Ahead of 2012, Ukraine reclaims iconographic and football treasures

YouTube video

From Polish television, a UEFA video promoting the Euro 2012 logo.

Yushchenko, rival Yulia Tymoshenko and other political and sporting elites attended the unveiling of the Euro 2012 logo Dec 14. Was it right, the English-language Kyiv Post asked, for the logo, featuring cartoon-like tulips daubed with colors of Ukraine and co-host Poland, to be on view at Mykhailivska Square? At night, glow from the jolly structure clashed with the baroque exterior of St. Michael’s monastery, demolished by Soviet authorities in the 1930s and then reconstructed after Ukraine’s independence. The stunning cerulean edifice sits atop Dnieper River bluffs where one thousand years ago monks sought refuge from religious opponents. Depending on the angle of the photograph, the gilded spires of St. Michael’s of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church–Kiev Patriarchate seemed to emerge from the football blooming on top.

Unlike the late Russian Orthodox patriarch Alexei II, obliged during a national address to mention a Russian quarterfinal victory at Euro 08, Ukrainian church leaders, to our knowledge, have not spoken about the potential of the 2012 European tournament. Svyatogorsk Lavra, however, a monastery near Donetsk in the east, is undergoing renovations with hopes of becoming a 2012 base. This may be good news to organizers. According to director of a citizens’ group monitoring Euro preparations, Donetsk intends to compensate for lack of hotel rooms by housing 16,000 visitors in tents. In Poland, the Roman Catholic Church plans to recruit volunteers and to use catechetical classes to help address anti-Semitism in football. A church representative tells Agence France-Presse, “It is the vocation of the church to accompany man everywhere, including sport, the physical dimension of which must have a spiritual dimension also.”

With the Africa Cup of Nations beginning Jan 10 in Angola, the World Cup in South Africa and Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine, world football and confederations have turned to hosts emerging from colonialism and repression. Clearly, each case differs. In Ukraine, one senses a nation, like most nations, sorting through its history and trying to overcome a conspiracy of silence over hidden shame.

Map of Nadworna, Ukraine, 1939

Map of Nadworna, Ukraine, 1939, shows religious institutions, cemeteries and access to the River Bishchitza, next to which football was played.

Last year we alluded to interwar Jewish teams from Nadworna, part of a network of shtetls in Galicia in western Ukraine (18 Jun 09). The nationalist Ukrainian stronghold that changed hands among Poland, Habsburg Empire, Austria, Ukrainians, Nazis and Soviet Union contained hundreds of Jewish sporting societies energized in many cases by Zionist passion. “In the interwar period,” says Vladimir Levin, researcher in the Galicia and Bukovina Project at Hebrew University, Jerusalem, “almost every town in Galicia had a Jewish sport club, [the] majority with football teams.”

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