Ukraine’s Eurovision entry on fighting for freedom, banning Russia and creating an anthem for their country

Ukrainian folk rap group Kalush – who are representing their country in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest – say their song has become an “anthem for Ukraine”, as it battles against the Russian invasion.

The band’s lead singer Oleh Psiuk told Sky News: “This song which we have created [Stefania], it’s the anthem for Ukraine and everybody is singing it. Originally, the song was dedicated to my mother, and now it’s the song for all mothers.”

Late last week, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) confirmed that Russia would no longer be participating in this year’s competition due to “the unprecedented crisis in Ukraine”. It said a Russian entry in this year’s contest would “bring the competition into disrepute”.

Late last week, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) confirmed that Russia would no longer be participating in this year’s competition due to “the unprecedented crisis in Ukraine”. It said a Russian entry in this year’s contest would “bring the competition into disrepute”.

Psiuk – who will be performing on the night as part of an enhanced offshoot of the band named Kalush Orchestra – says this was clearly the right thing to do, as well as sporting condemnation which has seen Russia stripped of the Champions League final and its Formula One Grand Prix and national and club football sides suspended from international competitions.

However, the singer believes the international response needs to go even further.

“I think that the aggressor country [Russia] must be banned from everywhere, from all the possible parts of the economy and politics because the people from their country don’t realise that their country is aggressive and the aggressor for all the world, not only for Ukraine.”

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Speaking from his hometown of Kalush in the west of the country – the place which gave the band its name – Psiuk says the situation is very bad.

When asked about reports that civilians have been urged to take defence into their own hands, he confirms that is true.

“My girlfriend today was making the Molotov cocktails, and it was the first time she was doing like something like that. It’s very scary for all of us.”

He too has taken action to defend his country and has set aside his life as a musician to do what he can to help.

“My day-to-day life has changed. Now I’ve been working with a volunteer team. We are helping people to go far away from Ukraine, to find food for those who need it.”

He says the group of about 12 people are helping source food and shelter and put people in touch with safe places to stay.

Read more: Ukraine invasion: ‘Dozens killed in mass shelling’ as both sides hold peace talks

The musician, who’s adamant he won’t leave his country but will stay and do all that he can, says what people were doing in their lives before the war is now irrelevant – now all Ukrainians must pull together to help one another.

As well as setting up his group of “Kalush Volunteers”, Psiuk says he has raised more than one million Ukrainian hryvnia (approximately £25,000) for his country’s army.

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Ukrainian civilians prepare Molotov cocktails

He says it’s something he feels compelled to do.

“It doesn’t matter that I haven’t been educated for this in my day-to-day life, but it’s my turn to help the people and I’m proud of what I’m doing.”

As for his country’s leader, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who was a comedian and actor before moving into politics, Psiuk says he has the will of his country behind him.

“The war has put everything in place, and now our president is taken as the serious leader and the whole country supports him.”

Read more: Who is President Volodymyr Zelenskyy – Russia’s ‘number one target’?

It has been a swift rise to fame for the band, who signed to record label Def Jam as part of the Universal Music Group after forming in 2019 and have so far released two albums.

And their journey to Eurovision wasn’t smooth.

After initially coming second in the national selection stage of the competition, they found themselves bumped into the winning position after singer Alina Pash withdrew from the competition following allegations of illegally visiting Crimea.

Kalush are now favourites to win the contest according to website Eurovisionworld.com.

While Psiuk won’t be drawn on whether his band will win the competition or not, he says they will be ready for the performance and only good can come out of competing.

“I cannot say what’s going to be in the future, but I think that Eurovision is a good way to make all the world sing Ukrainian songs and know Ukrainian rap. And I will do everything what is necessary to help that.”

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With betting odds and Eurovision history on their side (Ukraine has won the contest twice – in 2004 and 2016 – and qualified for the finals every year since its first appearance in 2003), Kalush would seem to be a safe bet to top the leader board on the night.

Meanwhile, the country continues to fight a very different European battle on the world stage, as Ukrainians fight for the freedom of their country.

The final of the 66th Eurovision Song Contest final will be held in Turin on Saturday 14 May.

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