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In ’41, the German army launched a swift offensive,
And thus Kiev, despite defiance, fell.
Naturally the population was quite apprehensive,
The future being impossible to tell.
Many men were rounded up and herded into camps,
And thousands never lived to tell the tale,
And those that were released came back to haunt the streets like tramps,
Destitute and underfed and frail.
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Baker Josef Kordik was an ardent football fan,
Dynamo Kiev his chosen team.
He owned a thriving bakery, which he with kindness ran,
The staff all holding him in high esteem.
A small-time Oskar Schindler, he had rescued many men
From the terrifying spectre of starvation,
And many of his workers had been football icons when
Dynamo were heroes of the nation.
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The occupying Germans in the year of ’42,
Decided to create a football league,
Comprised of German soldiers and their allied units too –
A distraction from the milit’ry fatigue.
Now the players in the bakery were masters at their art,
Despite the mental scars and malnutrition,
They quickly formed a decent football team, named FC Start,
And applied to join the German competition.
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Certain of the players had misgivings at the time,
Bitter, scalded wounds refused to heal.
Consorting with the enemy was known to be a crime –
How would the Ukrainian people feel?
But Trusevich, the goalie, a most legendary figure,
Persuaded them at last to come on board.
“People will support us!” he declared with solemn vigour,
“A chance for national pride to be restored.”
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So FC Start began to play, and quickly took control,
Winning every game by five or six.
And the humbled population roundly cheered at every goal,
And revelled at the bakers’ fancy tricks.
The Germans had a problem, for their faces were as red
As the jerseys the Ukrainians all sported.
Of course, they could have solved it with some bullets to the head,
But trouble ’rose when martyrdom was courted.
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The issue, they decided, must be settled on the field,
And so they formed a German super squad.
Drawn from the famed Luftwaffe, they would surely never yield
Except maybe to Hitler and to God.
Flakelf were the greatest team the world had ever known,
FC Start could not hope to survive.
The Germans scored a beauty, but the generals had to groan
As the underfed Ukrainians knocked in five.
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A re-match was soon ordered, and was subsequently played,
On the 9th of August, 1942.
The worst traits of the Flakelf team were brutally displayed,
As they kicked the gallant bakers black and blue.
Surprisingly the German ref had something in his eye
Whenever something happened underhand.
The fans around the ground vent their abhorrence to the sky,
And the Germans sent their dogs into the stand.
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Despite the constant mauling, when the half-time whistle blew,
Heroic Start were three-one in the lead.
And in the Kiev dressing room, the optimism grew
That once again the bakers could succeed.
And then they got a visit from a man from the SS,
Who praised their proud performance with a grin,
And then he added darkly that the team could surely guess
The dire consequences should they win.
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The threat was very obvious. The team, though, paid no heed,
And looked to maximise their scoring spree.
They never were in danger of surrendering their lead,
And beat the mighty Germans five to three.
Aleksei Klimenko rubbed some salt into the rout,
Rounding the poor keeper with elation,
Stopped the ball upon the line, then turned and kicked it out,
Compounding Flakelf’s gross humiliation.
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A week or so thereafter, and the bakery was raided,
The football team was spirited away.
The methods of their captors were with arrogance paraded,
As the wounded Nazi eagle had its day.
They tried to get confessions that the football stars were spies,
In order that they could be executed.
But not a single football star acceded to their lies,
And all the allegations were refuted.
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Nikolai Korotkykh had been tortured till he died.
The others were reluctantly transported
To Siretz Concentration Camp, a very short train ride.
No longer would Germanic pride be thwarted.
And there they stayed for fourteen months, till liberation came,
Though several did not manage to survive.
Trusevich, the goalie in the Dynamo Death Game,
Was one who didn’t see the day alive.
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In 1996, old Makar Goncharenko died,
The last surviving member of the team.
But the legend still burns brightly of that undernourished team
That fanned a glowing, nationalistic dream.
And Hillsborough, Heysel, Bradford, all have shown us in their turn,
That Shankly’s famous edict was just trite.
But, for the players of FC Start, there could be no return.
On that occasion, Shankly got it right.