Written after a special screening of the popular Latvian film „Dream Team 1935” in Tallinn last week.
I was much moved by the Latvian film “The Dream Team” which on the surface seems to be about sportsmanship, and specifically about the European Basketball Championship of 1935, but which undoubtedly holds a deeper meaning of greater consequence.
At the end of the film we are told that the members of this “dream team”, all of them young and promising athletes, were in most cases deported to the USSR and in some, shot in front of a firing squad. This happened only six or seven years after their joyful triumph in the 1935 Championship.
I walked out of the cinema thinking of the millions of lives of European citizens utterly destroyed shortly after this Championship of 1935, and ironically how normal the state of affairs of Europe seemed only three years before the onslaught of the worst catastrophe that our continent has experienced in its history, a catastrophe that killed 36 million Europeans and condemned many more to serfdom for half a century.
The film reminds us that before the fall of the Iron Curtain, the nations of Europe intermingled without a care in the world or worry, in sporting events and other jolly recreational and cultural activities.
In the happy twenties and 1930´s, Europeans would take the train from Berlin to Riga in order to bathe in the Spa resorts of Latvia. They would hop from Paris to Warsaw for sightseeing. There is a scene in the film where we see the Latvian basketball coach singing a folk song in French. This scene speaks volumes of the cosmopolitanism of the times.
But only 3 years later, with the invasion of Czechoslovakia and then Poland (1939), this would come to an end, and our continent and its people would be separated with dire consequences until the 1990´s.
In this respect, this film holds lessons for us Europeans that we would do well not to forget.