The Dynamo Football Team and Babyn Yar

dynamo_featA heroic Soviet mythology informs the story of the Dynamo soccer team in German-occupied Kyiv during the Second World War. The team was celebrated in Soviet propaganda for its supposed refusal to throw a game and lose in the so-called “Death Match” with a German team. After the match the team was supposedly executed and thrown into the killing fields of Babyn Yar. Historians have challenged the myth. Vitaliy Nakhmanovich points out the Dynamo team was comprised of members of the Soviet militia and the myth was created to protect players left behind in German-occupied territory. There was no “Death Match” and Dynamo players were photographed in a friendly post-game encounter with their opponents.

Volodymyr Viatrovych notes some of the team worked in a bakery and were accused of stealing bread, perhaps to help starving family or friends, and arrested. They were sent to the Siretsky camp next to Babyn Yar. A few inmates from the camp escaped and the Germans applied reprisals, using their “decimal system” whereby every tenth person was executed. As a result, three Dynamo team members were killed. Dr. Nadia Myrynets states Dynamo players were not killed by the Germans for winning a soccer game but because some members of the team were in the Soviet underground and engaged in sabotage. It was only after Ukrainian independence in 199l that more extensive and objective investigations about the circumstances surrounding all the victims of Babyn Yar could take place.