With a song that unites the traditional and the modern, Ukraine and the world, the Kalush Orchestra became the main winner of this year’s Eurovision.
They were the second choice to represent Ukraine. «Stefania» was written for the singer’s mother, Oleg Psyuk, but the war gave it a new meaning. Only with special permission from the government could they leave the country (but there are those who remained to fight).
This group once again inscribed Ukraine in the history of the festival – after in 2016 with the victory of Jamala («1944») it became a country in Eastern Europe that won the competition twice.
The group got its name from the Ukrainian town of Kalush, where Oleg Psyuk is from. Located in the territory of Western Ukraine at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains, the area served as a source of inspiration for the group, which became known as the Kalush Orchestra only about two years ago.
However, the group’s favoritism is not limited to the context in which this warring country currently lives, as the contest’s theme made it into the top five as soon as the group was announced as the country’s representative in this year’s edition.
This is because «Stefania» was not the first choice. In fact, this theme came in second after Alina Pash in the national competition that chooses Ukraine’s entry to Eurovision. But on February 19, a Ukrainian delegation announced that Pash would no longer represent the country, following protests over the singer’s performance in Crimea in 2015, a year after the region’s annexation by Russia.
The announcement that the Kalush Orchestra will represent the country at Eurovision was made on February 22, two days before the start of the war.
On the Eurovision stage, the band used the blue and yellow colors of their national flag, as well as other decorative motifs reminiscent of the country’s traditions. Some members of the Kalush Orchestra performed in traditional, historical Ukrainian clothing from the early 20th century.
Due to the war, the group had to assemble a new team, losing most of the technicians and creatives. And since Eurovision does not allow broadcasting any political images, it was impossible to include images of the conflict in the script, which did not stop the group from thanking in the first semi-final for all the support given to Ukraine.
The winning song «Stefania» was written in honor of Oleg’s mother, who first heard this song when it was performed live at the Ukrainian national final «Vidbir», during which the country’s representative at the Eurovision festival is to be determined.
The song, sung in Ukrainian, has a strong influence on what is done on the international music scene, mixes different styles (from rap to hip-hop, penetrating Ukrainian folklore) and was written long before the war.
The perception has changed, even among those who wrote it: where previously only «mother» was read, now there are those who interpret it as «motherland». Before heading to Turin, the band did a short tour to promote «Stefania» among Eurofans (which, by the way, is common for all national performances). In all performances, they were accompanied on stage by a QR code, a fundraising tool for organizations supporting the migrant crisis resulting from the conflict.