Ukrainian band Kalush Orchestra win Eurovision Song Contest in clear show of popular support for war-ravaged nation that went beyond music
Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra won the Eurovision Song Contest in Italy on Sunday, on a wave of popular support for the war-ravaged country amid the Russian invasion.
The winning song “Stefania”, sung in Ukrainian, fused rap with traditional folk music and paid tribute to band frontman Oleh Psiuk’s mother.
The bookmakers had made Kalush Orchestra the clear favorite for the annual competition, which normally attracts nearly 200 million television viewers, based in part on the people’s sympathy for Ukraine after the Russian invasion in February.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was quick to welcome Sunday’s victory, saying “we will do our best” to host next year’s competition in the hotly contested port city of Mariupol.
He underlined “Ukrainian Mariupol”, adding: “free, peaceful, rebuilt!”
Traditionally, the winners are allowed to host the event the following year, and Ukraine hopes it will be able to do so in 2023.
“Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe! Ukraine will host the Eurovision Song Contest next year,” Zelenskyy said.
“I am sure that the sound of victory in the battle with the enemy is not far away,” he added.
Ukraine was in fourth place based on jury votes, but claimed victory with a record number of viewer votes in an event involving 40 countries.
The 439 votes from the fans is the highest number of televoting points ever received in a Eurovision match, now in its 66th year.
Briton Sam Ryder finished second, while Chanel from Spain took third.
Psiuk thanked the Ukrainian diaspora and “and everyone around the world who voted for Ukraine. … The victory is very important for Ukraine. Especially this year.”
It is the third time Ukraine has won the annual competition and he said the song, featuring traditional flutes and breakdance in a classic Eurovision mix of styles, was a contender even before the conflict started.
The frontman of the band at the end of their live performance made a plea for the city of Mariupol and the Azovstal factory.
“Please help Ukraine, Mariupol. Help Azovstal right now,” Psiuk shouted in English from the front of the stage.
After the event, Psiuk said he and the band were going back to Ukraine in two days and weren’t sure what the future would bring.
“It’s hard to say exactly what I’m going to do because this is my first time winning the Eurovision Song Contest, but anyway, like any Ukrainian we are ready to fight as much as possible and carry on to the end,” he said.
The European Broadcasting Union, which hosts the contest, said no action will be taken against the band using the stage to make a statement.
“We understand the deep feelings surrounding Ukraine at the moment and believe that the comments of the Kalush Orchestra and other performers expressing their support for the Ukrainian people are humanitarian rather than political in nature,” the EBU said.