Ukraine wins the Eurovision Song Contest in a wave of goodwill after being invaded by Russia

Ukraine wins the Eurovision Song Contest in a wave of goodwill after being invaded by Russia

The band’s song “Stefania,” written about the frontman’s mother, beat out main rivals Britain and Spain at the competition in the Italian city of Turin.

The event was the first major cultural gathering attended by Ukrainians since Russia invaded in February, and many spectators waved the blue and yellow national flag of Ukraine in the evening.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised the Kalush Orchestra in an Instagram post just seconds after announcing his victory.

“Our bravery impresses the world, our music conquers Europe!” he said in the post.

Alluding to the rule that a winner of last year’s competition gets to host the competition, he said: “Next year Ukraine will host Eurovision! For the third time in their history. And I don’t think it will be the last time. We’ll do our part.” ideally accommodate the participants and guests of the Eurovision Song Contest in Mariupol, Ukraine. Free, Peaceful, Rebuilt!”

Tamil Tasheva, the permanent representative of the President of Ukraine in Crimea, suggested Yalta, a resort town on the southern coast of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula, annexed by Russia in 2014, as a possible venue.

Kalush Orchestra performs during rehearsals.

Sung in Ukrainian, the country entry “Stefania” pays homage to frontman Oleg Psyuk’s mother, who still lives in the western town of Kalush, after which the band is named. “Some days rockets fly over people’s houses and it’s like a lottery — no one knows where they’re going to hit,” Psyuk told CNN this week ahead of his performance.

“As we speak, our country and our culture are under threat. But we want to show that we are alive, Ukrainian culture is alive; it is unique, diverse and beautiful.”

The Turin event saw several of the lavish and camp performances that have become Eurovision’s trademark. A Norwegian entry from electro duo Subwoolfer warned of hungry animals eating the singers’ grandparents, while Serbia’s Konstrakta meditated on the secret of Meghan, Duchess of Sussex.

But the fans stood behind Ukraine’s entry and the band received one of the loudest cheers of the night as they took the stage.

A small ESC viewing party took place on Saturday evening in a bar in the center of Kyiv, not far from the famous St. Sophia Cathedral with its golden roof. Max Tolmachov, the owner of Buena Vista bar, said people who came to the bar were keen to show their support for Ukraine – even if Eurovision wasn’t exactly their cup of tea.

“They want to show their patriotic spirit. This war has been really hard on people and this is an opportunity to put the dark thoughts aside for a while,” he told CNN.

His bar also played a role in the Ukrainian resistance. At the height of the Battle of Kyiv, a military checkpoint was positioned just in front of it. “The soldiers came in to rest, we cooked food for them – borscht, soups, meat, potatoes, there wasn’t much choice then,” he said.

While many eagerly awaited Ukraine’s victory in the competition, there were no big parties in the capital on Saturday. A strict curfew starting at 10pm local time, the same time as the Eurovision broadcast, meant people couldn’t get home after the parties had wrapped up.

However, Tolmachov had a plan – his staff agreed to stay all night so guests could party into the wee hours.

This year’s Eurovision took place in Italy following a win by punk rock band Maneskin last year. It was the first Eurovision final to take place without major Covid restrictions since the start of the pandemic; The 2020 edition was cancelled, and last year there were crowd restrictions and some remote performances.

The Kalush Orchestra initially took second place in Ukraine’s national selection competition, but was boosted after it was revealed that the winner had previously traveled to Russia-annexed Crimea. The group was unveiled as the country’s accession on February 22, two days before Russian troops invaded Ukraine.

Ivana Kottasova reported from Kyiv. Rob Picheta wrote in London. Tim Lister contributed to this report.

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