Ukrainian band Kalush Orchestra wins Eurovision Song Contest, making it clear that popular support for the war-torn country goes beyond music
Ukraine’s Karush Orchestra won the Eurovision Song Contest on Sunday in Italy, a war-torn country that has gained popular support during the Russian invasion.
The winning song “Stefania”, sung in Ukrainian, blends rap with traditional folk music and pays homage to the mother of lead singer Oleh Psiuk.
Bookmakers have made the Kalush Orchestra the clear favorite for the annual competition, which typically draws nearly 200 million TV viewers, in part because of widespread sympathy for Ukraine following Russia’s invasion in February.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was quick to welcome Sunday’s victory, saying “we will do our best” to host next year’s games in the competitive port city of Mariupol.
He emphasized “Ukrainian Mariupol”, adding: “Freedom, peace, reconstruction!”
The winner usually hosts the event the following year, and Ukraine hopes it will do so in 2023.
“Our courage moved the world and our music conquered Europe! Next year Ukraine will host the Eurovision Song Contest,” Zelensky said.
“I believe that the voice of victory in the battle against the enemy is not far off,” he added.
Ukraine came fourth in the jury vote but won with a record audience vote in an event attended by 40 countries.
The 439 fan votes, the highest number of TV voting points in a Eurovision contest, are now in their 66th year.
Britain’s Sam Ryder finished second, while Spain’s Chanel finished third.
Pushuk thanked the Ukrainian diaspora and “and everyone around the world who voted for Ukraine. … Victory is very important for Ukraine. Especially this year.”
This is the third time Ukraine has won the annual competition, and he said the song, which featured traditional flute and breakdancing with a classic Eurovision mix, was a contender even before the conflict began.
The band’s lead singer made a plea for the city of Mariupol and its Azovstal factory at the end of the live performance.
“Please help Ukraine, Mariupol. Help Azov Starr now,” Pushuk shouted in English from the front of the stage.
After the event, Psiuk said he and the band would return to Ukraine in two days, but was unsure what the future would hold.
“It’s hard to say what exactly I’m going to do because it’s the first time I’ve won the Eurovision Song Contest, but anyway, like every Ukrainian, we’re ready to fight as much as we can until the end,” he said.
The European Broadcasting Union, which organizes the competition, said it would not take any action against the band’s use of the stage to make a statement.
“We understand the deep feelings about Ukraine at this moment and believe that the comments made by the Kalush Orchestra and other artists expressing support for the Ukrainian people are humanitarian rather than political,” the EBU said.