Ukrainian band Kalush Orchestra wins Eurovision Song Contest in a clear show of popular support for the war-torn nation that has gone beyond music
Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra won the Eurovision Song Contest in Italy on Sunday, in a wave of popular support for the war-torn nation amid the Russian invasion.
The winning song, “Stefania”, sung in Ukrainian, fused rap with traditional folk music and was a tribute to the mother of the band’s frontman Oleh Psiuk.
Bookmakers have made the Kalush Orchestra the clear favorite for the annual contest, which normally draws an audience of around 200 million viewers, based in part on popular sympathy for Ukraine after Russia’s invasion in February.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was quick to hail Sunday’s victory, saying that “we will do our best” to host next year’s contest in the port city of Mariupol.
He underlined “Ukrainian Mariupol”, adding: “free, peaceful, rebuilt!”
Winners traditionally host the event the following year and Ukraine hopes to be in a position to do so in 2023.
“Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe! Next year, Ukraine will host the Eurovision Song Contest,” Zelenskyy said.
“I’m sure the sound of victory in battle with the enemy is not far off,” he added.
Ukraine ranked fourth based on jury voting, but claimed victory with a record spectator vote in an event that featured 40 nations.
The 439 fan votes is the highest number of televoting points ever received in a Eurovision contest, now in its 66th year.
Britain’s Sam Ryder finished second, while Spain’s Chanel 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 music, with traditional flutes and breakdancing in a classic mix of Eurovision styles, was a contender even before the conflict began.
The band’s frontman made an appeal to the city of Mariupol and its Azovstal factory at the end of his live performance.
“Please help Ukraine, Mariupol. Help Azovstal right now!” Psiuk shouted in English from the front of the stage.
Speaking after the event, Psiuk said that he and the band would be heading back to Ukraine in two days and weren’t sure what the future held.
“It’s hard to say exactly what I’m going to do because this is the first time I’ve won the Eurovision Song Contest, but anyway, like every Ukrainian, we’re ready to fight as hard as we can and go all the way,” he said.
The European Broadcasting Union, which organizes the contest, said no action will be taken against the band for using the stage to make a statement.
“We understand the deep feelings surrounding Ukraine at this time and believe that the comments by the Kalush Orchestra and other artists expressing support for the Ukrainian people are of a humanitarian rather than a political nature,” the EBU said.