Almanac Footy Teams: A side from behind The Iron Curtain


Now, good readers, stick with me on this. I get there in the end…


In a speech at Fulton Missouri on March 1946 Winston Churchill spoke of an Iron Curtain descending over a great swathe of Europe. He stated: “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an Iron Curtain has descended across the continent. This was how Churchill described the role/influence of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, (USSR) after the end of World War 2.”


Churchill wasn’t the first to use this term. The Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels had coined it in 1943, again in relation to the influence and presence of the USSR.


Unsure how much credibility one gives Winston Churchill. This was the man who was the architect of the disastrous military campaign in the Dardanelles, yep ANZAC Day, during the Great Trade War, AKA World War 1. Just to be consistent he was one of those who oversaw the defeat of allied forces in Greece, Crete during World War 2. Yes, he inspired his people in the ‘Darkest Hour’ of World War 2, but his copybook has some sizeable blots on it.


The alleged Iron Curtain was made up of the countries comprising the USSR including, but not limited to, Russia, Georgia, Lithuania and Belarus. The other nations situated behind the so-called Iron Curtain were Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Albania and Bulgaria.


This being the Cold War there were military treaties and pacts in place as the world sought to avoid open, wide-scale conflict. In response to the West’s Northern Atlantic Treaty Organisation, (NATO) the countries behind the Iron Curtain were members of the Warsaw Pact. These two Blocs became primary antagonists during the next few decades.


Some people may have included Yugoslavia as being this so-called Iron Curtain.   However, in what was known as Yugoslavia we had a government that chose to stand apart from the two major Blocs, of the East and the West.Yugoslavia eventually became part of what was deemed the Non-aligned movement. Thus, it was considered a separate entity, not being within the Iron Curtain. It’s neighbour Albania also had a degree of separation from the Iron Curtain.


There were serious schisms involving Enver Hoxha in Albania, and the leadership of the USSR, these occurring after the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953. In Western eyes, Albania remained deemed as being within the Iron Curtain. Though taking membership of the Warsaw pact as a reference point it’s worth noting Albania left that in 1962.


Anyhow millions lived, and did well, behind this so-called Iron Curtain. I’m aware my German relations in Rostock, Hamburg, and Ahrensberg happily lived out their days there. However, there were some others who wanted to/had to leave. Amongst those quite a few came to Australia, so this team is picked of those whose origins lay behind Churchill’s mythical Iron Curtain.


Well after all that let’s try selecting a side of the best Victorian Football League, (VFL), Australian Football league, (AFL), players who hail, or families hail from behind the Iron Curtain. As I’ve already done a German side, as well as being unaware of the specific geographical origins of many players of German descent, I’m not including any in this side. OK here we go.


From the backline we have the Czechlosvakian born Pavel “Paul” Vinar. His 132 games for Geelong include their 1963 premiership. Current Sydney Co-captain Dane Rampe holds the full back spot in the defence. His family are of Estonian by origin. This line is joined by Essendon’s Adam Ramanauskas whose origins are Lithuanian.


On the Half back line we start with Hawthorn’s Bohdan Jaworsky , born in Germany of Russian and Ukrainian parentage. On the other flank is one of Wagga’s favourite footballing sons: John Pitura. The South Melbourne and Richmond, player had a Polish father. Holding down centre half back is former Saint Jason Blake, whose 209 senior games without a Brownlow vote is a record. Hang on you say, the name Blake is English ! True but Blake’s mother is Polish.


 Across the Centre we can have Geelong’s multi-skilled sporting star, Mark Blicavs, a player of Latvian origin on one wing, the other wing can be Melbourne’s Adam Yze, the only AFL player I’m aware with an Albanian family. In the pivot who better than 2000 Brownlow medallist Shane Woewodin, whose parents were Ukrainian.


Across the Half Forward line let’s start with Arnold Breidis, he of Latvian descent. Breidis kicked five goals in both of North Melbourne’s premiership wins of 1975 and 1977. The 1977 bag of five came on top of him kicking seven straight points in the tied grand final. On the other flank we have a former team mate of Breidis in Roger Podolczak, he of Polish origin. In between, holding down centre half forward,let’s try the versatile Jason Porplyzia. The skilful former Adelaide forward being of Ukrainian heritage.


On the Forward line there’s Geelong’s James Podsiadly, he of Polish descent, filling one pocket. Who better in the goal square than one of the legends of the game, Jezza ! Alex Jesaulenko, born in Austria to a Ukrainian father, and Russian mother. In the other pocket let’s have Patrick Veszpremi, the former Western Bulldogs and Sydney player whose father was born in Hungary.


