Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra win Eurovision Song Contest
Image: Maxim Fesenko
Ukrainian band Kalush Orchestra won the Eurovision Song Contest 2022 yesterday in Turin, Italy. Their victory comes during an unprecedented time of struggle for their home country, following the invasion of Ukraine by neighbouring country Russia. Kalush Orchestra won with their song Stefania, which is sung in Ukrainian. An ode to Kalush Orchestra frontman Oleh Psiuk’s mother, Stefania combines rap with traditional Ukrainian folk music. In classic Eurovision style, during their performance of Stefania the band displayed different elements such as traditional flutes and breakdancing.
The band noted that their song was a strong contender for the win even before the start of the conflict, though the war had shifted the song’s meaning somewhat. “After it all started with the war and the hostilities, it took on additional meaning,” said Psiuk, “…many people started seeing it as their mother, Ukraine, in the meaning of the country.” At the end of the song’s performance at the contest, Psiuk made an open plea to the people of Europe to help and support the Ukrainian capital, Mariupol. “Please help Ukraine, Mariupol. Help Azovstal right now,” he said.
The song’s win is seen as a symbol of Europe’s support for the country in the midst of the war. Winners of The Eurovision Song Contest, which draws in some 200 million viewers each year, are determined by two voting bodies. The Jury vote, and a popular viewer vote. While Kalush Orchestra ranked fourth in jury voting, the group received a record number of viewer votes, garnering a landslide victory with 439 fan votes, the highest number of tele-votes ever received in Eurovision’s 66 year history.
This marks the third time that Ukraine has won the contest. Traditionally, the country who wins the contest assumes hosting duties for the next addition of the contest. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy shared his excitement at the news on Instagram, assuring the rest of Europe that they will do their best to host next year’s Eurovision in a “free, peaceful, rebuilt” Mariupol. Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe!” he said, adding that “I am sure that the sound of victory in the battle with the enemy is not far off.”
Ukraine’s win was cause for celebration for Ukrainians, especially those affected by the war. Speaking to the BBC, Ivanna Khvalyboga who was forced to flee Ukraine after the invasion, said “when they said that we had won, I shouted at the whole apartment.” Those in Ukraine mostly celebrated in their homes, unable to gather safely in public and under a nationwide curfew. Kalush Orchestra noted how the process of performing at Eurovision had been made more difficult by the ongoing war, stating that the first time the band had the opportunity to rehearse together in the same space was just two weeks before the performance.
The U.K meanwhile, finished second for Sam Ryder’s soaring power ballad, Space Man. It is the country’s highest placement at the Eurovision Song Contest since 1998. Ryder beat out Kalush Orchestra for the jury vote, but did not receive enough viewer votes to take the win.
Watch Kalush Orchestra perform Stefania at the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest grand finale below.