Ukraine wins the Eurovision Song Contest: NPR

Ukraine won the Eurovision Song Contest, perhaps the biggest music competition in Europe. NPR’s Joanna Kakissis was watching with Ukrainians in Dnipro.



AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

Ukraine has won the Eurovision Song Contest, perhaps the biggest music contest across the Atlantic.

(SOUNDBITE FROM THE SONG, “STEFANIA”)

KALUSH ORCHESTRA: (Singing in non-English language).

RASCOE: The song is about mothers and the motherland that Ukrainians defend. Russia was banned from competing in this year’s song contest due to its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. For Ukrainians, the victory symbolizes Europe’s solidarity with their country, which remains under attack. NPR’s Joanna Kakissis reports from the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro.

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: Like many in Ukraine, Karen Ahadzhanian watched Eurovision at home due to wartime curfew. She spends long hours distributing food and supplies to Ukrainians displaced by the Russian invasion.

KAREN AHADZHANIAN: (Speaking in Ukrainian).

KAKISSIS: “And,” he says, “I also have many friends on the front lines. Some have died.”

AHADZHANIAN: (Speaking in Ukrainian).

KAKISSIS: And on Saturday night, you imagined them singing “Stefania” by Kalush Orchestra. When the band performed at the Eurovision final, he and his roommate also sang.

AHADZHANIAN: (Singing in a language other than English).

KAKISSIS: He says it was a way of feeling close to other Ukrainians, especially those who defend the country from Russian attacks. Kalush Orchestra also felt the moment. When their performances were over, leader Oleh Psiuk made this plea.

(ARCHIVED RECORDING SOUNDBITE)

OLEH PSIUK: I ask all of you, please help Ukraine, Mariupol. Help Azovstal right now.

KAKISSIS: Begged millions of viewers to help rescue injured Ukrainian soldiers trapped in a bombed-out steel plant in the occupied port city of Mariupol. The weight of those words seemed to hang in the air as the night wore on. Juries from 40 countries supported songs from Spain, Serbia and the United Kingdom. But the public vote was overwhelmingly in favor of Ukraine.

(ARCHIVED RECORDING SOUNDBITE)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSONS: The winner of the Eurovision Song Contest 2022 is Ukraine.

KAKISSIS: Karen Ahadzhanian did not hold back.

AHADZHANIAN: (Shouting).

KAKISSIS: The whole country was excited, including 29-year-old English teacher Nasya Nikitina. But, she says, winning Eurovision doesn’t change the fact that Ukraine is a war zone.

NASYA NIKITINA: Because, for example, I was watching Eurovision. And I got the siren alert and something like that. Unfortunately, you can’t hide all problems.

KAKISSIS: The winner of Eurovision is supposed to host the song contest in their home country the following year. There is concern that Ukraine may not be ready to do that in 2023. But Ukrainians say this weekend is to celebrate at least one symbolic victory and the band that declared to the world…

PSIUK: (spoken non-English language).

KAKISSIS: “Long live Ukraine.”

Joanna Kakissis, NPR News, Dnipro, Ukraine.

(SOUNDBITE FROM THE SONG, “STEFANIA”)

KALUSH ORCHESTRA: (Singing in non-English language).

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