In the Ruck let’s include Peter “Spider’ Everitt whose mother was Latvian. ‘Spiders‘ 291 game career saw him turn out for three clubs, St Kilda, Hawthorn and Sydney. Supporting him in the following division is Alex Ischenko born in the Ukraine. Ischenko turned out for three clubs, the West Coast Eagles, Brisbane and North Melbourne. Confusingly, disparagingly he endured the nickname of the ‘Russian’ during his footballing career. Post football he’s found an interesting career working with the Wiggles! As our rover,former Footscray small man Steven Koylniuk, being of Ukrainian origin, makes a good choice.


The expanded Interchange bench includes Peter Agrums the Latvian born ruckmen who had a brief career with North Melbourne in the early 1960’s. A contemporary of Agrums was Footscray’s Lithuanian born, Algernon Vosilaitis, or Algy to his mates. Andrejs Everitt, brother of Peter, also turned out for three AFL clubs, Western Bulldogs, Sydney and Carlton. It would be remiss to not consider the Kolodjashnij twins, Jake who plays for Geelong, with Kade now playing for Melbourne after commencing with the Gold Coast. Their origins are Ukrainian. Another contender Is current Richmond defender Oleg Markevs, born in Belarus, though he was born after the curtain was raised.


As always I’m sure there’s changes you’d make, players I’ve left out, players you’d’ include/delete. Please feel free to comment on the posting.



B:                P Vinar (Geelong)                   D Rampe (Sydney)          A Ramanauskas (Essendon)

HB:             B Jaworsky (Hawthorn)        J Blake (St.Kilda)              J Pitura (South Melbourne/Richmond)

C:                M Blicavs (Geelong)                S Woewodin (Melbourne/Collingwood)              A Yze (Melbourne)

HF:             A Breidis (North Melbourne)               J Porplyzia (Adelaide)                R Podolczak,(North Melbourne/Melbourne)

F:                 P Everitt (St.Kilda/Hawthorn/Sydney)           A Ischenko (West Coast/Brisbane/North Melbourne)          S Kolyniuk (Footscray)

IC      from: P Agrums (North Melbourne) A Vosilaitis (Footscray) A Everitt (Western Bulldogs/Carlton/Sydney) J Kolodjashnij (Geelong) K Kolodjashnij (Gold Coats/Melbourne) O Markevs, (Richmond)





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  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    West Adelaide had a ruckman called Aldo Russian from 66-72, but I’ll try to do better than that Glen!

  2. Ilija Grgic?

  3. The boundaries of the Iron Curtain are debatable. Churchill clearly included Yugoslavia as he drew the boundary at Trieste (now in Italy) but which was briefly Yugoslav after WW2 before borders were settled by the UN in 1954. The Avenging Eagle was born in Croatia (then Yugoslavia) and there are still villages in Italy where people speak Serbo-Croatian. It was all part of the Habsburg Austro-Hungarian empire until WW1. Politically I agree with your divide as Tito maintained Yugoslavia’s independence by “going to bed with everyone but not sleeping with any of them” (a cousin’s definition).
    This excludes all the “ic/ich” suffix names from your team – no Pavlich or Jakovich or Grgic – who all have Slav origins.

  4. One of Ronald Reagan’s best jokes about the USSR:

    Two Russians are walking down the street. One says to the other,
    “Vladimir have we reached the point of pure communism yet? We don’t have enough food, we don’t have enough fuel, we freeze in winter and boil in summer, we can’t express our views on anything. Is this pure communism?”

    Vladimir replies,
    “Oh no, this isn’t pure communism. Things have to get a lot worse yet.”

    Pretty good team this. Didn’t realise A. Breidis would qualify.

  5. Hmmm, where’s the F line? Okay let’s fill the void with;

    J. Podsiadly, (Geelong); A Jesaulenko, (Carlton/St Kilda); P Veszpremi, ( Western Bulldogs/Sydney Swans)

    Peter B, i really considered Yugoslavia, and the nations that made it; Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia; part of what’s called Macedonia was in Yugoslavia. Europe’s boundaries have chopped and changed so much over the years, especially after the two World Wars. In the end as Yugoslavia had an, at times, acrimonious relationships with the USSR & Albania i couldn’t include it.

    Gerry that’s basically why Ilija Grgic is not in the side.

    We can create a side of players whose origins are Tito’s Yugoslavia, such as Rene Kink, Ilija Grgic, Glenn Jackovich, etc. But would they beat my Deutsch side?


  6. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    You’re on fire Glen !
    Terrific concept that hits home. Mum’s village fell on the allied side of the border in Greece, while Dad’s fell to Hoxha’s commies.

  7. Of course, that great explainer and prolific author Isaac Asimov would chronicle the team’s progress.It would have to be ghost written as Dr Asimov passed away in the early nineties.

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