Kalush Orchestra completed a story like no other by winning the Eurovision Song Contest final in Turin, Italy last night. Achieving 631 points, the Ukrainian band were crowned champions with their song ‘Stefania’.
Delivering an emotional performance, the band, led by frontman Oleh Psiuk, held their nerve going into the final as favourites and showed the world just how vibrant and spectacular Ukrainian culture is – receiving a standing ovation from the Pala Alpitour’s 13,000 spectators, and undoubtedly winning the hearts and minds of millions more watching at home. They ended their performance with a heartfelt plea, “I ask all of you, please help Ukraine, help Mariupol, help Azovstal right now.”
Their winning song, ‘Stefania’, which fuses rap and hip hop with traditional Ukrainian folk music, is dedicated to Oleh’s mother. Over the course of the competition, and since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the song took on a rallying additional meaning – love for the motherland. The song became an anthem for Ukraine, used in hundreds of thousands of TikToks by Ukrainians documenting the war. Its lyrics “I’ll always find my way home, even if all roads are destroyed,” hitting home in adversity.
Today, they have released the incredibly powerful official music video to ‘Stefania’, shot in Bucha, Irpin, Borodyanka, Hostomel, all cities near Kyiv that suffered the horrors of Russian occupation.
The video depicts multiple female Ukrainian soldiers rescuing and guiding children through the rubble, cut between shots of the band performing inside and in front of blown out buildings and other signs of the terrible destruction of war. You would be forgiven for thinking this was shot on a film set, but it wasn’t. These are real images from the decimated cities of Bucha, Irpin, Borodyanka, Hostomel, all of which have brutally suffered as a result of the Russian occupation. The video ends with a shot of a little girl holding a flaming Molotov cocktail. A visceral reminder of the far reaching, devastating consequences of the war felt by every Ukrainian.
The video closes with this message from the band:
“This video was filmed in Bucha, Irpin, Borodyanka, Hostomel, cities near Kyiv that suffered the horrors of Russian occupation.
Dedicated to the brave Ukrainian people, to the mothers protecting their children, to all those who gave their lives for our freedom.
Every man, every woman, every innocent child.
The war in Ukraine has multiple faces, but it is our mother’s face that keeps our hearts alive in the darkest times.
Stand with Ukraine!”
It was not just the symbolism around the Ukrainian war effort alone that earned Kalush Orchestra the top spot last night. ‘Stefania’, with its melodic hook played on a traditional Ukrainian wind instrument, the Telenka, was a bookies favourite even before the war started, who placed it as fifth most likely to win.
On winning the competition, the band said: “Such a great support from Europe lifts the spirit of all Ukrainians. It is proof that Ukrainian culture is very much alive, despite being in danger now. This victory is not for us but for brave Ukrainian people, who are fighting for our freedom now. They all stood on stage together with us at this moment and gave us strength.”
The band found out they would be representing their country at this year’s competition just days before Russia invaded. Having received special permission from the Ukrainian government to leave the country for competition purposes, the band must now return to Ukraine as men of legal fighting age. Oleh Psiuk will return to running, a volunteer organisation of 35 active members, he set up, De ty (Where Are You?), which helps Ukrainian refugees across the country find safe accommodation, transport, and medication. And they will eventually reunite with one of the band’s members, Slavik Hnatenko, who joined the territorial defence force in Kyiv, giving up his participation in the Eurovision line up to stay and fight.
Fronted by 27-year-old Oleh Psiuk, aka The Psiuchyi Son, KALUSH formed in 2019, when the members Igor Didenchuk and MC CarpetMan (KylymMen) responded to Oleh’s Facebook post searching for bandmates. As a trio they create an incredibly unique mix of rap with folk motifs and Ukrainian authenticity – or as they like to call it: folk and groove – and for a bigger setup, they transform into Kalush Orchestra, gaining the power of two additional multi-instrumentalists: Tymofii Muzychuk and Vitaliy Duzhyk.
In a time of unimaginable suffering for their country, Kalush Orchestra has delivered a message of resilience, fortitude, and hope. As winners of the Eurovision Song Contest 2022 they return to Ukraine as national heroes. The official music video for ‘Stefania’ is out now.