Ukraine’s win at Eurovision 2022 hailed by Ukrainians and world leaders
Ukrainian band win Eurovision Song Contest as war rages at home
“For the first time [since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine], we were able to listen to music and not feel guilty,” Falkovskaya, 23, told The Washington Post from Munich, where she and her mother have moved since fleeing their home in Odessa in early March. “We finally relaxed and shed a few tears.”
European Council President Charles Michel praised the Kalush Orchestra on Twitter and expressed hope that next year’s competition could be hosted by Kyiv in a “free and united Ukraine”.
The reaction to Ukraine’s Eurovision win underscored the political nuances of the quirky musical event, which Russia was barred from after invading Ukraine.
Kyiv officials described the victory as a sign of success to come in Ukraine’s war against Russia, and Kalush Orchestra used the Eurovision stage to call for help Mariupol and the soldiers standing by inside the Azovstal Steelworks. On Sunday, the band released a music video for “Stefania,” the song that helped secure its Eurovision No. 1 spot, which was filmed in war-torn parts of Ukraine.
Inside the beleaguered Mariupol Steelworks, a symbol of bravery and terror
But for many Ukrainians, the contest was also a rare opportunity to have fun and think about something other than war.
“When they said we won, I screamed all over the apartment,” Ivanna Khvalyboga told the BBC from Poland.
Khvalyboga, one of more than 6 million Ukrainians who have fled their country since Russia’s February 24 invasion, said the victory has brought “incredible happiness to Ukraine and the Ukrainian people”.
For Falkovskaya, who watched the final with her mother and their two Labradors, it was also a chance to connect with her family, as her stepfather watched the contest with them over the phone from Odessa.
“The show allowed us to connect in a way,” she said, describing it as “a cool time to share with my mom.”
This moment was made more significant by the war. “When war hits you, you start to realize how much you miss the little things,” Falkovskaya told the Post. When Ukraine won Eurovision, “I got my stuff back, so I’m pretty happy today. Hopefully it lasts a while now.
In a Facebook post, Falkovskaya wrote that winning Eurovision “brought back so much motivation and power to our country. Happiness, tears of joy, laughter.
Ukrainian government tweeted on his official account: “You have melted our hearts, my friends”, adding that the victory “means for us during this period”.
On social media, Ukrainians cheered a victory that Kalush Orchestra leader Oleh Psiuk called a victory “for all Ukrainians”.
A video of Ukrainian TV presenter Timur Miroshnychenko reacting to the group’s victory in a live presentation from a bomb shelter in Ukraine has been viewed more than 400,000 times on Twitter.
Ukrainian servicemen who watched the Eurovision final from their position near kyiv cheered and cheered as the victory was announced, in photos taken by Reuters photographer Valentyn Ogirenko.
Even though Eurovision is a competition and the victory of one country is by definition the defeat of 39 other countries, many world leaders immediately applauded the victory of Kalush Orchestra.
NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoana offered his congratulations, saying the result showed “the immense public support across Europe and Australia for the bravery” of the Ukrainian people.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss described him as a “very good result” – even as the fan vote propelled his country to second place in a competition that more generally evokes a strong sense of patriotism among die-hard fans.
“Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe!” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky wrote on Instagram after the results were announced.
Next year, Ukraine is set to host the competition, an occasion Zelensky says won’t be the last. The president expressed hope that one day Kyiv could “welcome Eurovision participants and guests to Ukrainian Mariupol” – the southern port city destroyed by Russian forces.
“I am sure that our victorious agreement in the battle against the enemy is not far off,” he added, seeking to link the Eurovision outcome to Ukraine’s prospects against Russian forces.
Kalush Orchestra’s victory also drew praise from relatives of Ukrainian fighters trapped inside the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, after the band’s frontman made a call from the Eurovision stage.
“I ask all of you, please help Ukraine, Mariupol. Help Azovstal right now,” Psiuk said after the band performed in the grand final. Ukrainian officials said they were negotiating with Russia to secure the release of wounded fighters inside Azovstal, although some fighters said they were prepared to fight to the death if necessary.
Last Ukrainian fighters in Mariupol vow to fight ‘as long as we live’
While Psiuk said the song “Stefania” was written before the war for his mother, the music video released by the band Sunday, which features scenes of destruction filmed near kyiv, reuses it as a kind of ode to the Ukrainian forces. This is the latest example of Ukraine’s use of cultural diplomacy in its conflict with Russia.
The video opens with members of the Kalush Orchestra walking through the ruins of bombed-out buildings, while Ukrainian servicemen carry children to safety through fire and other dangers. Children are reunited with their families at refugee centers and train stations, as service members – all women – stare into the camera, some of them in tears.
The video ends with a shot of a young girl holding what appears to be a molotov cocktail, followed by a message from the band. “This video was shot in Bucha, Irpin, Borodyanka, Hostomel, towns near kyiv that suffered the horrors of Russian occupation,” it read. The video is dedicated to the “brave Ukrainian people”, “mothers protecting children” and “those who gave their lives for our freedom”, she said.
The music video illustrates how Ukraine has at times put music, film and other art forms at the service of political goals. Members of the Kalush Orchestra have been given special permission to travel to Italy for Eurovision, even though Ukraine has banned most men between the ages of 18 and 60 from leaving the country in case they are called up to fight .
Ukraine’s parliament posted the video on its Telegram page on Sunday along with a snippet of the song’s lyrics. “The world needs to see it!” says the message. “It’s impossible to hold back the tears.”
The Eurovision Song Contest is often political, as dozens of countries compete for points from national juries and the public. In 2016, after Russia annexed Crimea, Ukrainian singer Jamala won Eurovision with a song about the Soviet deportation of Crimean Tatars during World War II.
Another Ukrainian band, Antytila, recently collaborated with Ed Sheeran on a remix of Sheeran’s single “2step.” The accompanying music video also features scenes of destroyed buildings in Ukraine. The lead singer of Antytila, who volunteered to fight Russia alongside other band members, sings in military uniform about wanting to be reunited with loved ones after the war.
Ukrainian band release remix with Ed Sheeran – while fighting Russia
Ellen Francis and Meryl Kornfield contributed to this report.