Ukrainian band Kalush Orchestra gained the Eurovision Tune Contest, a transparent present of fashionable assist for the group’s war-ravaged nation that went past music.
The band and its tune “Stefania” beat 24 different performers early Sunday within the grand remaining of the competitors. The general public vote from dwelling, through textual content message or the Eurovision app, proved decisive, lifting them above British TikTok star Sam Ryder, who led after the nationwide juries in 40 nations forged their votes.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy welcomed the victory, Ukraine’s third since its 2003 Eurovision debut. He mentioned “we’ll do our greatest” to host subsequent yr’s contest within the devastated port metropolis of Mariupol, which is nearly fully occupied by Russian forces.
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In describing the town, Zelenskyy underlined “Ukrainian Mariupol,” including: “free, peaceable, rebuilt!”
“I’m certain our victorious chord within the battle with the enemy just isn’t far off,” Zelenskyy mentioned in a submit on the Telegram messaging app.
Kalush Orchestra’s frontman, Oleh Psiuk, took benefit of the big international viewers, final yr numbering greater than 180 million, to make an impassioned plea to free fighters nonetheless trapped beneath a sprawling metal plant in Mariupol.
“Assist Azovstal, proper now,” Psiuk implored following his victory efficiency, talking from beneath a vivid bucket hat that has change into the band’s trademark amongst followers.
He later instructed a information convention that folks might help by “spreading data, speaking out this, reaching out to governments to assist.”
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The 439 fan votes is the best variety of televote factors ever acquired in a Eurovision contest, now in its 66th yr. Psiuk thanked the Ukrainian diaspora “and everybody world wide who voted for Ukraine. … The victory is essential to Ukraine. Particularly this yr.”
“Stefania” was penned by Psiuk as a tribute to his mom, however since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion it has change into an anthem to the motherland, with lyrics that pledge: “I’ll at all times discover my manner dwelling, even when all roads are destroyed.”
Kalush Orchestra itself is a cultural venture that features folklore specialists and mixes conventional people melodies and modern hip hop in a purposeful protection of Ukrainian tradition. That has change into an much more salient level as Russia by its invasion has sought falsely to say that Ukraine’s tradition just isn’t distinctive.
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“We’re right here to indicate that Ukrainian tradition and Ukrainian music are alive, and so they have their very own and really particular signature,” Psuik instructed journalists.
The plea to free the remaining Ukrainian fighters trapped beneath the Azovstal plant by Russians served as a somber reminder that the massively fashionable and at instances flamboyant Eurovision tune contest was being performed out towards the backdrop of a warfare on Europe’s japanese flank.
The Azov battalion, which is among the many plant’s final 1,000 defenders, despatched their thanks from the warren of tunnels beneath the plant, posting on Telegram: “Thanks to Kalush Orchestra in your assist! Glory to Ukraine!”
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The town itself has been the positioning of a number of the worst destruction of the two 1/2-month warfare, as Russia seeks to safe a land bridge between separatist-controlled Donbas and Crimea, which it annexed in 2014.
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The six-member, all-male band acquired particular permission to depart the nation to characterize Ukraine and Ukrainian tradition on the music contest. One of many authentic members stayed to battle, and the others shall be again in Ukraine in two days, when their non permanent exit allow expires.
Earlier than touring to Italy, Psiuk was working a volunteer group he arrange early within the warfare that makes use of social media to assist discover transportation and shelter for individuals in want.
“It’s onerous to say what I’m going to do, as a result of that is the primary time I win Eurovision,” Psuik mentioned. “Like each Ukrainian, I’m able to battle and go till the top.”
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Whereas the assist for Ukraine within the tune contest was in the end overwhelming, the competition remained large open till the ultimate fashionable votes have been tallied. And warfare or not, followers from Spain, Britain and elsewhere coming into the PalaOlimpico venue from all through Europe have been rooting for their very own nation to win.
Nonetheless, Ukrainian music fan Iryna Lasiy mentioned she felt international assist for her nation within the warfare and “not just for the music.”
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Russia was excluded this yr after its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, a transfer organizers mentioned was meant to maintain politics out of the competition that promotes range and friendship amongst nations.
Again in Ukraine, within the battered northeastern metropolis of Kharkiv, Kalush Orchestra’s participation in Eurovision is seen as giving the nation one other platform to garner worldwide assist.
“The entire nation is rising, everybody on the planet helps us. That is extraordinarily good,” mentioned Julia Vashenko, a 29-year-old trainer.
“I consider that wherever there may be Ukraine now and there is a chance to speak in regards to the warfare, we have to discuss,” mentioned Alexandra Konovalova, a 23-year-old make-up artist in Kharkiv. “Any competitions are essential now, due to them extra individuals study what is occurring now.”
Ukrainians in Italy additionally have been utilizing the Eurovision occasion as a backdrop to a flashmob this week to attraction for assist for Mariupol. About 30 Ukrainians gathered in a bar in Milan to observe the printed, many carrying a vivid bucket hat just like the one Psiuk sports activities, in assist of the band.
“We’re so glad he referred to as on serving to to save lots of the individuals in Mariupol,” mentioned lawyer Zoia Stankovska throughout the present. “Oh, this victory brings a lot hope.”
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The occasion was hosted by Italy after native rock band Maneskin gained final yr in Rotterdam. The victory shot the Rome-based band to worldwide fame, opening for the Rolling Stones and showing on Saturday Evening Dwell and quite a few journal covers of their sometimes gender-fluid costume code.
Twenty bands have been chosen in two semifinals this week, and have been competing together with the Large 5 of Italy, Britain, France, Germany and Spain, which have everlasting berths as a consequence of their monetary assist of the competition.
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Ukrainian commentator Timur Miroshnichenko, who does the stay voiceover for Ukraine’s broadcast of Eurovision, was collaborating from a basement in an undisclosed location, fairly than from his regular TV studio.
“On the fifth or fourth day of the warfare, they shot our TV tower in Kyiv,” he mentioned. To maintain broadcasting, “we needed to transfer underground someplace in Ukraine.”
Exhibiting Eurovision in Ukraine was essential, on-line and on TV, he mentioned.
“This yr, I believe it’s extra symbolic than ever,” Miroshnichenko mentioned.
Ukraine was in a position to take part within the music contest “due to the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the resistance of our individuals,” he mentioned.
Barry reported from Milan. Vasilisa Stepanenko contributed from Kharkiv, Ukraine.
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