The project of mini-series, sports drama "BENEFACTOR"


During the Cold War era, the USA-USSR boxing duals appeared to be a non-political outlet. But was it really the case?

In the backdrop of the Cold War, a reluctant miner's son is thrust into the world of boxing, becoming a celebrated multiple world champion among amateur boxers. As political forces shape his destiny, his dreams of Olympic glory are shattered by interference. Amidst the turmoil, a forbidden love affair with an American girl emerges, only to be thwarted by the relentless grip of the KGB. When an opportunity to face boxing legend Mike Tyson arises, he is propelled into a downward spiral, finding himself destitute on the streets of the 90s, a victim of vengeful officials.


In the Cold War era, sport seemed to offer a non-political escape.

USA-USSR boxing duals took place every year, regardless of circumstances like Olympic game boycotts due to the Afghan war or Angela Davis' arrest. However, this notion was merely an illusion, as the lives of athletes in both the USSR and the USA were insignificant pawns in political games.

The mini-series "Benefactor" tells the story of a shattered life that had the potential for happiness. The protagonist, a miner's son, unwillingly becomes a boxer. Nevertheless, he rises to become a legendary boxer, glorifying the USSR on the global boxing stage in the 80s as a multiple world champion among amateur boxers. During one of the duals, he falls in love with an African-American girl in the USA, but their love puts him under pressure, knowing he may never be able to visit the USA again. The KGB forbids him from maintaining further correspondence with the American girl, leading him to marry someone else in the USSR to prove his reliability for travel to the USA.

However, this intercontinental love story persists as they grow older. The protagonist's main dream is to win an Olympic medal, but it remains elusive due to political expediency, political revenge, and personal revenge from the regime, which disapproves of his behavior. His hatred for the destructive system intensifies, evident when he donates nearly half a million dollars, earned as a coach salary and premium payment in South America, to the victims of major floods instead of obediently surrendering the funds to the USSR State Committee for Sports, as he had always done before.

After being expelled from amateur sports, he finds himself on the streets, working as a bodyguard for gangsters. A proposition from the USA to become a professional boxer and fight Mike Tyson emerges. However, the Soviet regime representative has not forgotten the money he gave away to the peasants in South America.

When the USSR collapses in 1991, our protagonist proposes to his former trainee the idea of creating a professional boxing league in Ukraine and introduces him to a sponsor who can make it happen.

Alexander, burdened by alcohol consumption like his father, succumbs to its destructive effects.

Showrunner, screenwriter - Victoria Trofimenko


Mykhailo Zavyalov : (born June 11, Omsk): Ukrainian Soviet boxer and Honored Coach of the USSR (1975). He coached the national team of Ukraine and was a member of the coaching team for the USSR national team at the 1980 Olympic Games. Since 1992, he has served as the president of the National League of Professional Boxing of Ukraine and a Ukrainian sports official.

Artem Furmanyuk is a Ukrainian investigative journalist and public figure. He is one of the co-authors of the book "Donetsk Mafia. Reboot. Collaborates with the publications "Island", "Foreshortening", Pro-test.

Yaroslav Shapochka - historical investigator, journalist

Project status - DEVELOPMENT

An exciting continuity of shots …

The warm flicker of the vintage screen gives an opportunity to plunge into the atmosphere of a whole generation’s life in the Pshenychnyi’s archive…

"It was really not accepteble to stand out from one's social niche at that complicated period ... So even when such a rare opportunity arose, we had to restrain ourselves. Otherwise, others did it for you”.

Meeting of the showrunner Victoria Trofimenko with sports expert of the Benefactor project legendary trainer Mykhailo Zavyalov, Ukrainian Soviet boxer and coach, Honored Coach of the USSR (1975), since 1992 honorary president of the Professional Boxing League of Ukraine and besides, an excellent interlocutor.

