On May 14, Kalush Orchestra took a swift victory at the Eurovision Song Contest in Turin receiving the highest number of public votes in the history of the musical competition. Selected for the contest before the war, the folk rap song “Stefania” dedicated to the mother of one of the band members has found a new meaning for Ukrainians once the Russian invasion began. For many, the mother described in the song symbolizes Ukraine, the strengths of its women and the wholehearted longing to return home. In this post, we explain why Ukraine’s victory in Eurovision was a big moment for the country and entire Europe.
Celebrating and promoting unique Ukrainian music and culture to the whole world
Amidst the actual battle for its freedom from the Russian invasion and occupation, Ukraine is also fighting on other, non-physical fronts, such as the cultural one. For centuries, Russia has been waging an active campaign of repressing and appropriating cultures of other Eastern European and Central Asian nations, including Ukrainian. In the last two decades, Ukrainians have been actively trying to regain ownership of their cultural heritage by proudly promoting it across the world. The country’s artists often used Eurovision to showcase its unique and diverse music. Whether it was the sounds of Hutsul trembita, slow Crimean ballad, modern electro-folk or ethno hip hop, Europeans have demonstrated their love for authentic Ukrainian tunes through the years of Eurovision. Today, the celebration of Ukrainian music and culture across the world is even more crucial.
TrembitaAn alpine horn made of wood, common among Ukrainian highlanders Hutsuls who live in western Ukraine. It was used in the opening of Ruslana’s performance that brought Ukraine’s first Eurovision victory in 2004.
Bringing Ukraine back on the front pages
As the war prolongs for months, the media attention starts slowly fading away from the events in Ukraine. Watched by almost 200 million people across the world annually, Eurovision is a platform that has always been widely used by its contestants for highlighting important social, environmental and political issues. Kalush Orchestra’s plea to the international community to help Mariupol and Azovstal is generating media coverage and interest from the public. The latter is demonstrated by the spike in the searches for “Azovstal” on Google right after Ukraine’s performance in the Grand Finale. The people of Ukraine are hoping that the international community will be urged to intervene and help extract Ukrainian defenders from an almost destroyed steel plant in besieged Mariupol.
Increasing the stream of donations to help Ukraine
Just like the media attention tends to fade away even from the most horrific events such as the ones that are currently going on in Ukraine, the donations from the public and big organizations tend to decrease with time. Because the Eurovision victory has put Ukraine back on the front pages, more people will be reminded of the humanitarian crisis happening in Ukraine as a result of the Russian invasion. Several Eurovision contestants such as Monika Liu from Lithuania, Systur from Iceland, Malik Harris from Germany and others have urged the international community to help Ukraine. These frequent calls for help and expressions of solidarity from the representatives of other countries have a tremendous potential to drive donations up again.
Boosting the morale and spirit of the Ukrainian people
Since Ukraine’s first entry to the song contest in 2003 and the following victory of Ruslana, Eurovision has been bringing the nation together in front of their TVs as a fun, spring tradition. However, this year, the people of Ukraine are going through the most traumatic and horrific events in their lives. While the entire country believes in and works towards victory, it is not unusual for people to occasionally lose hope as they observe brutal crimes against humanity happening on their land. While winning at Eurovision is not going to stop the war directly, it is a major boost of morale for the entire Ukrainian society. For many, it’s a sign that another victory is also coming up for Ukraine.
Demonstrating a remarkable unity of Europe
The Eurovision Song Contest was created in 1956 in hopes of uniting post-war Europe through music. During the biggest war on the continent since WW2, Eurovision has proven to serve its founding purpose by showing a remarkable unity of all nations in the name of freedom and peace. Ukraine received 439 out of the 468 possible public votes, which means that the overwhelming majority of participating countries gave it their highest scores. This is a record-breaking public score in the history of Eurovision that symbolizes the unwavering support for Ukraine’s fight against Russia.
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