Eurovision victory in hand, the Ukrainian group releases a new war video

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Ukrainian band Kalush Orchestra, fresh off their Eurovision win, released a new music video for their winning hit “Stefania” on Sunday that features scenes from war-ravaged Ukraine and women in combat gear, as the annual song contest took on increasingly political tones.

The video was released hours after Kalush Orchestra brought Ukraine their third Eurovision win, edging out Britain in the grand final thanks to a wave of popular votes from some of the estimated 200 million viewers. from 40 participating countries.

The band members posed for photos and signed autographs outside their three-star Turin hotel on Sunday, packing their own luggage into taxis en route to an interview with Italian host broadcaster RAI before heading home. They are due to return to Ukraine on Monday after receiving special permission to leave the country to watch the competition; most Ukrainian men between the ages of 18 and 60 cannot leave in case they are needed to fight.

This harsh reality was a bittersweet moment in Turin on Sunday, as Kalush singer Sasha Tab had to say goodbye to his wife Yuliia and two children, who fled Ukraine a month ago and live with an Italian host family in nearby Alba. She and the children were at the group’s hotel and she cried as Tab held her daughter in her arms before getting into the taxi.

Russia was banned from this year’s Eurovision Song Contest after it invaded Ukraine on February 24, a move organizers said was aimed at excluding the contest’s policy that promotes diversity and friendship between nations .

But politics nevertheless entered the fray, with Kalush frontman Oleh Psiuk ending his winning performance on Sunday night with a plea from the stage: “I ask you all, please help Ukraine, Mariupol. Help Azovstal now!” he said, referring to the beleaguered steel mill in the strategic port city.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hailed the victory, saying he hoped Ukraine would be able to host the competition next year and predicting that “victorious agreement in the battle with the enemy is not far”.

“Stefania” was written by singer Psiuk as a tribute to his mother, but since the invasion of Russia it has become a national anthem, with lyrics that promise: “I will always find my way home, even if all the roads are destroyed.”

The new music video features female soldiers carrying children out of bombed-out buildings, greeting children in shelters and leaving them behind as they board trains. The credits for the video indicate that it was shot in cities that saw some of the worst destruction of the war, including Bucha, Irpin, Borodyanka and Hostomel.

The video was clearly made before the band left Ukraine as it features band members and – presumably – actors performing in the rubble.

“Dedicated to the brave people of Ukraine, to mothers protecting their children, to all who gave their lives for our freedom,” he said.

Ukrainians cheered the victory on Sunday as a much-needed boost, and the national rail operator announced that the train passing through Kalush, Psiuk’s birthplace, will be renamed “Stefania Express”.

“Every small victory is important for every Ukrainian, for our Ukraine, for each of us,” said Kyiv resident Svitlana Nekruten.

Albert Sokolov, an evacuee from Mariupol, said he had no doubts Ukraine would emerge victorious.

“I listened to this song in Mariupol when we were bombed, so I was sure they would win,” he said in Kyiv on Sunday.

The Russians said the vote was ultimately political, but also showed the Kalush Orchestra and Ukraine had support.

“Eurovision is always about politicized choices; some situations require a certain choice,” said Olga Shlyakhova, a resident of Moscow. “Of course, I think most people support Ukrainians. They cannot think differently, because they understand that it is a tragedy. That’s why they chose (the winners) with their hearts.

Anastasiya Perfiryeva, another Moscow resident, noted the popular vote that was so decisive in the victory.

“It was ordinary people who voted. They supported (the winners). Well done. I think in any case the team was strong, and the support from outside is always nice.

Kalush Orchestra includes folklore experts and blends traditional folk melodies and contemporary hip hop in a strong defense of Ukrainian culture that has taken on added meaning as Russia has sought to falsely assert that Ukrainian culture is not unique.

At a press conference early Sunday after the contest, Psiuk in her pink bucket hat said the victory was especially significant given the war and the popular support that drove Ukraine to victory.

“We are here to show that Ukrainian culture and Ukrainian music are alive and have their own very special signature,” Psuik said.

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