This protocol wasn’t new for Kordik, nor for the Ukrainians. Before Hitler’s invasion, the most fertile farmland in Europe had already suffered under the other most brutal dictator in human history: Iosif Stalin. Stalin’s paranoia and oppression led to a manmade famine in a land known as The Breadbasket of the Soviet Union.
He was tasked to find new bakers, or suffer the consequences of not meeting quota.
But Kordik wasn’t just a baker. Kordik was also football’s biggest fan.
Before the war, if a soccer game was being played in Kyiv, Kordik was there. It didn’t matter the team, he loved the game. Kordik lived and breathed soccer, and everyone knew it. Always from the sidelines, he was always the face of the game.
Faced with the task, and without surviving bakers, Kordik's choice seemed natural. Instead of hiring new bakers, he found all the surviving members of his favorite football teams. Professional, star athletes, who were left on the streets to die.
These were minor celebrities in the city, but to Kordik, they were gods. He may have saved their lives, but for Kordik, this was a chance to be in the presence of his heroes.
But they now had refuge. And the greatest soccer players of Kyiv would not forget his gesture.
Seeing another opportunity to crush their victims, the Germans challenged the bakers to a game. They had no idea who they were about to play.
The great Aryan athlete, Nietzche’s supposed superman, the winner of invasions, and conquerers of cities, was about to be humiliated and defeated on a soccer pitch.
By starved and weakened bakers.
The rest, as they say, is history. Word spread of the victory, and the oppressors were now trapped. If they were to execute the bakers, the bakers would be martyrs, and the Nazis would be remembered as losers.
No, they had to win.
And still, the invaders had no idea who they were playing: The surviving members of the greatest teams of a defeated country.
But Kordik knew. And the people knew. They knew what defeat meant. They knew what it was like to never see your own flag fly. They’d already been forced to worship their murderer once, and now they had a new one to serve.
Oppressors never predict the overwhelming power of desperation.
Here, on the football pitch, was the Ukrainian voice, coming to life. They now knew victory, not on a battlefield, but on a soccer pitch. Life had dealt the hardest blows and brutality had robbed them of dignity, and suddenly they heard a new voice, they'd never heard. Their own.
The Nazis had unwittingly erupted a volcano. They attempted to control their own confusion in the only way they knew:
The bakers were finally given an ultimatum: A final game.
First, they must pledge allegiance aloud and to the crowd, with a “Heil Hitler” at the beginning of the game. Then, they must let their opporessors win. They were told, in the locker room, “If you don’t let us win, that’s it. It’s over.”
They would be sent to the concentration camps to die.
To lose was to live. To win was to die.
This is the game of life, is it not? A game against death, with a choice.
But what kind of life would they return to – if they were to intentionally lose? Brutality, starvation, manipulation, and allegiance to murderers?
What would they gain if they won? A trophy? Oh no, it was much more than this. The only trophy was unseen. It was a trophy that came from deep below, in the hearts of the players, reflected back in the hearts of the crowd. A mirror only they could see.
The only trophy was loyalty. Dignity.
But was it worth it?
Or win the game, restore the voice of their people, and defeat death itself.
All the answers they needed were in the boom of the crowd.
The bakers were so good, and they beat the Germans so bad, one player even maneuvered the ball past the charging goaltender, drove the ball to the goal line, and held it there. When the goalie charged back, instead of kicking it into the net, he simply passed it backwards to his friends on the field, who carried it forward again and scored.
That's how great they were.
Does this story not deserve to be made into a film? Would you watch it if it was? Are you tired of the junk you see in the cinema?
We’re making this movie, and we’re open to developing relationships with investors, and the audience that will help bring this to life.
We’ll make it anyway, but I invite you to join us.
Perhaps you are a soccer fan, or perhaps you love good art, cinema, or animation. Perhaps you care about the plight of Ukraine. Or, perhaps you enjoyed the story I just told you.
This movie promises all of this, but it is about so much more.
This film is about the game we all play. We arrive on the empty field, pushed and pulled by voices in the crowd, and we play. Always knowing that when the final whistle blows, it won’t matter who won, it will only matter that we played.
Because when it’s all over, the field goes back to emptiness, we will be gone, and all of our life was what occured on the pitch. A game.
Join me on Wednesday during a live podcast with fanvox.net. We will be discussing the making of this film:
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