The event marks the first major cultural event that Ukrainians have participated in since the Russian invasion in February, and many of the audience waved blue and yellow Ukraine’s national flag during the evening.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky praised the Kalush Orchestra in an Instagram post just seconds after announcing its victory.
In the post he said: “Our courage fascinates the world, our music conquers Europe!”
Referring to the rule that the winner of the previous year’s competition can host the competition, he said: “Next year Ukraine will host Eurovision! For the third time in its history. And I think it is not the last. It is better that one day it will host participants and guests of Eurovision in Mariupol of Ukraine. Free, Peaceful, Rebuilt!”
Tamil Tasheva, the permanent representative of the President of Ukraine in Crimea, has suggested Yalta, a resort city on the southern coast of Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014, as a possible location.
The entry into the country “Stefania” in Ukrainian came in honor of the mother of striker Oleg Syuk, who still lives in the western city of Kalush, from which the band takes its name. “Some days there are missiles flying over people’s homes and it’s like a lottery – no one knows where they landed,” Psiuk told CNN this week before his show.
“As we speak, our country and our culture are under threat. But we want to show that we are alive, that Ukrainian culture is alive; it is unique, diverse and beautiful.”
The event in Turin saw the many elaborate shows and camps that became the hallmark of Eurovision. A Norwegian entry for electric duo Subwoolfer warns of hungry animals eating the singers’ ancestors, while Serbian Constructa ponders the secret to Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex’s hair.
But fans swarmed behind Ukraine’s entry, and the band received one of the night’s loudest cheers as they took to the stage.
In a tavern in the center of Kyiv, not far from the city’s famous golden-roofed St. Sophia Cathedral, a small party was held to watch Eurovision on Saturday evening. Buena Vista bar owner Max Tolmachev said the people who attended the bar were eager to show their support for Ukraine – even if Eurovision wasn’t exactly their thing.
“They want to show their patriotism,” he told CNN. “This war has been really hard on people and this is an opportunity to put dark ideas aside for a while.”
Barh played a role in the Ukraine resistance as well. At the height of the Battle of Kyiv, a military checkpoint was set up right in front of it. “The soldiers would come to rest, and we would cook for them food – borscht, stew, meat, potatoes, there was not much choice at that time,” he said.
And while many were excited to witness Ukraine’s victory in the contest, no major parties took place in the capital on Saturday. A strict curfew starting at 10pm local time, at the same time as the Eurovision broadcast, means people won’t be able to go home once the parties are over.
Despite this, Tolmashov had a plan – his crew agreed to stay overnight so that the patrons could party into the wee hours.
This year’s Eurovision tournament was held in Italy after punk rock band Maneskin won last year. It was the first Eurovision final to be held without major Covid restrictions since the pandemic began; The 2020 edition has been cancelled, and last year featured crowd restrictions and some remote viewing.
The Kalush Orchestra was initially runner-up in Ukraine’s national selection competition, but stepped up after it emerged that the winner had previously traveled to Russia-annexed Crimea. The group was revealed with the entry into the country on February 22, two days before Russian forces invaded Ukraine.
Ivana Kutsova reported from Kyiv. Rob Pechetta Books in London. Tim Lister and Oleksandra Oschmann contributed to this report.