Ukraine are big favorites to win Eurovision – but even they think of something completely different: ‘You wake up and do not know if your family is alive’

When he was awakened that morning, it was of a sound he had hoped he would never hear.

The sound of explosions. Close.

At once it became clear to Oleg Psyuk what had happened: the Russian war in Ukraine had begun.

Two days before, he had otherwise received a good message. Along with the rest of his band, the Kalush Orchestra, he had been offered to represent his home country at this year’s Eurovision.

Oleg Psyuk is seen here during a pre-Eurovision appearance.

Oleg Psyuk is seen here during a pre-Eurovision appearance.
Photo: Paul Bergen

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But in a few seconds in the middle of the night of February 24, when Vladimir Putin sent the first troops and fired the first missiles across the border into the neighboring country, all thoughts of the singing competition disappeared far away.

‘The worst of it all is when you see in the news that your friend or classmate is dead. It’s a really bad feeling, “says the 27-year-old Ukrainian rapper, who heads the band, in a written interview with BT

‘I am probably not articulate enough to express all these emotional experiences right now. There is just a constant feeling of stress, but you get used to it. I think the contrasts will be felt when the war is over. “

For two and a half months, Russian attacks have now been reckoned with over the Ukrainian landscape.

‘There is such a feeling of anxiety. But maybe I’ve gotten more used to it. And it’s not just me who is, “he says and continues:

‘There were a lot of explosions and you do not know which house it will hit. You wake up and do not know if your family is alive. “

When it all started, Oleg Psyuk was in the capital, Kyiv. He ended up fleeing the city and driving to his hometown of Kalush, after which his band is named.

There he volunteered and began packing supplies and sending them on to the places that needed it, helping people who wanted to flee completely out of the country.

Photo: Kalush Orchestra / Handout via REUTERS

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At the same time, the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyj, issued a decree that all men between the ages of 18 and 60 should stay in the country and defend it.

So even though Eurovision was not what filled most of him or the rest of the band right there, it made the likelihood that they could leave for Italian Turin, where the show will be held this year, even less.

Yet they stand here now. On Italian soil. With a special permit to leave the country in the luggage.

Instead of fighting in their homeland, they have taken on a new mission:

“Our mission in the competition is to be the voice of the Ukrainian people,” Oleg explains, calling it ‘a great responsibility’.

“It is through our actions that we can be useful to our country. Through our music, we are able to convey a message to the huge Eurovision audience. It is our way of being useful to our country, ”he adds.

But that does not stop there.

Here, the Kalush Orchestra is seen posing with Ukrainian refugees in Jerusalem on April 5.

Here, the Kalush Orchestra is seen posing with Ukrainian refugees in Jerusalem on April 5.

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For they also stand there to help the Ukrainian people:

“We want to show the Ukrainians on Eurovision night that they are not alone. That the whole of Europe sees us fighting in this brutal war and supporting us. That there is no other way than that we will win, “explains Oleg.

Although they see it as ‘a big responsibility’ to have to represent their country in that way, it is not easy to be in the middle of the Eurovision bubble with confetti, glitter and windmills – instead of being at home:

“Every day, of course, we are worried about our families and friends. We call and write to them every day on social networks, “explains Oleg and says that right now they are only waiting for one thing:

“That this war ends and peace will be restored in Ukraine.”

That’s why they do not think so much about the fact that with their song – ‘Stefania’ – they have been nominated by bookmakers as this year’s big favorites to run with the victory.

“When it comes to the competition, then of course I want to win. Not for our group, but for all Ukrainians. Support for our country is important right now in all possible ways, “he says.

When the lights in the arena in Turin go out, after the final has been held on Saturday, Oleg also already knows what to do:

“After the competition, we must all return to Ukraine,” he said, adding:

“And then we get to see what happens.”

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