Ukrainian band Kalush Orchestra wins Eurovision amid war

Ukrainian band Kalush Orchestra was crowned champion of the Eurovision Song Contest Saturday in a global nod of support for Ukraine amid its plight against invading Russian forces.

The victory — the country’s third since joining the contest in 2003 — was celebrated by Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, who pledged his country would do try to host the competition next year in the port city of Mariupol, which has been devastated in the war.

“Thank you for the victory, Kalush Orchestra and everyone who voted for us,″ Zelenskyy said in a statement on Telegram messaging app. “I am sure our victorious chord in the battle with the enemy is not far off.″

Kalush Orchestra’s song, “Stefania,” has become a rallying cry for Ukrainian forces fending off the Russian invasion at home and for the millions of Ukrainian refugees who have been forced to flee the country.

The song “Stefania” has become a rallying cry for Ukrainian forces.
Yara Nardi/REUTERS

“Stefania” was written by the band’s frontman Oleg Psiuk about his mother, but has become a patriotic anthem with the lyrics “I’ll always find my way home, even if all roads are destroyed.”

The song was voted the fan favorite out of 25 finalists early Sunday morning after the public’s text message and online votes pushed the Ukrainian group over British TikTok star Sam Ryder in the hotly contested competition. 

The Kalush Orchestra mixes traditional Ukrainian folk music with other elements such as contemporary pop and hip-hop. The group’s performances defended that Ukraine has its own unique culture, despite Russia’s assertion that it has no culture of its own.

The band brought massive global attention to the struggles of Ukraine, which has been under attack by Russian forces since Feb. 24. 

Eurovision’s audience topped more than 180 million viewers last year. This year, despite the pageantry the contest is known for, viewers were often reminded of the horrors suffered by those in war-torn Ukraine.

Russia was banned from participating in the show this year by organizers after it launched its invasion.

Recently, the music group made an impassioned plea to global leaders to help free the remaining Ukrainian fighters still trapped inside of the Mariupol’s  Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant after weeks due to constant shelling.

“Help Azovstal, right now,″ Psiuk pleaded to the audience in his bright bucket hat that has become band’s trademark among fans.

 Kalush Orchestra
Kalush Orchestra was selected as the winner out of 25 contestants.
Giorgio Perottino/Getty Images

Azov battalion, the last holdouts of the steel plant’s 1,000 defenders, thanked the band from their tunnels beneath the besieged plant. “Thank you to Kalush Orchestra for your support! Glory to Ukraine!” the fighters posted on Telegram.

The six-member, all-male band received special permission to leave the country to represent Ukraine and Ukrainian culture in the contest, held this year in Rome. Early in the war, Ukrainian government had barred all men between the age of 18 and 60 from leaving Ukraine to defend the country.

One of the band’s original members remained behind to fight, and the rest of the band has said they will return to support Ukraine after the competition.

With Post Wires