TURIN, Italy — The Ukrainian rap and folk band Kalush Orchestra won the Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday, as European viewers and juries delivered a symbolic, popular culture endorsement of solidarity behind Ukraine in its defense against Russia’s invasion.
After 80 days of fighting that has forced thousands and thousands from their homes, brought break to cities and towns across Ukraine’s east and killed tens of hundreds, the band won an emotional victory for Ukraine with a performance of “Stefania,” a rousing, anthemic song. Written to honor the mother of the group’s frontman, Oleh Psiuk, the song has been reinterpreted through the war as a tribute to Ukraine as a motherland.
The song includes lyrics that roughly translate to, “You possibly can’t take my willpower from me, as I got it from her,” and “I’ll at all times find my way home, even when the roads are destroyed.”
After Psiuk performed the song on Saturday night, he put his hand to his heart and shouted, “I ask for all of you, please help Ukraine!” Europe’s voters listened, giving the band 631 votes to win, far ahead of Sam Ryder of Britain, who took second place with 466 votes.
Psiuk’s mother had texted him after the win to say that she loved him “and he or she was proud,” he said at a media conference after the competition at which he thanked everyone who had voted for the group. “The victory may be very necessary for Ukraine especially this yr,” he said. “These days, the Ukrainian culture was attacked, and we’re here to prove that Ukrainian culture and music are alive they usually have their very own beautiful signature,” he said speaking through a translator.
Kalush Orchestra had been considered a favourite, traveling with special permission to bypass a martial law stopping most Ukrainian men from leaving the country.
The band’s victory over 39 other national acts illustrated how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has unified Europe, inspiring a wave of weapons and aid deliveries for Ukraine, pushing countries like Sweden and Finland closer to NATO and bringing the European Union to the verge of cutting itself off from Russian energy.
And it underscored just how sweeping Russia’s estrangement from the international community has turn into, extending from foreign ministries through financial markets and into the realm of culture. After Russia invaded Ukraine in February, organizers barred Russian performers from the event, citing fears that Russia’s inclusion would damage the competition’s fame.
After the win, Iryna Shafinska was attempting to fix her makeup — including two hearts in the colours of the Ukrainian flag on her cheeks — which had been smudged by tears of joy. She got here to Turin to report for OGAE Ukraine, the Ukrainian Eurovision Fan Club. She said she had spoken to several of the opposite performers and that: “all of them tell me that they need Ukraine to win since it’s necessary for them, too.”
And “it’s an ideal song about mothers,” said Ms. Shafinska, who can also be involved with the Latest York-based nonprofit organization, Razom for Ukraine. On the media conference later, she asked to have a gaggle hug. The band complied.
Eurovision, the world’s largest and possibly most eccentric live music competition, is best known for its over-the-top performances and its star-making potential — it helped launch acts like Abba and Celine Dion to international fame. But as a showcase meant to advertise European unity and cultural exchange, it has never truly been separate from politics, though the contests rules forbid contestants from making political statements on the event.
In 2005, Ukraine’s entry song was rewritten after being deemed too political, since it celebrated the Orange Revolution. When Dana International, an Israeli transgender woman, won in 1998 along with her hit song “Diva,” rabbis accused her of flouting the values of the Jewish state.
Ukraine also won the competition in 2016 with “1944,” a song by Jamala about Crimean Tatars during World War II. It was also interpreted as a comment on the Russian invasion of Crimea, which took place two years earlier.
And in 2008, when Dima Bilan, a Russian pop star, won Eurovision with the song “Consider,” President Vladimir V. Putin weighed in promptly with congratulations, thanking him for further burnishing Russia’s image.
Russia began competing within the song contest in 1994, and has competed greater than 20 times. Its participation had been a cultural touchstone of sorts for Russia’s engagement with the world, persisting at the same time as relations worsened between Mr. Putin’s government and far of Europe.
Carlo Fuortes, chief executive of the national broadcaster RAI, which hosted the events, said he had sensed that Ukraine could be a favourite. “It might be that each one European residents might consider giving a political signal through a vote to Ukraine,” he said in an interview earlier this month. “And I feel that it might be a right signal.”
War has necessitated other adjustments. The Ukrainian commentator for the show, Timur Miroshnychenko, broadcast from a bomb shelter. A photo posted by Suspilne, the Ukrainian public broadcasting company, showed the veteran presenter at a desk in a bunkerlike room, surrounded by computers, wires, a camera and eroding partitions that exposed patches of brick underneath. It was not clear what city he was in.
The bunker had been prepared to forestall disruptions from air raid sirens, Mr. Miroshnychenko told BBC radio. He said Ukrainians loved the competition and were “attempting to catch any peaceful moment” they may.
Not all of Kalush Orchestra’s team was present in Italy; Slavik Hnatenko, who runs the group’s social media, was in Ukraine fighting. In a recent video interview from Kyiv, Hnatenko said he felt the band’s appearance at Eurovision was “equally necessary” as his own service within the war.
“It’s a likelihood to indicate the world that our spirit is difficult to interrupt,” he said, adding that he intended to look at the competition, if he was not in combat and will get a signal on his cellphone.
In an interview in the times leading as much as the competition, Psiuk said that even when Kalush Orchestra won, its members would return to Ukraine. He was running a company there to offer individuals with medicine, transportation and accommodations, he said. And he was prepared to fight if asked, he said. “We won’t have a alternative,” he added. “We’ll be in Ukraine.”
He said that after the win they were going home. “Like every Ukrainian we’re able to fight and go until the top,” he said.
The query of where next yr’s competition could be held loomed large. It’s tradition that the winner is host of the next yr’s events. Martin Österdahl, the chief producer for the Eurovision Song Contest handed Oksana Skybinska, the leader of the Ukrainian delegation, a black binder with contact details. “Please know that you realize where to search out us,” he said, speaking through Ms. Skybinska, who interpreted for him. “We’re with you all the way in which.”
“We’ll do every thing possible to make the Eurovision contest possible in the brand new peaceful Ukraine,” Skybinska said.