Italy Eurovision Song Grand Final
Kalush Orchestra from Ukraine arrives for the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest at Palaolimpico arena, in Turin, Italy, on Saturday. Photo: AP/Luca Bruno)

Ukrainian band Kalush Orchestra wins Eurovision


Ukrainian band Kalush Orchestra won the Eurovision Song Contest in the early hours of Sunday in a clear show of support for the war-ravaged nation.

The six-man band that mixes traditional folk melodies and contemporary hip hop in a purposeful defense of Ukrainian culture was the sentimental and bookmakers’ favorite among the 25 bands and performers competing in the grand finale. The public vote from home was decisive in securing their victory.

The band’s front man, Oleg Psiuk, took advantage of the enormous global audience to make impassioned plea to free fighters still trapped beneath a sprawling steel plant in the southern port city of Mariupol following the six-man band’s performance.

"I ask all of you, please help Ukraine, Mariupol. Help Azovstal, right now,'' the band's front man, Oleh Psiuk, said, to the live crowd of some 7,500, many of whom gave a standing ovation, and global television audience of millions.

The plea to free the remaining Ukrainian fighters trapped beneath the Azovstal plant by Russians served as a somber reminder that the hugely popular and at times flamboyant Eurovision song contest was being played out against the backdrop of a war on Europe's eastern flank.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy gave signs that he was watching from Kyiv, and rooting for Ukrainian band.

“Indeed, this is not a war, but nevertheless, for us today, any victory is very important,'' Zelenskyy said, according to a .presidential statement. "So, let’s cheer for ours. Glory be to Ukraine!”

Kalush Orchestra was among 25 bands performing in the Eurovision Song Contest final front of a live audience in the industrial northern city of Turin, while millions more watched on television or via streaming around the world.

Fans from Spain, Britain and elsewhere entering the PalaOlimpico venue from throughout Europe were rooting for their own country to win. Still, Ukrainian music fan Iryna Lasiy said she felt global support for her country in the war and “not only for the music.”

Russia was excluded this year after its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, a move organizers said was meant to keep politics out of the contest that promotes diversity and friendship among nations.

Ukraine's song, “Stefania,’’ was written as a tribute to the frontman’s mother, but has transformed since the war into an anthem to the beleaguered nation, as lyrics take on new meaning. “I’ll always find my way home, even if all roads are destroyed," Kalush Orchestra frontman Oleh Psiuk wrote.

The six-member, all-male band received special permission to leave the country to represent Ukraine and Ukrainian culture at the music contest. One of the original members stayed to fight, and the others plan to return as soon as the contest is over.

Back in Ukraine, in the battered northeastern city of Kharkiv, Kalush Orchestra’s participation in the contest is seen as giving the nation another platform to garner international support.

“The whole country is rising, everyone in the world supports us. This is extremely nice,″ said Julia Vashenko, a 29-year-old teacher.

“I believe that wherever there is Ukraine now and there is an opportunity to talk about the war, we need to talk,″ said Alexandra Konovalova, a 23-year-old make-up artist in Kharkiv. “Any competitions are important now, because of them more people learn about what is happening now.”

Anastasia Khardikova, a 24-year-old Ukrainian living in Sweden, said she intends to vote for Kalush Orchestra, and is persuading her friends abroad to do the same.

The winner is chosen in equal parts by panels of music experts in each competing nation and votes by the viewing public — leaving room for an upset. Britain’s Sam Ryder and Sweden’s Cornelia Jakobs are each given a 10% shot while the Italian duo of Mahmood & Blanco have a 6% chance of winning.

The winner takes home a glass microphone trophy and a potential career boost.

The event was hosted by Italy after local rock band Maneskin won last year in Rotterdam. The victory shot the Rome-based band to international fame, opening for the Rolling Stones and appearing on Saturday Night Live and numerous magazine covers in their typically genderless costume code.

Twenty bands were chosen in two semifinals this week, and were competing along with the Big Five of Italy, Britain, France, Germany and Spain, which have permanent berths due to their financial support of the contest.

Barry reported from Milan. Vasilisa Stepanenko contributed from Kharkiv, Ukraine.

© Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Predictable if understandable.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Great. Now, let's just give the 2022 World Cup to Ukraine too. Why bother traveling all the way to Qatar?

11 ( +13 / -2 )

Yawn, undeserved but predictable.

Wonder how they're gonna host Eurovision next year.

3 ( +10 / -7 )

If not for the ludicrous emotional voting Sam Ryder would have won: he is the real winner.

7 ( +11 / -4 )

That’s not right that they won just because it’s good virtue signaling optics.

but whatever, it’s really nothing important so it’s fine. The other people/groups also got visibility and didn’t need to win to proceed to get a chance based on their talent.

-9 ( +1 / -10 )

Great to see a band incorporating genuine Eastern European and Slavic folk music elements into their sound getting this kind of recognition.

Pity it took the violent invasion of their country by an unprincipled aggressor to do it. Well done Kalush Orchestra, may your country also win the bigger fight.

1 ( +7 / -6 )

I am sure they were the best.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

So this band was actually the runner-up in Ukraine for the Eurovision spot.

Can you imagine how big the landslide win it would have been if they allowed the best Ukrainian group to compete?

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Ukraine wins every competition in every category for the next year! That will show the Russians!

1 ( +6 / -5 )

Wow what a surprise ….

5 ( +7 / -2 )

More ridiculous pandering.......

They were gifted a pointless singing contest in a fix.... That will show those Russians!

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

Congrats to Ukraine!

This won't be your last win!

1 ( +5 / -4 )

This won't be your last win!

Correct.. Usyk will beat Anthony Joshua to retain his heavyweight boxing title.

They will lose the south and east of their country to Russia but the Eurovision title should compensate.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Politics don't play any part in this competition..... Or so they say.

0 ( +4 / -4 )


Are any Ukrainians playing at Wimbledon this year? The others may as well go home.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

Great Britain came close, I can't say I was enamored with GB's song, second place after years of scraping/bumping along the bottom has to be recognised.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Yep. Political.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

No surprise that they won, and even though it wasn't the best song, accoridng to the judges, it was OK.

More importantly, it was a sign of solidarity of European people with Ukraine - an important message both to Ukrainians and to Russians.

The positioning of the Russian trolls and other Putin apologists in reaction is amusing.

2 ( +2 / -0 )


Are any Ukrainians playing at Wimbledon this year? The others may as well go home.

it's voted for by members of the public as well as judges. The votes of the public overwhelmingly went to Ukraine. Everyone was expecting it. Even bookmaker's odds for a Ukrainian victory were absurdly short.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

They won because the public from voting nations supported them. Not judges, not institutions just johnny/jenny public. It is easy to see who they support in the Russian invasion of Ukraine and it is not Russia. Governments AND their people actually behind Ukraine freedom and security.

The music was not outlandish, it was catchy and well preformed and obviously popular with the public. They may not have won in any other year, but people do what they can to show support for the underdog in the current situation. Good on them.

Enjoy the win and spare a moment to celebrate, then its back to defending freedom.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

englisc aspyrgendMay 15  09:18 am JST

Predictable if understandable.

It certainly is a show of support to Ukraine and a big razzberry to Russia. However, how many of these Eurovision winners truly get to be mega/superstars like ABBA did?

I hate to be a spoilsport but I'm not too surprised with this. It sounds like a heat of the moment' deal to me. Where will the Kalush Orchestra be in 5 years?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The winner is almost always contentious and based on one bias or another.

At least this time it's a feel good sort of bias. shrug

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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