1980s Olympics. Memories of people who lived in Moscow at that time:

"It was expected that it would be quite difficult for the residents of the USSR and foreign guests to communicate due to various restrictions. Almost for the first time such a large number of representatives of the different countries came to the USSR. However, according to the memories of the Soviets themselves, there were no barriers. Marli, Coca-Cola, Fanta juices, foreign cigarettes and other products unfamiliar to the USSR were allowed in the shops. - That became possible due to the fears of many countries about food. A lot of countries expressed skepticism about it, but all in all there were no serious complaints. "

2008. Playground. A little boy born in 1999, surrounded by five-year-olds, tells with great passion how good life was back in the USSR, how happy people have been and how delicious food there was… Kids listen and believe him, as he seems very adult, he was born in 1999 ...

We have enough "experts" and those with nostalgia of the Soviet era who were born in independent Ukraine...

Let's understand how life really was back then? After all, we pass this experience on to our children. Can the protective function of memory, by displacing all the negative and keeping only the pleasant, play a nasty joke with us? And what is the paradox of nostalgia for something they haven’t been through?

Tragedy in the Palace of Sports "Sokolniki" due to chewing gum. In 1975, a match of the USSR junior hockey team against the Canadian team "Berry Cap" from the province of Ontario took place in Moscow. The official sponsor of the Canadian team was Wrigley, the world's largest maker of chewing gum. Under the terms of the contract, Canadian players received a 15-kilogram box of chewing gum and were required to distribute it free of charge. So at the end of the match, the players turned to the stands and threw an imported "delicacy" to Soviet fans (mostly teenagers). In the struggle for chewing gum began a brutal push. The administration turned off the lights so that no one could take a picture or shoot the video, as a result of which the spectators were even more frightened. In an attempt to get out of the stands, people fell and stumbled on each other. Prior to that, part of the gate was closed in advance so that Soviet fans would not attack foreigners at the end of the game. Thus, in a panic, a live press was formed near the exits. At least 21 people died. The mass media of the USSR kept silent about this terrible tragedy for a long time.

1987–1991. Donbass. When we entered that huge factory, I saw only gray earth, a pile of fittings and endless pipes. And suddenly a figure emerged from somewhere: in a gray quilted jacket and tarpaulin boots. I couldn’t help thinking that slaves work here.

Valery Reshetnyak, engineer, photographer.

"It was really not accepted to stand out from one's social niche at that complicated period ... So even when such a rare opportunity arose, we had to restrain ourselves. Otherwise, others did it for you. We studied separately from the girls, and we always used to have very short haircuts. No matter how much we wanted to wear a bang, liberties were not allowed there: every morning the school principal personally stood at the entrance and checked what was going on in our heads. If he would notice "growings", you were not allowed to attend classes, but were sent directly to the hairdresser's, - Zavyalov recalls. […] The decisive argument was the reasonable opinion of my friend Gena Vodyanykh, he said that if we enroll in boxing classes, we have nothing to lose, but instead we will be guaranteed a hot shower three times a week. Previously it was possible to wash only on weekends in a shared public balneary, so it would be a sin to lose such a luxury. "

From Anton Goryunov's book "Mikhail Zavyalov. Godfather of Ukrainian boxing"

"1989-1992. The children in the village wanted to escape to the city as soon as possible. They saw the bruised hands of their parents, and they already knew what hard work means. But by 1974 it was almost impossible to leave the village. The peasants were not given passports - it was official slavery. Even to go to the city on business motives, you had to get a certificate. So it was necessary to have a big bribe for the children to get a passport. Everyone who managed to escape from the village mostly ended up in dormitories. "

Valery Reshetnyak, engineer, photographer.

"In Makeyevka, Horlivka, Yenakiyevo, Torez, not to mention Donetsk itself, boxing was very well developed. Accordingly, the competition was fierce. […]

And, of course, a serious economic downturn has affected funding of the sport, which is why most athletes in search of a better life began to spread: some went abroad, others collaborated with crime structures, and others just got drunk. "

From Anton Goryunov's book "Mikhail Zavyalov. Godfather of Ukrainian boxing"

The project is developing with the support of UCF