Ukraine won the 2022 Eurovision Song contest in Italy on Saturday evening. The country was represented by the hip-hop group Kalush Orchestra with the song “Stefania”, a tribute to Stefania, the mother of singer Oleh Psiuk, who fuses Ukrainian folklore with rap.
The UK came second thanks to Sam Ryder, already a viral sensation with 12.5 million TikTok fans, who performed the track “Space Man”.
The event took place in Turin, Italy, after the country won in 2021 by an Italian group manna skin.
Ukraine, which is currently besieged by neighboring Russia, and the United Kingdom were tipped to break into the top three. A total of 25 countries took part in the competition, which took place in the Italian city of Turin.
Ukraine last won in 2016 and hosted the contest the following year in the capital Kyiv.
Votes are cast by 40 countries participating in the contest, all of which are members (or, in the case of Australia, associate members) of the European Broadcasting Union, which organizes the contest.
Each country’s final score is a combination of a jury vote (each country receiving 1 to 12 points) and a phone call from the public. Neither the jury nor the public have the right to vote for their own country.
Although ostensibly about music, the vote is often understood to have political connotations, with many countries often voting for their closest geographic neighbors.
While Ukraine received a moderate score in the jury vote, with a total of 192 points, the country was propelled to first place with an unprecedented score of 439 points from the public. It is believed to be the highest number of points ever awarded by public vote and to symbolize the support the country has from the rest of Europe in its war against Russia.
The win certainly drew plenty of praise, with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson congratulating the country on Twitter. “This is a clear reflection not only of your talent, but of the unwavering support for your fight for freedom,” Johnson tweeted.
And while the group said backstage that they had yet to have a chance to speak to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian leader took to Instagram to congratulate them, writing: “Our courage impresses the world , our music is conquering Europe! Next year, Ukraine will host Eurovision! For the third time in its history. And I believe — not the last. We will do our best to welcome Eurovision participants and guests to Ukrainian Mariupol one day. Free, peaceful, rebuilt! Thanks for winning @Kalush.official and everyone who voted for us! I am sure that our victorious agreement in battle with the enemy is not far off. Glory to Ukraine!”
The UK scored 466 points, a sum which included the best score of 12 points from the votes of the Ukrainian, German and French juries. Although it did not win the contest, it was seen as a huge improvement on the previous year, when the UK came last out of 26 countries with zero points.
Ukraine’s victory was all the more emotional as, the band revealed, they had not had the opportunity to rehearse in person until arriving in Italy two weeks ago. “It’s been pretty stressful to be honest,” Kalush Orchestra singer Oleh Psiuk, who wore his pink bob, said at a backstage press conference after the show.
During the press conference, Psiuk also took the opportunity to express his thanks to everyone who voted for him. “I want to thank everyone, every Ukrainian, [the] The Ukrainian Diaspora and everyone around the world who voted for Ukraine and helped us bring this victory to Ukraine,” he said. “The victory is very important for Ukraine, especially this year. So thank you from the bottom of my heart. Glory to Ukraine.”
In response to a question from the press about whether Psiuk planned to return to fight in Ukraine after his group’s victory, the rapper explained that the group had been granted temporary permission to attend Eurovision as it is currently banned from men of military age to leave Ukraine. (Ukrainian commentator Timur Miroshnychenko was unable to join the other European commentators at the Turin stadium, broadcasting instead from a bomb shelter in his home country).
Psiuk said the expired temporary authorization would expire on May 16 when the band returns to Ukraine. “It’s hard to say exactly what I’m going to do because it’s the first time I’ve won the Eurovision Song Contest but anyway, like all Ukrainians, we are ready to fight as much as possible and to go all the way.”