Much has been made about Kalush Orchestra’s journey to Eurovision. From coming in second in Vidbir and participating anyway because of allegations of the winner forging documents, to the Russian invasion of Ukraine mere weeks later, their arc in the contest is filled with struggle, but also hope. Not unlike with Fazla, the Bosnian group who were the first representatives of their country in the 1993 contest, Kalush had to find a way to get permits and make their way to Turin.
This fortitude not only comes with gratefulness from the group, but also a sense of obligation. Says Oleg Psiuk, the rapper, “We feel it is a big responsibility because now when we have a permit from our country to leave the country and be present here, we feel it is a responsibility to be useful to our country by being present here.”
As the band members were also of fighting age, they also had to make things work on stage after reduced rehearsal time. “We didn’t have the opportunity to rehearse together for a long time. But now, we’re doing in an ‘extra mode’; and since we are very hardworking, we’re doing everything…to make it possible.”
The staging incorporates yellow and blue, the colors of the Ukrainian flag; along with a number of traditional elements throughout. They fit well with what Kalush’s goals; “to identify [them]selves” not only in the world, but also in their own country.
Thus, Stefania, an ode to Oleg’s mother, has garnered an amplified significance when they take the stage on May 10. “It’s true that in Ukraine family is important,” Oleg says about this, “and now…that’s why this song is enjoyed by Ukrainians because it’s telling about what’s important–mother, family.”
Kalush Orchestra will perform their song “Stefania” in the first semi-final on 10 May.