19 May 2014 04:00
Every year since 2004, over 300 young men and women aged between 17 and 28 years old from the Young Nationalist Congress (MNK), an organization promotes Ukrainian nationalism, fight in extreme conditions for 60 hours in the middle of a western Ukrainian forest, between the villages of Gurba and Antonivtsi. The game takes place where the Ukrainian Revolutionary Army (UPA) fought the Red Army in 1944.
The rules derive from Zarnitsa (Summer Lightning), a game commonly played during Soviet times by the Young Pioneers (a Soviet organization similar to Scouts). Two teams have to defeat each other by capturing the other team's flag. Despite the intensity of the fight, injuries are minor. Punches and weapons are forbidden. A referee makes sure that no rules are broken and collects the colored ribbons, which are velcroed on the players’ arms and symbolize their “life”.
According to its website (http://gurby.org.ua), the game aims at training and preparing the youth in case of military intervention by Ukraine’s Eastern neighbors.
This year’s event was tainted by the Ukrainian revolution. Many of the players have been protesting in Maidan Square for months.