In the midst of war, Ukraine gets priority to win Eurovision song contest

For 11 weeks, the Ukrainians have defied war, destruction and loss. But on Saturday, they can celebrate their victory: The vibrant, hip-hop country song “Stefania” Favored winner of the Eurovision Song Contest, the cultural phenomenon that helped launch Abba and Celine Dion and is watched by 200 million people annually.

“Stefania,” an anthem by the Kalush Orchestra of Ukraine, was originally written to honor the mother of the group’s leader, Oleh Psiuk. But since the war, it has been reinterpreted as a tribute to Ukraine. The song includes lyrics that roughly translate as “You can’t take my willpower, as I took it from her,” and “I will always find my way home, even if the road is destroyed. ”

The hugely popular Eurovision Song Contest, an all-around popular kitsch performance, has past winners including a Finnish heavy metal monster band love to blow up smoky meat on stage, has become one of this year’s special political braves.

In February, event organizers banned Russia from participating in the competition, a showcase intended to promote European unification and cultural exchange, citing concerns that Russia’s participation would damage Europe. damage the reputation of this country.

The move underscores Russia’s growing estrangement from the international community, including in the cultural sphere. Russia began participating in the world’s largest singing competition in 1994 and has participated more than 20 times. The organization’s participation is a cultural foundation for the country’s recovery and engagement with the world after Russian President Putin came to power amid the economic and political turmoil of the 1990s.

In 2008, when Dima Bilan, a Russian pop star, won Eurovision with the song “Believe,” Mr. Putin was quick to offer congratulations, thanking him for continuing to highlight Russia.

This is not the first time politics has invaded the contest, which premiered in 1956. In 2005, the Ukrainian song was rewritten after being deemed too political as it commemorated the Orange Revolution. . When Dana International, an Israeli transgender woman, won in 1998 with her hit song “Diva,” rabbis accused her of smearing the values ​​of the Jewish state.

Some dealer has said that Ukraine is by far the team that is expected to win this year’s competition. The winners are determined based on votes from national juries and home viewers.

Entry of Ukraine “Stefania” comes from a band that blends traditional Ukrainian folk music with rap and hip-hop. The Kalush Orchestra brought the audience of the semi-final in Turin, Italy to their feet on Tuesday with a spirited performance that led them to Saturday’s Final.

The band went to Eurovision with special permission to circumvent martial law that prevents most Ukrainian men from leaving the country, according to Ukrainian public radio company Suspilne.

The war required other adjustments. The Ukrainian commentator for the show, Timur Miroshnychenko, was broadcasting from a bomb shelter.

One Photo posted by Suspilne shows the veteran presenter sitting at a desk in a bunker-like room, surrounded by computers, wires, cameras, and eroded walls that reveal patches of brick on the sides. below. It is not clear which city he is in.

Mr Miroshnychenko told BBC Radio 5 Live that bunkers were being prepared to prevent disruption of air strikes. He said Ukrainians love the competition and “try to capture any peaceful moment” they can.

“Nothing is going to disrupt Eurovision’s broadcast,” he said.

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