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Euro evokes mixed reaction in hinterland

It is hard to exaggerate how ghastly life was in the grim western Soviet mining town of Chervonograd in early 1991, when pit workers went on strike to protest against the appalling conditions.

sports Updated: Jun 17, 2012 23:38 IST

It is hard to exaggerate how ghastly life was in the grim western Soviet mining town of Chervonograd in early 1991, when pit workers went on strike to protest against the appalling conditions.

Meat had long since vanished from the stores, butter was rationed to 200 grams a month and individual Western cigarettes cost two dollars each. Water supplies spluttered on and off and the miners had no soap.

Roll forward 21 years and much to everyone's surprise, Chervono-grad now sits in an independent Ukraine which spent billions to co-host Euro 2012 with Poland.

"It's been expensive but I think they did the right thing ... As a country, Ukraine has shown itself to the whole world," said Mykola Berezovskiy, a retired miner. "It's prestigious to show the world that we're not Russia but Ukraine because everyone thinks of us as a part of Russia.”

For many locals, the tournament has as much to do with politics as sport and is inextricably linked to the freedom Ukraine won in late 1991. Chervonograd sits in the west of the country, where hatred of the Soviet Union was intense.

Future tense
Serhiy Besaga, one of the miners’ strike leaders in 1991, is happy about independence but clearly disappointed with the sometimes insecure country’s progress.

“Today we live much better but I think during these 20 years we could have done a lot more and achieved a lot more,” he said.

Besaga frets that the new Lviv stadium will be grossly underused after the Euro, a fear shared by others who say the money could have been better used.

“They have spent a huge amount but we still have awful roads,” said teacher Viktor Ivanusa. “We are happy about the Euros right now but I think we will pay for it in future and probably our children will too.”