Ukraine riding high in Eurovision song contest

Kalush Orchestra from Ukraine with the song 'Stefania' perform during the First Semi Final of the 66th annual Eurovision Song Contest (ESC 2022) in Turin, Italy, 10 May 2022. The international song contest has two semi-finals, held at the PalaOlimpico indoor stadium on 10 and 12 May, and a grand final on 14 May 2022. [EPA-EFE/ALESSANDRO DI MARCO]

The Ukrainian ‘Kalush Orchestra’ was voted through on Tuesday (10 May) to the grand final of the Eurovision Song Contest in Italy, confirming that they occupy the pole position in Sunday’s final.

The longest-running annual TV music competition – certified by Guinness world records – kicked off on Tuesday evening with the first semi-final of its 66th edition in Turin, Italy, with over 40 countries participating.

The event, which attracts enormous engagement on social media every year and counts on a loyal and very diverse audience, will run through the end of the week when the winning singer or band will be announced after a nerve-wracking round of live voting.

Viewers in the countries of the participating broadcasters are invited to vote for their favourite songs (without the possibility of voting for the song representing their own country) through televoting. In addition, in each participating country, there is a National Jury that provides scoring for other acts.

The Brief – Why Eurovision matters

This year it will be remarkably tough to keep politics separate from the running of the world’s most-followed singing contest – and that is also why EURACTIV is stepping in with dedicated coverage of the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC).

Although Eurovision is formally apolitical, politics has always played a significant role in the festival. The Eurovision’s organiser, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), decided to kick out Russia as it deemed that “the inclusion of a Russian entry in this year’s Contest would bring the competition into disrepute.”

From the outset of the contest, Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra was considered a potential winner with the song ‘Stefania’ surfing the emotional wave of the war.

The group described ‘Stefania’ as a tribute to the singer’s mother but has since dedicated it to all the country’s matriarchs in the wake of Russia’s invasion, which began in February.

The group had to get special permission from the government to travel to Italy after it required most men to stay in the country to fight.

The group’s lead singer Oleg Psyuk revealed that one band member was missing from its delegation to Turin, instead deciding to remain in Ukraine to help defend the streets of Kyiv.

In the run-up to the competition, the band grabbed headlines when they posted videos of themselves on the streets of Kyiv with weapons as part of Ukraine’s defence against the Russian offensive.

Timur Miroshnychenko, the Ukrainian voice of Eurovision for over 15 years, commented on the semi-final from a bomb shelter in Kyiv.

Other countries that progressed from the first semi-final to Saturday’s final were Switzerland, Armenia, Iceland, Lithuania, Portugal, Norway, Greece, Moldova and the Netherlands.

The UK, Germany, Italy, Spain and France – known as the Big Five – go automatically to the final.

But the Eurovision journey has ended this year for acts from Albania, Latvia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark and Austria.

The contest continues on Thursday with the second semi-final with the participation of Finland, Israel, Serbia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Malta, San Marino, Australia, Cyprus, Ireland, North Macedonia, Estonia, Romania, Poland, Montenegro, Belgium, Sweden and the Czech Republic.

[Edited by Alice Taylor]

Subscribe to our newsletters