match went so rude that the Germans kicked bloody the Ukrainian players in front of the referee, in the reality only one player was excluded for roughness, and he was German. The examination launched in 2005 by the Hamburg Prosecutor’s Office pointed it out that there was no evidence for any element of the legend. And after the match the two teams posed for a common friendly photo, which the Dinamo fans kept hidig for decades as something whose existence is totally impossible in the light of the official truth. It was published only in 2007 by the Киевские Ведомости.
True, five players were actually arrested later, but for a very different reason. The Dinamo was, in fact, the official team of the Cheka and later of the NKVD, founded by Dzherzhinsky and enthusiastically supported by Beria, so that – according to Sebag Montefiore’s biography of Stalin – he did not shrink back from arresting the opponents’ key players before national league meetings, or to strengthen the team by kidnapping players from elsewhere (e.g. from Odessa’s Pishchevik). The Dinamo players were also members of the NKVD, who were hunted ex officio by the Gestapo. One out of the five was arrested and shot dead already days before the match, as a photo representing him in NKVD uniform was found on him (while in the legend and in the film he is kicked bloody during the match). And the other four were denounced to the Gestapo with the same reason by their very compatriots after the victorious match (8:0) against the “Ruh” team of the Ukrainian nationalist army. All four were shot dead in Babi Yar.
The joint Russo-Ukrainian movie already stirred a great storm in the country, deeply divided in the question of the relationship to Russia, in last July, when Stalin’s portrait hung out there for weeks on the Kiev Opera building.
And the presentation of the film, scheduled one month before the European Championship, exposed the Ukrainian government to even more serious diplomatic complications, including the danger of the burst of tensions between the German and Ukrainian fans. They also objected such fine details as the Ukrainians collaborating with the Germans speaking in Ukrainian while the heroic Ukrainians challenging them speaking in Russian in the movie.
The Ukrainian state film agency therefore postponed the official presentation, scheduled for 3 May, with the excuse of further examination. The delay can range up to 25 days according to the law, but then probably it will not be difficult to find a reason for some weeks of further delay, until the end of the championship.
The decision of the government agency was accepted with great indignation on every side. On the pro-Russian blogs and forums because the nationalist government wants to deny again a glorious episode in Soviet history. On nationalist forums because the country was at all involved in the preparation of such a propaganda film which, tailored to the new course of Russian political ideology, throws such mud on the past of Ukrainian independency. On the forums in Russia they point fingers at the Ukraine as a country which has been unable to face its collaborationist past. And the Russian online movie viewers and distributors earn well by satisfying the well-stirred Ukrainian demands.
The European Championship has not even started, and it appears that the Ukraine has already scored the first own goal.
“Фильм основан на реальных событиях” – “The film is based on actual events”